Sunday, January 30, 2005

I'm Sad, Kinda

I just saw in the bulletin from my church in Pittsburgh that Fr. Massung died.

Fr. Massung was probably the kindest person I have ever known. He truly lived his priesthood as a vocation, and he loved what he did. He always had time for his parishioners, and he made everyone feel valued, no matter who they were or what they did for a living, or how much money they had. He was a man of God in the truest sense of the world.

I could tell any number of stories about Fr. Massung, but the most important one to me is the way he treated my family. It was important to my dad that I go to a Catholic school, but there was no way we could afford it on a cab driver's salary. So Fr. Massung worked with my parents. My mom worked at the school for a couple hours a day and therefore got an "employee's discount" on tuition, and my dad did various odd jobs around the parish on weekends to work off a little bit more. I never knew about any of this until I was older, of course, and neither did anyone else. We were treated with dignity and respect, as were so many other families he made deals with. Of course that is probably the reason why that parish is still in debt today, but oh well. He acted out of love, treating people as Christ would have, not as customers in a business.

Fr. Massung also paid for my uniforms when the school switched to them when I was in 7th grade. He did the same for several other families. He didn't want to see anyone have to switch school over that.

The children of the parish flocked to Fr. Massung everywhere he went. I think that we could just sense his inherent goodness and gentleness. We felt safe with him, and he love being with us. We loved it when he'd come into our classrooms. After our well-rehearsed, "Good Morning, Fr. Massung," we all clambered for the chance to show him our work (at least until Sister put us in our places). The wee little ones (including me at that age) presented him with pictures they colored or drew during Mass, and he taped every one of them up in either the sacristy or his office. It was like some cacophonous wallpaper, an interior decorator's nightmare, but somehow fitting for this humble man.

Fr. Massung will be sorely missed. His 92 years on the earth were a gift to so many people, including me. Seeing the other end of the priestly spectrum as I did in my recent job nightmare have made me appreciate his giftedness all the more. I stated at the beginning that I was only kinda sad. I'm sad he's gone from this world, but happy that he will be forever in the presence of God now. He deserves the rest.

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