Deacon Frank Campisi – Saint Charles Borromeo Parish – Sicklerville
I think if you ask any of the parishioners of my parish of assignment about me that would be how they would describe me, What You See Is What You Get. While I strive for an air of reverence and decorum in and around the sanctuary, I think the real me always comes through, yet my favorite line of scripture is what I truly hope is apparent. John 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease.”
While it is vital that the deacon know his place and the flow of the things of the liturgy, which goes without saying, he too must be approachable to the vulnerable, the broken, those who are feeling humiliated about something or by someone and he must meet them in that human place. Many times it is after the dalmatic, stole, alb and cincture are removed and I am in a plain (non-cleric) shirt is when that meeting of humanity takes places. Tears flow, belly laughs happen. Relationships are built. Disciples are formed.
An instance of this occurred a few months ago after a service, when I was about to leave the Chapel. A few “regulars” were still there, saying rosaries or chatting quietly. There was one woman in the last row of the chapel that holds about 40 comfortably, so it is difficult to miss anyone. I had never seen her before and she looked a wreck with swollen eyes, bed head, someone who was not having a good day. Our eyes locked and I was drawn to walk back to her. I barely got out the word “Hi, I’m…” and she already broke down into a sobbing convulsing heap onto my shoulder. She sobbed over and again, “Father, father…”(I am sure you guys get that a lot and I was not going to correct her just then) “I don’t know where she is…she left rehab and no one can tell me where she is.”
Through the tears and sobs, I learned her name and that her 20 something daughter had left rehab and was missing for some days, whereabouts unknown. This is a common story on the news, even in our communities, but when faced with the mother of a missing child it became really real, really fast for me. As she described her daughter’s decent into addiction and now who knew what, I thought of my own now adult daughter alone at college. What was she doing? Who was she with? I shared my own fears, anxiety? We bonded over the unknown and that we must have faith that our Lord and their Guardian Angels would be their guide. As much as we had fear, we needed to have faith. We talked, and shared our family life and spent over an hour in that place before the Blessed Sacrament, not even realizing HE was there listening to it all the whole time.
So I suggested that we get up, walk to HIM, kneel before Him and with all our might ask that He right now open His loving arms to protect these children of ours and if it be to the benefit of all, give us in His time some knowledge of where her daughter was and that she was safe. She asked one favor of the Lord. That day was her grandson’s birthday; her missing daughter’s son, whom she had been caring for in the mother’s absence, after she had taken almost everything of his to sell for her habit. She wanted a good day of fun for her grandson.
We closed with a Glory Be and parted ways. Not sure if I would ever see her again, I did so after Mass a few weeks later and she was transformed. She went on to tell me that although she was fairly despondent most of the rest of that day, about 5PM, the doorbell rang and someone delivered a box with a birthday balloon for the grandson. It was from his mom. The box contained a replacement video gaming system and several games she had taken and a note to the mom that she had made a deposit into a bank account to repay some money she had taken from her as well. From that this lady knew her daughter was fairly safe, had gotten a job of some kind, knew where she was (from the deposit) and was sustaining herself. It was all she needed at the time.
I will be ever thankful for the Lord’s use of me wherever he sees fit. I never think twice anymore about the situations he puts me into or how I may appear at the time, for it is how He needs to appear to His people at the time. WYSIWYG