Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 5, 2002
Let folks know that they matter
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
You never know what the mail will bring from one day to the next at The Christophers, except that it's bound to be interesting. And more often than not, it's likely to bring good news as well.
That was certainly the case on one recent day at the beginning of April, when two letters provided us with the best kind of spring tonic we could imagine.
One started off on a sad note. It came from a man informing us of the death of his mother, a long-time Christopher friend who, with her late husband, had raised a large family and had taken pains to make sure that all of her children knew right from wrong. As executor of his mother's estate, the son told us of the generous bequest the woman had made to The Christophers. As you can imagine, this news cheered us; it meant that we would be able to advance our Christopher activities in a significant way.
But what really made our day was what the man wrote next: "My mother supported various Catholic charities throughout her life and recognized the importance of The Christophers in using the media to spread the faith and inspire good works. Over the years, mom would cut out and save inspirational messages from your periodicals, and remind us as we were growing up that 'It is better to light one candle . . .'."
Surely our founder, Father James Keller, would have been thrilled to know that the message he always championed had been attended to so lovingly, in just the way he would have liked. And then the next letter that day carried another link to Keller, one that was even more personal.
This one came from a woman in the Midwest who had been inspired as a student 65 years ago when Keller came to speak at her high school. It wasn't until 1945 that the Maryknoll priest founded The Christophers, but even before that he was a noted speaker who continually urged people, especially young people, to make a difference in the world.
Indeed this woman did. She came to New York in 1951 and ended up working for Keller himself - first as a secretary, then as a writer, and eventually as a key aide in the production and distribution of Christopher television programs. "The News Note that came just a while ago about your 50th anniversary has brought back many memories," she wrote.
"One time," she continued, "I was able to go with Father Keller to Hollywood and was there when he interviewed Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and a few others, which was quite an experience. I was supposedly in one of the films, but like many others was left on the cutting room floor!"
She eventually tired of big-city life - but not of being a true Christopher. She won a degree in social work, worked with disturbed children, opened a Birthright office, and finally became an advocate for the elderly before retiring. When we called to thank her for the letter and the donation that came with it, she apologized for having to run off: she was on her way to deliver Meals on Wheels.
Sometimes people write to tell us how they live out the Christopher message. Sometimes they just go and do it. Either way, I can't tell you how much it means to us.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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