Thursday, January 3, 2013

A minister's inheritance

My uncle Maynard passed away two months ago.

His longtime companion Vern, and his nurse Suzanne, sorted through his effects at the house in Arizona.  Photos are being saved, journals preserved, items sent to friends and family.

Including three boxes to my parents' house, to the new reverend in the Kegler family.

It is an odd and weighty thing to receive what has been sent.  There are sixty years of service in those boxes.  I hope to chronicle them more and take photos as I go, but it is honestly overwhelming to open each box and find the history within.

I have inherited many chalices, including his personal chalice used for daily mass -- the silver worn from use, the brass base heavy and sturdy.  Also a traveling communion kit, with full cup and plate, used by Catholic priests in German prisoner-of-war camps in America in WWII.  To hold that is to hold a history that traces back thousands of years -- a thin line threading through centuries, a strand of love even for the enemy.

Most recently I am fascinated by this.
Dr. Thomas A. Dooley III

"In recognition of the public service to alleviate suffering among people of the world" 
Dr. Thomas Anthony Dooley III, according to the foundation that bears his name:
Tom Dooley met his destiny in 1954 while serving as a young Navy Lieutenant assigned to caring for refugees in North Vietnam. From that experience his life took fire and was never to be the same again. Tom, who grew up in a comfortable suburb of St. Louis, was tormented by his new found realization that half the world goes to bed hungry every night, that half the world spends a lifetime without seeing a doctor – that half the world still suffers from the diseases of Biblical days.
The young physician was unable to ignore these realities of human existence. He was determined to bring to the other half of the world medical care, education and training for better health and a new quality of life. In 1958, he founded MEDICO, and in the three short years before his painful death from cancer in 1961, he established 17 medical programs in 14 countries. Tom Dooley captured the heart of America and became a legend in his own time.
In those few short years he became one of the world’s most admired men – honored by such notables as His Excellency the Pope, Albert Schweitzer, Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon, Dr. Charles Mayo and posthumously by a special medal authorized by the United States Congress.  (
This medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, is the highest civilian award in America, and now I own a small replica.

I had never heard of Dr. Dooley before Father Maynard's death.  It seems that Dr. Dooley and my uncle had met while they were both in St. Louis, and had become friends.  (Of this I have no doubt, because my uncle was one of the kindest and friendliest people I knew.)  After Dr. Dooley's early death at age thirty-four, he was championed for canonization in the Catholic church, with my uncle leading the charge.  Ultimately the beatification process failed, but Dr. Dooley is still recognized for his humanitarian contributions, and the foundation that bears his name continues that work around the world.

Dooley wrote three books, Deliver Us From Evil, The Edge of Tomorrow, and The Night They Burned the Mountain.  His biography, Promises to Keep, was written by his mother (who passed on many things to my uncle after Dooley's death in 1961).  I'm hoping to read some in the next few weeks and come to better know the man my uncle so revered.

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