I am currently on a weekend break from my summer course work at Mt. Angel Seminary near Portland, Oregon, where I am working to obtain the Doctor of Ministry degree. On this Sunday morning, June 12, Trinity Sunday, I am at my home praying. As we are approaching Corpus Christi, another one of these great post Easter solemnities, we are also approaching Father’s Day. I shared recently about my mother on Mother’s Day, and so I would like to share a few words about Dad, some of which I have already communicated to some of you about.
For me, as time “marches on” and I am now 41 years a priest, I have come to realize more and more the vocation of priests to be a spiritual father. Dad taught me a lot about that, and my brothers and I speak about him a lot. I had the blessing to be with him when he passed away and I am so grateful for those from here who made the long trip back to Springfield to be with me for his funeral.
My father always taught us to do the “right thing” even if it was not easy. I have tried to live by that lesson. Dad grew up during the Great Depression, and in a home where his own father had abandoned the family. For him doing the “right thing” meant not repeating what he himself had experienced, as is so often unfortunately the case. He would get up early, often at 4 a.m. to go to work at the Parcel Post Station in Springfield. On top of that, he would help us with the delivery of papers. He became Catholic because of my mother and her family’s example of living the Faith. He often worked two, sometimes three jobs to provide for his family. He obtained employment with the US Postal Service because he knew that it would be a way of providing for his family, even though there were long hard hours. He never complained, not once. He always supported my mother in her furthering her education as an OBGYN nurse and instructor at St. John’s Hospital School of nursing in Springfield, Illinois. (She obtained a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees in nursing while she and Dad raised all of us).
He quietly lived his Faith “behind the scenes” and gave us all a great example of living his Faith and his values as a family man and a man of Faith. There were six of us siblings, spread out over a 20-year period, from 1951 – 1971.
BISHOP VANN AND HIS PARENTS DURING HIS FIRST CELEBRATION OF MASS AS A PRIEST IN 1981. COURTESY OF THE VANN FAMILY.
I had the privilege and blessing of being with him when he passed away and presiding at his Mass of the Resurrection at Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield, Illinois. As I prayed at his funeral Mass in November of 2014, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Lord.”