Because Mass is an online experience these days, I have been blessed to attend Mass celebrated by many wonderful priests I have known over the years. My first foray into "surfing the web" for a familiar face led me to the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania where I lived for seventeen years and started in this ministry. Father Christopher Zelonis, now a pastor, was a wee seminarian when our family adopted him as our own. He is my second child's Confirmation sponsor; I've joked that I'm never sure what role I'll find him in -- my son, my friend, or my confessor.
In those days, it was not unusual to come home to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and find Father at my kitchen table. One of the hardest days of leaving Pennsylvania was when he returned his house key.
My most recent online Mass was celebrated by the first priest who hosted me in the missions -- Father Tom Hagan, OSFS. Father's mission for the last thirty-five years has been in the slums of Haiti.
In the slums of Cite Soleil, with help from The Propagation of the Faith, Hands Together runs seven different campuses of free education with students from pre-school through high school. Each child receives a nutritious daily meal, which is for most, their only guaranteed food.
Father Tom was in Massachusetts visiting Doug Campbell, with whom he founded Hands Together, when our shutdown came. He now says Mass for friends online as he waits to return to the people he loves and serves.
During his homily, Father shared a story about his Irish-born Dad who, much to all their embarrassment, loved to break into song no matter who was around. His favorite was a song called "A Little Bit of Heaven"; it was about his home country. Young Tom would ask his Dad about a line in the song, "How can a 'Little Piece of Heaven' fall to earth?" Lovingly, his Dad would tell him that he considered Tom to be his little piece of heaven -- a gift from God.
Father Tom explained that we can all create that little piece of heaven, as people of faith, it is our duty to do so -- to make God visible every day, no matter our situation, no matter who is watching.
Right now, some may not feel much like singing. But know that every day, there is someone, somewhere, counting on you to be their little piece of heaven.
Just ask Father Tom. He knows thousands.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.
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