For the Kennedy family, seen here in the 1950s at their home in Sudbury, Ont., Christmas is about charity. From left: Anne, Kathleen, standing on chair, Neil, Andrew, Angus, Philip and Michael. Photo courtesy of Fr. Philip J. Kennedy

’Tis the season to set an example and reach out

By  Fr. Philip J. Kennedy, Catholic Register Special
  • December 23, 2014

I remember this scene from childhood. A couple of days before Christmas I came back home from delivering papers, and was surprised to see my mother standing in the snow-packed driveway, bundled up against non-stop snowflakes and the December chill.

Wondering what she was doing there, I didn’t have to wait long to find out: “Lordy,” she said, “Where is your dad? The Sisters are waiting.”

The “Sisters” were the Good Shepherd nuns whose convent was a little way up the street from where we lived at the time. The Sisters’ work involved taking care of young women, but they did many other charitable works. That’s why, so close to Christmas, they called on my mother to get someone (meaning my father), to help transport produce and other things that they received from local merchants and grocers to needy families in the neighbourhood. 

They knew he had a nice, handy and clean truck. But what caused my mother to fret while standing in the cold driveway was that father was late and soon it would be too late to stop at the convent.

Then in little time, my father’s truck appeared past the snowbank and back to the house. My mother’s explanation for her presence out in the snow came soon enough. “The Sisters called, and they need our help before it gets too late.” That was all my father needed to hear, so he told about how he had been out delivering turkeys with the Knights of Columbus, then he looked around and recruited a couple of us boys to help, and was off to the convent. He did what had been the practice many times before, and picked up the food that was neatly boxed for the recipients, gave one of us the neatly printed list that was prepared by a Sister, and off we were on the improvised route. 

Hardly a word came from either of our parents about the purpose of this charitable task, the virtues that were being encouraged in per- forming assistance to the needy or how helping the poor was our duty as Catholics. They just gave us this kind of Christmas example and let us see how they lived their lives as true Christians.

We would never forget my mother standing in the snowy evening or my father making his truck available to help out the less fortunate. Christmas for us meant setting a good example and reaching out to the poor. 

(Fr. Kennedy is president of Catholic Missions In Canada. Reprinted with permission from Catholic Missions In Canada, Winter 2014. 

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