Every one of us in life has experienced something that reaches into our soul. One of the most marvelous experiences of this, for me has been recent. Columban Fr. John O´Connell, my Irish yearmate (´57 ), told me of an old and dying lady in his parish that said to him, Padre, your gift to us is that you have shown us “cariño.” It is a very beautiful and expressive word. Translated it could mean: affection, love, tenderness, appreciation, fondness for us, and along those lines.
She paid us an almighty compliment to our years on mission. It put meaning into our lives with the economically poor of Lima. I have never heard, Thank you, for your time, your energy, your love, your sharing, your identification with us put more succinctly or more generously.
When you put this into the context out of which she said this to Fr. John it really is overwhelming. Like her compatriots she would have known only people more than willing to use and abuse her, being despised in the process, poor and uneducated, people more than willing to exploit the economically poor.
This old lady gave sense to a lifetime shared. It was her blessing upon us. She couldn´t have put it better.
The same Fr. John retired from his parish in Payet, Ss. Peter and Paul, the night of their feastday, June 29, 2011. Bishop Lino Panizza O.F.M. lead the liturgy set up out in the courtyard midst about 500 parishoners and a score of clergy. Columbans and our associate diocesans were there in force, but what stole the show was a song.
It had been composed by a couple of school teachers, and their school choir sang it standing before our Irish Fr. John and his Italian Bishop. Let me quote a few lines as they tie in so well with what is written above about “cariño:”
Leaving your home, your parents, you arrived joyfully to this land.
Thank you, Father John, for having sown love in our hearts.
You shared your bread when you saw hunger; drink, when you saw thirst.
This song is the gratitude I feel in my heart for you.
Thank you father to the forgotten ones; father to the marginated peoples; father to the most needy; father to the homeless children.
You taught us to live in justice and freedom as the brothers and sisters we are.
You quickly learned to help and never slowed down your pace to teach the Gospel.
Thank you for having shown us the way.
For this reason your voice will always remain in this place.