How will we be remembered?
Occasionally I would find an abandoned insulated coffee mug in a very unlikely place – perhaps in the sacristy at church or in one of the classrooms in the parish hall. Looking at it, I would think to myself, “Jack was here.” Sometimes, while walking through the conference room in the parish offices, I might spot a pile of papers or a jumble of file folders. Once, I even spotted his characteristic floppy gray hat. All telltale signs that Jack was here.
My friend and colleague, Jack Armstrong, died at the end of January after an almost year-long struggle with leukemia. Many of you had the opportunity to meet Jack in the January 2009 issue of FAITH. You may recall that after graduating from college, Jack worked his entire adult life for parishes in the Diocese of Lansing. In a life of ministerial service that spanned more than 40 years, Jack spent 32 of them at the Catholic Community of St. Jude in DeWitt. Jack’s funeral was a celebration of his faith in God and of his faithful service to God’s people of all ages.
As I looked around the church during the funeral Mass, I saw all sorts of reminders that Jack had been an important part of life in both our parish community and in our diocese. Jack was perhaps most known for his many years as a dedicated youth minister and leader within the youth ministry community in our diocese and in the United States. Many of those who were present for the funeral had been members of Jack’s youth groups through the years. There were also a number of parents who had worked as volunteers in youth ministry.
Fred Carmean, one of Jack’s close friends, reminded the assembly that Jack’s life always had a soundtrack. Jack’s love for music was a key aspect of his life, and music was one of Jack’s favorite ways of giving praise to God. Jack could often be found with guitar in hand, ready to provide or coordinate the music. The presence of a very large number of musicians, young and old, who provided the music for Jack’s funeral was a reminder that his love for music enabled Jack to help so many people to praise God in song.
Perhaps the most subtle but powerful reminder of Jack’s dedicated ministry could be found in the faces of people like Hans, Craig, Todd, Dana, Terri, Kathy and so many others who found their way to full membership in the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – the RCIA. While Jack was perhaps better-known for his many years in youth ministry, he was also equally gifted in helping adults respond to God’s promptings in their hearts as they sought to become Catholic Christians.
The Saturday that we gathered to celebrate Jack’s funeral Mass saw plenty of reminders that Jack had indeed been here – and had used his God-given gifts to help others to seek, find and respond to God’s goodness. I pray that the same may be said of each one of us.
And so our journey in FAITH continues.