Sunday, October 21
I had a dear friend who died this past week, leaving my heart heavy today. Her name was Mary and she was born and raised in the small suburb of Alsip where she also lived with her wonderful husband and her two extraordinarily kind young adult sons. For the past couple of years Mary served as one of our Saturday wedding volunteers here at Old St. Pat’s, so she was very familiar with the life and energy of this community. I adored Mary. Her energy and enthusiasm for life was totally contagious. I had the privilege of getting to know Mary through our shared involvement on the Board of Advisors for Marist High School. There was no bigger cheerleader for Marist and Catholic education than Mary. She was “all in” when it came to the high school her husband and two sons attended.
One of Mary’s great trademarks was her incredible ability to bake. Whenever I saw her approaching me with a shopping bag, my mouth began to water. More often than not, inside that shopping bag was a small container of the finest homemade chocolate chip cookies you ever tasted AND, not one, but two loaves of the best Irish Soda Bread you’ll ever find whether you’re in Ireland or not! Mary mastered how to make soda bread. I am not exaggerating that Mary Dadonna’s soda bread was “award winning” and truly was like no-other. Her husband told me that when St. Patrick’s Day came around, Mary baked somewhere in the area of 80 loaves of soda bread for people to enjoy. She had multiple loaves being baked in multiple ovens around the city of Alsip!
During the final days of her journey, as we kept vigil with her at Christ Hospital, of the many conversations we shared, the one topic that came up naturally was about her soda bread. In the midst of our tears and laughter and telling stories about her passionate pursuit of baking and delivering the soda bread, I lamented with her son that this one part of Mary’s life I will miss the most. She loved feeding and nourishing people, and she was a master at it! Beyond the prize winning bread, Mary knew all that there was to know about nourishing the soul of another. Her joy, her faith, her dedication to everything she did, her unconditional love for her husband and sons: she had the right recipe. She had a way about her that absolutely contained all the ingredients of what a good, joyful life was all about. Mary and her family lived a simple life and she found fulfillment as a daughter of God by nourishing and strengthening the hearts of other people.
Having the right recipe is key. Mark’s gospel today reminds us today that the recipe for successful discipleship is not about being first, the best, and the most important. It’s about how we genuinely and authentically find ways to bring hope to the soul of someone else. At Old St. Pat’s, we believe the recipe for discipleship is found in hospitality and how we welcome one another. We embrace the ingredients of service and our missionary call to build the kingdom. Gathering in small groups or in our larger communal celebrations of worship with challenging preaching and inspiring music are key factors for a church that wants to be alive and vibrant. The best ingredient of our recipe for success is YOU! Thank you for being a part of this journey at Old St. Pat’s. Thank you for not giving up when, at times, we’ve messed up the recipe. Thank you for supporting what we hope is a life-giving experience of Church for all who come here.
I asked the family if anyone was able to master Mary’s recipe for the soda bread. To my surprise, her 25 year old son Steven spoke up in the hospital hallway and said: I can do it! Even though I didn’t always like eating it, I watched my mom several times and I think I can make it happen. We need the next generation. We need their excitement, their enthusiasm, and their willingness to show us the way.
Have a great week ahead.
Father Tom Hurley