By Barb Arland-Fye
We knelt down in the pew just before Mass when my mom tapped me on the sleeve and whispered: “Your cousin Shelly is over there,” motioning toward another pew a short distance away. What a wonderful surprise to see Shelly, kneeling in deep prayer that Sunday morning after Christmas. We hadn’t seen each other in about 10 years but I remember our times together with fondness.
I lived with Shelly and her family the summer following my sophomore year in college. Shelly, a high school student at the time, became a sister and a friend to me. We stayed up late that summer, talking about what mattered in our lives, and we baked cookies, took walks, listened to music and made half-hearted attempts at jogging.
Our faith mattered to both of us, as it did to our parents. My dad, Ray, and Shelly’s mom, Ceil, the two youngest siblings in the Arland clan, are devout Catholics. We cousins attended the same Catholic grade school and our dads played softball and football with the kids. Our parents have remained close all of their lives. But Shelly and I lost touch after I transferred to an out-of-state college. We’d see each other occasionally at a picnic, family reunion or wedding. But as each of us married, had children and were separated by geographical distance, opportunities to get together lessened.
The priest presiding at Mass that Sunday, the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, gave a touching homily that included insights about his and his family’s journey of faith. His mother had dreams for her children that didn’t materialize as she envisioned. The point of his sharing personal details about conversion helped send home the message of embracing God’s will for us. Place all of your hopes, desires and dreams in your palms and place them on the altar. Give them to God, the priest said.
For me, that’s a work in progress. It’s much easier to throw up my hands when there’s a challenge and say, “Here, God, you take care of it!” Many of my hopes, desires and dreams have been fulfilled, and I feel deeply blessed. Over the years, though, I’ve longed to attend the family reunions, weddings, picnics and other get-togethers that seemed out of reach because of work schedule conflicts and distance. Now that my husband Steve has retired, we’ll have more opportunities to make those events. Case in point: our visit this past Christmas with some of our relatives. We laughed, played games and bonded.
On that Sunday that the priest asked us to place our hopes, desires and dreams into our palms and place them on the altar, I distinctly felt God nudging me as if to say, “See, have a little trust in me!” After Mass, I approached Shelly and watched as a broad smile formed on her face. I’m sure my face mimicked hers. We hugged each other deeply and then caught up on details about our families and work. My husband and two sons stood nearby, pleased to see me so happy.
When I returned home, I happened to come across an article in another diocesan newspaper about a family of refugees from Syria who, after a three-year wait, arrived in December for a new life in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The article in The Criterion reported that the refugee family had a relative already living in the Indianapolis area. Reflecting on my sense of joy at my mini family reunion, I can only imagine what being reconnected to family must mean to the Syrian refugees.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)