I could not have imagined that my first Ash Wednesday in México at La Luz Parish, a very intense and busy day, would end with me learning late that evening that my father had suffered a brain hemorrhage and had been rushed to the Emergency Room. I rushed home to Michigan the next morning – with great uncertainty about what was going to happen with him – to be with my family.
I would spend the next week accompanying my dad and family through times of hope and encouragement followed by times of pain and suffering. All of this led to my dad’s very peaceful, grace-filled, and beautiful death. It was a tremendous blessing to be with my dad and my family in those critical moments for him. He was always there for me in my times of need. I give thanks to God that I was able to be there with him and for him in his time of need.
As important as it was for me to be with my Herman family throughout my dad’s illness, death and funeral celebration, it was also an important and powerful blessing to know of the prayers and support of my brothers in Holy Cross throughout it all. Many were praying for my dad during his time in the hospital and were keeping in communication with me to know how he was doing and how I was doing as well.
When my dad died and the communication went out to our Province regarding his death, I was amazed and moved by the outpouring of expressions of condolences and prayers from friends and brothers in our Holy Cross community from throughout the world, including e-mails, hand-written notes, sympathy cards, and Mass cards. I’ll always be grateful for friends and brothers in our community who traveled from South Bend and from as far as Portland, Oregon, to be with my family and me, whether at the hospital, at the funeral home, or at my dad’s funeral liturgy.
As a priest who’s served 14 of 18 years in full-time ministry in parishes, I’ve celebrated many, many funerals. I said at my dad’s funeral liturgy that in many ways that was my first funeral because of the how much my dad meant to me. I hoped and prayed that I would be able to celebrate his funeral liturgy well for him because I know that he always did his very best for me.
I know that many people were praying for me that morning because I asked many people to pray for me. Through the grace of God and the help of those prayers, I was able to “hold it all together” and say more or less what I hoped to say about my dad and his life as well as the power of Jesus and the Resurrection in my dad’s life and in all of our lives.
One of the things that gave me added strength that morning was that to my right in that liturgy were 14 of my brothers in Holy Cross quietly praying and supporting me and my family in one of the most important mornings of our lives. Friendship and brotherhood in Holy Cross never meant more to me than it did that morning. I’ll always be truly grateful.
Fr. John Herman, C.S.C., is the Pastor of Nuestra Madre Santísima de la Luz Parish, in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, México. This year Fr. John will be a regular contributor to the Spes Unica Blog, writing about his work at our parish there. Learn more about the missionary work of the United States Province in México and around the world. Also find out more about the community that binds us and sustains us as Holy Cross religious in our life and our ministry.