A Glenmary Coworker Recognizes Goodness in Others' Hearts

Posted: 11/9/2015

Wilmar Zabala, vocation counselorAfter I attended All Souls Day Mass Nov. 2 at the Glenmary chapel, I found myself remembering the people, living and dead, who have made the love of God a reality in my life. One person that stands out is my Uncle Russ. He passed away recently.

Perhaps you know someone like Uncle Russ. He was Caucasian and married to my mom's older sister, a Filipino. They were married for more than 30 years. He was a professed atheist! He did not have any use for religion. But he was very respectful of my aunt's Catholic faith. He knew that it is very important to her. He drove her to church on Sundays and waited in the car. It was not that he had no choice; rather, he carried out this Sunday routine with a very willing and generous heart.

My aunt regularly invited him to come to church with her, but she respected his wishes. When my aunt became seriously ill due to Hepatitis B, he took care of her—cooking her food, buying her medicine, driving her to the doctor's office for her appointments, and even calling to ask that the priest give her the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. He did not utter a single word of complaint or disrespect.

I visited them regularly when I was studying in San Francisco. He was hospitable and welcomed me like his own son. His presence brought positive energy, goodness, love, intelligence, humor, and sunshine into a room. He radiated life. When I think of him and his many good qualities, my heart lifts with joy and I believe in God even more deeply. Uncle Russ helped me to understand that God is the ultimate author of all that is good, whether that goodness is seen inside a church building or outside of it, whether that goodness is demonstrated by a practicing Catholic or an atheist family member.

When I think of Uncle Russ, I feel this deep stirring in my heart to be more inclusive in my embrace of others and to see the goodness in them before I criticize or censure them. I am moved to remember that just because people don't belong to my group, just because people do not act or think like I do—or believe what I believe—it does not mean there is no goodness in them or that they are incapable of doing good.

Many individuals without any church affiliation, like Uncle Russ, are present in Glenmary mission territories. Glenmarians recognize the goodness of their hearts, acknowledge it, and reciprocate it with an extended hand of hospitality and welcome.

If your life has been greatly influenced by someone like Uncle Russ, consider financially or spiritually supporting Glenmary's ministry to the unchurched.

If you have the gift of bringing people together, if you enjoy working with people on the margins, if you are passionate about sharing Christ with others, contact us about the possibility of joining the Glenmary priesthood or brotherhood.

This year on All Souls Day, I was smiling as I left after Mass. The irony of it all! Uncle Russ, an atheist, taught me the love of God!