May the peace and joy of Christ fill your hearts!
This is my prayer for you and your loved ones this Christmas. In the midst of trouble throughout the world, the only source for peace and joy is still the Word Made Flesh — our infant Savior.
This spring and summer, a group of dedicated parishioners delved into our parish archives. They looked through box after box learning about our parish history. They shared with me one of their surprise finds. Kept in a box of Msgr. Keefe’s documents were letters received from GIs serving our country during World War II, another time of turmoil for our world. From what we can piece together, the Men’s Club assembled Christmas gift boxes that were shipped to parishioners serving our country. These young men (many from the first graduating classes of Holy Spirit School) were spread throughout both the European and Pacific theaters of the war, as well as on bases located in the US (42 identifiable locations). Sent in each package was a newsletter drafted by Msgr. Keefe with news from home. Many of the soldiers sent letters back to Msgr. Keefe expressing their gratitude for the news “from home” and the gifts.
Let me share with you some excerpts from those WWII letters: From somewhere in Germany, George Kennedy writes, “The January edition of the newsletter came to me...and I enjoyed reading it from one end to the other. The Xmas box came to me while I was in Belgium...it was one of the best... We really enjoyed the honey, popcorn, cheese, crackers and nuts. I say we, Father, as the boxes any of us receive are shared by all...” And, John P. Joyce writes from Italy, “Minnesota honey on hot cakes at breakfast on New Year’s Day beats GI syrup any day.” John also had the silver cross medal included in the boxes “blessed by his Holiness the Pope the day after Christmas and I wear it always.” Jack Clifford, stationed in North Dakota in the Air Corps writes, “I got the swell Christmas package from the Men’s Club...that supplied me with snacks after lights out for quite some time. It’s really swell to know that people back home are still thinking about you.”
In my years at Holy Spirit, I believe this tradition of taking care of others continues. Father Howley, an Army Chaplain during the war, stated, “I wish to congratulate the pastor and parishioners for their zeal in remembering their boys in the armed forces. It is not every parish that sends such Christmas boxes or monthly letters.” George Johans, Jr., writes, “The knowledge that people...have not forgotten us far exceeds its intrinsic value...the memory of your generosity and thoughtfulness will last for centuries in comparison [to the food].”
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son — the greatest gift of all. And, during a time of great angst for all, our small Holy Spirit community gave these relatively small and simple gifts to those who needed to be remembered.
Richard M. Schuster writes from the frontline in Germany, “Here men gave all. They gave their greatest worldly possession — their life. Their generous gift is just another stepping stone to a more secure peace on earth...illustrated at Christmas time.” To read more excerpts from these letters, please visit the parish website.
Throughout this season, let’s remember that we have fellow parishioners who are suffering, whether it be known or unknown to us. It is my prayer that our generosity towards each other continues to be part of the Holy Spirit culture. You never know what profound impact the simplest of acts can have on another in need.
Father Daniel Haugan
Want to read more? Read Father Howley's follow-up letter here.