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Holy Cross Church – July 27, 2015
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11
Romans 12: 10-21
John 14: 1-14
With Tommy’s parents, Betty and Jerry, his sister Diane, her
husband John, his brother Joe and Tommy’s nieces Mary Kate,
Nikki and Chloe, his nephew Connor we come together in Holy
Cross Church today to express our gratitude to God for giving us
this wonderful son, brother, uncle, friend and child of God who was
at the depths of his heart a dedicated Marine.
United in our grief at Tommy’s tragic death, we ponder the question
“why.” Why did this happen to Tommy, his fellow Marines, Staff
Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire Wells
and Navy petty officer Randall Smith, good men who sought to
serve their country in a most honorable way?
The outpouring of support that has come from the
people of Springfield and our Western Massachusetts area has
shown us how much Tommy’s life and his fellow servicemen’s lives
mean to all of us who benefit from their ultimate sacrifice.
Another man who questioned the presence of evil and death in
our world was the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, whose name
was Quoheleth. We know little about him, except for his writing
that made its way to be part of Sacred Scripture, our first reading
today. His words about the changing of seasons, the times of life,
both good and bad, are the most well-known of anything he wrote.
These words of deep thought reflect on the inevitabilities of life, the
many changes that surround us and yet the one constant that
Tommy knew so well in his life, that God’s love and presence never
His deep love for his family, his selfless dedication to
being a Marine and his solid faith in God helped Tommy through
the many challenges that he faced in training for service, in his
deployments to Iraq, in being a leader for his fellow Marines and
facing the danger on July 16th, when he and his brothers in service
heroically thought of others above themselves.
In a world that can be so fickle, the timeless values that Tommy espoused and lived as a Marine show forth true courage, selflessness and ultimate concern for others.
It is here that we find the depth of love lived as a reality that continues to inspire each one of us, as it inspired Tommy in his life of service for others.
When St. Paul wrote to the people of Rome, he wanted to encourage
them as they encountered persecution. But Paul’s words do not
speak of revenge, rather, they speak of allowing love to conquer
even the hatred of enemies. Today, perhaps, it is easy to desire
revenge and yet that would not pay full tribute to Tommy’s life and
the lives of those who died with him.
A Marine is the epitome of strength and St. Paul tells us that the greatest strength we have as people of God is love. Like Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s words may confound the wisdom of this world, but they ask from us the strength to love in situations like this when hate seems to triumph.
Not an easy thing to do, but Tommy shows us how much of a
difference a person’s life makes when self-sacrificing love is lived to
its fullest. St. Paul’s wisdom lies in recognizing that real strength is
based in love, not in hate.
In today’s scene from John’s Gospel, Jesus is gathered with
His disciples at a very difficult time. They are moving to Jerusalem,
where Jesus will ultimately face his own death. There is a sense of
anxiety among the Apostles, not knowing what will happen once
they reach Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus’ own words bring a sense of calm
to this troubled situation. “Have faith in God and have faith in me,”
Jesus tells them, giving them words of comfort and hope at a time
of much confusion and questioning. These words are also meant for
all of us who gather here to mourn for Tommy. For Jesus knows the
sadness of heart that we feel this day and is present with us in this
Mass. He is present to us as we seek His comfort in the depth of our
sorrow and pain.
Tommy lived his life knowing those words of Jesus spoken to
the apostle Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life”
through his service here as an altar server, a student at Holy Cross
School and Cathedral High School.
He knew those words as he basked in the love of Betty and Jerry, of
Diane and Joe, of his family and friends who knew his wonderful
sense of humor and felt the love that he has for them. Tommy knew
those words as he left Springfield to join the Marines, in an
adventure that he found so satisfying and rewarding by serving our
And Tommy lived believing in Jesus’ words knowing that
we are created not for just the finite time we have here on earth, but
that we are called to be with God forever. It is this faith that brings
us here today, to thank God for dedicated men and women who are
inspired as Tommy was, to live lives of service for all of humanity.
As a follower of Jesus, Tommy knew the strength of faith that made
him an exemplary Marine, a leader and a man of true courage. He
leaves with us a legacy that will be forever cherished.
Today, we ask God to welcome this hero to his Eternal reward, for he literally
gave his life for others. The greatest tribute we can give to Tommy
is to emulate the faith and values that he lived and thanking God
for allowing us to witness the goodness that Tommy has brought to
this world, a light that no darkness can overcome.
Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski
Bishop of Springfield, MA
Editor’s note: Catholic Communications has gone to summer camp. This week we sent a crew to produce a feature about Camp Holy Cross for “Real to Reel.” We also taped a Mass for the Chalice of Salvation. It will air August 9th at 10 a.m. I went along and was super impressed. The following is my reflection and some photos shared by the camp.
By Peggy Weber
Photos courtesy of Camp Holy Cross
I never went to summer camp. In fact, I am not a big “outdoorsy” kind of person. But I would love to go to Camp Holy Cross.
Under the direction of Father Chris Malatesta this scenic and peaceful place in Goshen inspires!
Father Chris works with many capable people to run various camps and activities.
He is assisted by Father David Aufiero, parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth Parish in Northampton. It is clear that they both enjoy working with young people and the camp.
And it is clear that the kids have fun at this camp! Activities are designed to create community, build skills and have a good time.
No one is texting or playing a video game. In fact, all electronic devices are collected at the start of camp.
Campers pitch in to clean tables, serve food, lead grace and help out.
They also pray. They have Masses outdoors or in the camp chapel each day.
I attended a Mass where Father Dave spoke about living out one’s faith. The campers eagerly volunteered to do readings and joined in with their own petitions with great sincerity.
They prayed for their pets, for their parents, for soldiers and for anyone who was sad.
Father Chris told us how they had a pasta meal one night where no one used utensils. He says he joins in the fun.
Campers come from all over the diocese. Some are sponsored by their parish or others and get a taste of the great outdoors that is different from city or even suburban life.
In our world, where there is so much bad news and so much concern for young people, Camp Holy Cross shines as brightly as its campfire and really makes a difference!
For more information about Camp Holy Cross go to http://www.campholycross.org/