Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why My Dad Is My Hero

One of my biggest heroes is my dad (my mom is also one). My dad is a great guy, but he would be the first to tell you he isn't perfect. Yet, he is still a great role-model and a wonderful person.

He was raised in Southern Louisiana in a very poor home. Neither of his parents were educated very long and my Paw-Paw (Cajun name for grandfather) was, for the most part, illiterate. My dad learned early in his life how to live off of the land. His family didn't have electricity until he was in high school and he spent a lot of time working to help the family.

He spent many hours picking cotton in the fields and pulling weeds out of the rice patties, all the time watching out for water moccasins - for pennies a day. My father and Paw-Paw cut down cypress trees in the swamp and then had them sawed into boards for their house. For nails, they salvaged old ones from abandoned buildings. There were no creature comforts of the modern household.

My dad was the first person in his family to go to college, but he didn't stop there. He was voted "Catholic Youth Of the Nation" during his time in college. He worked his way through school and was very involved on-campus as well as in the campus ministry, while getting very good grades. He later earned a Master's degree, spent two years in the seminary, then married my mom, and served in the Navy during Vietnam.

My dad is a very hard worker who provided for his family, overcoming many obstacles. My dad has always been a gentle man who was intelligent, faithful, and kind.

He was always involved in civic communities (e.g. The Rotary Club, on local school board, etc.), church groups (worked as a campus minister for a while, served as Grand Knight several times in different Knights of Columbus councils, Knighted by the Pope in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, etc), and other ways of serving others. He also spent many years in the Navy Reserve and retired as a Commander. He worked for most of his adult life in the State of Texas in the Department of Human Services.

But, one story of his life, in particular, has always stood out to me.

While in college, my dad spent a summer with a missionary priest, and another college student, traveling to the most rural parts of Alabama to evangelize the local population. Some counties had only a handful of Catholics, or no Catholics at all, and they were not always welcomed with open arms. He said they got very used to having the door slammed in their face at the first mention of the word "Catholic".

Their standard procedure was to go door-to-door in the community inviting people to a "Catholic tent revival" in town. They would then set up a large tent in the town square and the priest would preach about the Catholic faith to all who would come. It was very basic preaching about the Good News of Jesus and the role the Catholic Church plays. They would then establish a small community of interested people to continue to meet about the Catholic faith. Many small parishes were planted this way.

In one small town, the door-to-door missionary work went as expected, but when night came nobody showed up. They were puzzled as to the reason, until they saw a large group of men show up with torches, dressed all in white. The KKK had shown up to run the Catholics out of town. My dad and his friend had to convince the priest that they had better move on to the next town instead of going forward with the revival. The priest finally agreed and they moved on.

This is the kind of man my dad is. One who loves someone enough to spend their summer talking to people about Jesus Christ and His Church - to a population that will, by and large, reject the message. Ultimately, it is my dad's character which defines him and why my dad is my hero.

BTW - One of the towns they ended up holding a revival in and planting a community in was Irondale, Alabama. Which is now home to a large Catholic organization.

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