Sunday, December 31, 2023


Don't be disappointed that your family was not like this picture! Neither was mine! Neither was any family I have known! Neither was Jesus's family!

Husbands  love  your  wives. He stores  up  riches who  reveres  his  mother.  Whoever  honors his father (and mother) atones for  sins.  Parents  do  not  provoke  your children. Children, obey your parents and take care of them when they are old. Even if their minds fail, be considerate of them. 

                                            Sirach and Colossians

Christmas is a special time to reconnect and recommit as a family. Three Saturdays before Christmas, all five of my brothers and sisters got together for lunch instead of dinner this year. Happily, we stopped the stressful gift-giving years ago. We have been getting together like that for many years. As a single person with no family of my own, it is my way of connecting to a sense of family. Like always, we had a great time laughing and talking and telling the same old stories from growing up years. We do have one very strict rule - absolutely no mention of politics!

Several of my siblings pointed out how lucky we are just to be able to get together. Some families we know cannot even get together because of divorces, hard feelings and old grudges. If they do get together, the getting together atmosphere is tense, strained and uncomfortable. 

As a person who is still a member of a family of six siblings, but who does not have a family of his own, I pay attention to families. I take notice. The thing that I see most is that having a family brings both joy and pain. Those who attempt it have my deepest admiration. Not having a family of my own, I realize that I miss out on both its joy and its pain.

A couple of times, as I have flipped though the channels, I have been compelled to stop and watch one of those live birth experiences that you see once in a while. I am not ashamed to admit that I usually get choked up and watery-eyed when I watch new parents at the moment of birth of their children. While I am proud that it can move me so much, I am very aware that what those new parents are experiencing is a thousand times more intense. It is a joy that I will never experience. 

Not all families are "happy" families! A few years ago, about 10:00 at night I realized that I had not eaten supper. The closest fast-food restaurant to my house is a White Castle about five or six blocks away. What can I say? I was desperate! I ordered three cheese hamburgers and a diet coke and sat down to watch a fascinating show that only happens late at night in a White Castle.  No sooner than I sat down than a distressed young mother with a toddler came in and asked the women behind the counter to call the police. Her “boyfriend” had locked them out of the car and was threatening them in the parking lot. She paced back and forth, one minute trying to appease her whining child who needed to go to bed and the other minute peeking out the window to see if her boyfriend was still out there. Sadly, like many abused women are wont to do, she went back to him before the police got there. A few minutes later, a wild-looking young woman, probably bi-polar, came in and ordered some cheese fries and ate them standing in the middle of the floor, spilling some of them and stepping on them, while muttering to herself. Before she finished, an older woman, her distressed mother, came in telling her that she had been combing the neighborhood looking for her to take her home. Her mother apologized to all of us and finally coaxed her daughter into the car and left. As I left that night, I realized once again how many things some families have to deal with. Anyone who is trying to hold a family together these days has my deepest admiration.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. It is not the easiest feast to preach about.  In a world where family life is a painful experience for so many, I have always shied away from those romanticized and idealized sermons that I grew up with. They certainly did not describe my experience. Because my family was not at all like the “Holy Family” our nuns and priest talked about, I always left church feeling defective as a family. My religion teachers of the past were so driven to hold up the “holy family” as a model for all families that they may have read about in the bible. They were obviously reading those stories about the “holy family” with rose colored glasses because they ended up with a religious version of a 1950s TV family. Because their reading of the stories was so idealized, by the 1960’s, people began to reject that brand of piety, and even laugh at it, as totally unrealistic and impossible.

A few years ago, I came to realize that maybe the real “holy family” is more like today’s families than we have traditionally become accustomed to think.  The facts show that the “holy family” was not that sugary little family that we use to hear about growing up!

We only have a few stories about Jesus’ childhood and the family from Nazareth, and none of them would be what you would call "nice and sweet."

(1) The family started out with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.  Mary and Joseph were engaged, but not yet married when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph came within a hair of divorcing Mary, but backed off because of a message from God in a dream. (2) When it came time for Jesus to be born, Mary and Joseph were called out of town for a census. Away from home, Mary and Joseph end up having to deliver their baby in a barn, right there in a donkey stall. (3) No sooner that their baby was born, a maniac king tried his best to kill all the Jewish children he could get his hands on. To protect Jesus from that fate, Mary and Joseph crossed the border, becoming refugees in a foreign country, until the coast was clear to come back back home. (4) When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple for his circumcision, they were so poor that they had to make an offering to the temple of two common pigeons, instead of the traditional, more expensive, doves. (5) When Jesus was twelve years old, he got lost on a trip to the big city, Jerusalem. His panic-stricken parents spent a few hellish days till they finally found him. (6) On one occasion, hearing some of the things he was preaching, his family came to do an intervention on him because they really thought he had lost his mind. (7) A symbol of all sorrowing mothers, Mary finally had to witness her son, stripped and beaten, being executed as a common criminal.

No, this holy family was no “goody-two shoes” family that I had idealized for me as a child. This family had problems, big problems, but they managed to remain faithful to each other and to God through it all. I think this family has a better chance of being a model if we simply accept the fact that they were like us in so many ways. 

This feast does offer an opportunity to say a few words about family life. The problems are easy to list, the solutions are not so easy to come by. The most obvious fact facing us is that families have changed. There is no use pretending they haven’t or wishing they hadn’t. They have! Instead of pretending or wishing, we need to develop new ways to help and support modern families, including single parent families, blended families, adoptive families and the many other new varieties of families.

Families and couples cannot take anything for granted. The forces against family life are hard at work. Families must be intentional about being family if they have any hope at all to work against the forces that are trying to pull them apart.  To let things slide in marriages or families is to invite disaster. Families need all the support the community and church can give, not judgment and condemnation. You certainly have my support! I don’t know how you do it!  

The readings today give us an impressive list of “family values,” values that can guide and strengthen even our modern families in all of their marvelous varieties: honoring your father and mother, taking care of them in their old age, offering heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, obedience, patience, forgiveness, peace, thankfulness and love, just to name a few of the “family values” listed in our readings today. Family is not something that we can take for granted these days. It is something that must be wanted and worked for. Whatever family you have been given or whatever substitute family you have pieced together, may the Holy Family bless you abundantly in 2024!  


Thursday, December 28, 2023



New book chronicles effort to revitalize community of Rhodelia

By Ruby Thomas

December 14, 2023

The renovation of St. Theresa Family Life Center, above, on the grounds of St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky., is the subject of Father J. Ronald Knott’s new book entitled “The Little Community That Could: The Story of a Rural Eco-Friendly Family Life Center.” (Photo Special to The Record)

“The Little Community That Could: The Story of a Rural Eco-Friendly Family Life Center,” a new book by Father J. Ronald Knott, chronicles a renovation project on the campus of St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky. 

Behind that project is much more than a renovated building, said Father Knott.

The project reminded the rural parish community of its history and potential while urging it to look to the future, writes Father Knott, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville who hails from the Meade County parish.

“It’s not about fixing up an old building. It’s about parish revitalization and getting old rural parishes to think” that they have a future, said Father Knott. “It’s the type of thinking I hope will engage readers.”

St. Theresa is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Meade County. It was founded in 1818, according to the Archdiocese of Louisville. The 123-year-old school building had remained closed for nearly 30 years when Father Knott started speaking to parish leaders about its potential, he said.  

In 2021, Father Knott and Father Robert Ray, who also has roots in Rhodelia, led an effort to convert the parish’s former school building into the St. Theresa Family Life Center, an environmentally friendly space for use by parishioners and members of the wider community.

They envisioned a gathering space that would welcome parishioners from St. Theresa and nearby St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Church, as well as families from the wider community.


Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre prayed during a blessing of the St. Theresa Family Life Center in Rhodelia, Ky., on Oct. 15, 2022. He was flanked by clergy, from left, Father George Illikkal, Deacon Dean Sears and Father Ronald Knott. (Record File Photo by Ruby Thomas)

“If we’re going to spend this money, we need to invite as many people as possible to use it,” he said. 

The St. Theresa Family Life Center, which opened last year, now houses the parish offices, conference rooms equipped for live-streaming, a museum room and gathering spaces for events.

The book details how the center is helping to promote the community’s health across various markers — physical, spiritual, psychological, environmental and economic. 

Father Ray — also a retired priest who grew up at St. Theresa — leads an effort to create programs at the center, said Father Knott. The center hosts addiction recovery groups and plans to add others, such as grief and divorce support groups and groups for singles and senior citizens. 

Father Knott noted that rural areas of the archdiocese often lack resources, and so the center intends to fill in some of the gaps. 

“Rural areas have all the problems but not the resources,” he said, adding that the center “is focused on building up families.”   

A geothermal and solar-powered heating and cooling system makes the St. Theresa Family Life Center stand out among buildings in Rhodelia, he noted. Parish leaders were concerned that even if they were able to renovate the old school building, the utility cost would be a setback, said Father Knott. 

The book goes into detail about the geothermal system, which harnesses power from the solar panels to pump air from 200 feet below the ground to heat and cool the building. Funds for the geothermal system were donated by the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville. 

The book also highlights the center’s intention to illuminate its history, including the parish’s involvement with slavery. To that end, the center’s long hallway features several galleries displaying photographs that tell the history of the parish.

During the renovation project, Father Knott discovered the baptismal records of 222 enslaved individuals at St. Theresa. Those names are now displayed in one of the center’s hallway galleries. 

The book also details finding the headstone of enslaved parishioner Matilda Hurd in an old cemetery on St. Theresa’s grounds. Hurd is the maternal grandmother of Venerable Father Augustus Tolton — the first recognized African-American priest ordained for the U.S. church. He is currently on the road to canonization.   

Father Knott said the spirit of St. Theresa’s early missionaries and parishioners sustained him during the renovation project and in writing the book. 

They had “very few resources but what they had was an abundance of faith and imagination. … Stoking the fires of faith, determination and imagination always takes more focus and tenacity than merely remodeling an old building,” he writes in the book.“

The Little Community That Could: The Story of a Rural Eco-Friendly Family Life Center” is available on

St. Theresa Church parishioners gathered recently for a community-building event in the St. Theresa Family Life Center in Rhodelia, Ky. (Photo Special to The Record)


Tuesday, December 26, 2023


You don't need a movement! You don't need an organization! You don't need permission!

If enough individuals did this, Christ would soon be back in Christmas!

Monday, December 25, 2023



When the time came for her to have her child,
she gave birth to him in a barn, wrapped him up
and laid him in a feeding trough for animals.
Luke 2:1-14

       If you read the story carefully, the first Christmas was a pretty sad event, even pathetic! If there hadn’t been a census that year, Jesus would have been born at home, in Nazareth, in a warm bed, surrounded by family and friends. If there hadn’t been a census that year, Jesus would have been laid in a new baby-bed, hand crafted by Joseph himself, right there in his own carpenter shop. If there hadn’t been a census that year, one of his aunts would probably have come to stay with Mary a month or two to help her before, during and after her delivery. If there hadn’t been a census that year, neighbors, friends and local Nazareth musicians would have gathered outside the house as the birth drew near, a traditional Jewish practice at that time. If there hadn’t been a census that year, those musicians would have struck up the band and the whole neighborhood would have erupted in singing and dancing when it was announced: “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!”

       For reasons known only to God, it didn’t happen that way! As usual, God had a different idea. Instead, Mary came due at the very same time that Joseph was required by law to register in a rotating, fourteen-year Roman census. Because of that census requirement, a very pregnant Mary and a very worried Joseph were required to pack their bags and travel 80 miles, across country, on donkey-back, to Joseph’s ancestral town of Bethlehem. All this happened so that the foreign government occupying their country could have a better headcount to collect their taxes. Away from home, with labor pains coming on and unable to find a place to stay, this scared and exhausted young couple took refuge in a barn. Mary delivered her baby, right there in the barn, using an animal’s feedbox for his bed. How pitiful can you get!

       Luke, the writer of this narrative, knew that if this birth had taken place at home, things would have been very different, but here he is telling us that the Savior of the world was born in the most desperate of situations. Looking at all this through the eyes of faith, Luke paints a pathetic picture and then heaven wrapping it up in wings of love. Shepherds take the place of celebrating neighbors and family members back home in Nazareth. Singing angels fill in for local musicians. Luke turns this pathetic situation into a heavenly event. In his story, he shows us God kissing the whole earth and every human being on it.

       We know all the details of the Christmas story quite well, but do we know the point of this story? Do we understand what it means? Luke is not merely reporting historical facts here: he is making a religious point. He is telling us that by sending his Son, Jesus, into the world in this strange way, God is saying to us that he wants to be intimately involved in our lives, even in the most pathetic and unlikely situations, even when things seem hopeless and even when God seems absent. By sending his Son, Jesus, into the world in this way, God is saying that he loves us, all of us, including the weakest and most vulnerable of us, even those of us the world considers worthless.

       The story, of course, does not end here. The Christmas story is just one part of a much longer love story. This God-child grew up and preached the ongoing reconciliation of heaven and earth. This Jesus revealed the soft-spot in God’s heart for the marginalized of society – the poor, the sick, the old and the suffering – and gave them a sense of their own dignity, no matter how desperate their situations.

       What does this incredibly loving God want from us for all this? What kind of response does God want to his incredible incarnation? In a nutshell, God wants to be involved in our lives in an intimate way. God wants nothing less than a love relationship. He wants to shower us with love and he wants us to love him back by trusting him, especially in time of doubt and sorrow. No matter how much we have been through, he wants us to know that he has “been there and done that” with us and that someday we will understand how it all fits together!

       My friends, on this Christmas we gather again to celebrate the embrace of an incredibly loving God! So let us realize again today that, no matter who we are, what we’ve done or failed to do, what we’ve been through or what we cannot seem to get over, we are being held right now in the embrace of God’s unconditional love. His name is Emmanuel, which means “God with us!”

       My friends, some of you are reeling from incredible losses, some of you are hurting and some of you are scared of what’s next. I cannot take that away or make it all better this Christmas, but I do hope you know that the first Christmas was not all that merry either! For Mary and Joseph, it was a time filled with fear, homesickness and disorientation. Just as the angels wrapped their wings around their pathetic situation, may the angels of God wrap their wings around you and your situation! I don’t know why some people suffer, but I do know that God loves them! In spite of the hard time, you may be experiencing, I hope you know down deep that in giving us his Son, God has given us his heart! 












Sunday, December 24, 2023


"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus. The child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.”
Luke 1:26-38

This was in a Christmas letter from my friend, Joseph Muench, in Independence, Ky. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023


Louisville snowstorm of 1978
Somewhere in Louisville in 2021

A mess, on the ground and in the traffic, outside my window on Eastern Parkway a few years ago.

Beautiful!  Snow along melted roads, on a street along Cherokee park, a couple of years ago. 


Tuesday, December 19, 2023



It has happened so often in my life that I am no longer surprised when I stumble onto a book that motivates me to change in a significant way. It's like the right book simply falls into my lap at a time that I need it. It is certainly true of this little book - THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  

Like many people I know, I have a tendency to hold onto things until one day I become a slave of my own "stuff." Now that I am retired, I realized that I have too much stuff in my living space and that I have outlived much of its usefulness - clothes, books, files, pictures, nick-nacks, tools, appliances, dishes, picture frames and you-name it! Finally, a day comes when you know you need to "go through it" and "separate the wheat from the chaff" so to speak, but you just can't get motivated. It was then that Marie Kondo's little book fell into my lap from God-knows-where! 

The first insight that came into focus was the realization that decluttering would make my life richer, not poorer. Once the clutter is gone, my personal space would be a whole lot easier to clean - meaning less work! The second insight that came into focus was the realization finding what I truly need would be a whole lot easer to find - meaning less wasted time. The third insight that came into focus was the realization that I did not need to own things like 30 pairs of black pants of various waist sizes, 50 outdated old text books from high school, college and former jobs that I used to have, 150 file folders from the 150 priest retreats I did in 10 countries when I had most of the truly important information in my computer. Then there is the 15 years of weekly clippings of my column in The Record in albums when I have all of them in three fat books. Does one person really need three Crock Pots of various sizes? 

I don't need to belabor the point by listing all of the other categories of clutter that I had in my condo and garage - things like outdated spices in kitchen drawers, outdated pill bottles in the bathroom and duplicate tools and broken things of all sorts that I never got around to fixing in the garage!  I won't mention things like the six boxes of old pictures that I reduced to two that I had not looked at since I took them years ago - many in duplicate and triplicate.  I reduced two three-drawer file cabinets full of paper down to one and got rid of the other file cabinet! 

Reading the book is what motivated me to roll up my sleeves and dig in! Once I got started, I was on a roll! In less than two weeks, between Good Will, the Second Hand Store at St. Thomas More Parish, the condo recycle bins and the dumpster, I have filled no less than three full pick-up truck loads, two recycle bins and probably half a dumpster. It got to the point that I was embarrassed for neighbors to see me carrying bags to the dumpster and recycle bins. After all that, I only had maybe one more car-load of "treasures" for the second-hand store and now even that is gone. Now that I think that I have finished, I am going to make a total sweep once again to be sure I didn't hold back some sentimental old trash that I will never miss!

The other day, I had four old seminary classmates over for coffee, pastries and conversation. The place sparkled and no one could tell that anything was missing! "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!" 

Ms. Kondo insists that one declutter first and then clean - and for God's sake don't just look for more storage space! Now that I have decluttered my condo, right after Christmas I am going to get a couple of cleaning people in here to give it a good going over from top to bottom as I go into the new year. 

The whole process was actually an energizing effort, rather than a boring chore, and the process kept me engaged and focused from beginning to end. Now I find myself, in quiet moments, looking around for more stuff to get rid of! I can now say with certainty that "tidying up" has indeed been a wonderful, life-changing spiritual experience for me! The icing on the cake is that all that junk went to someone who can use it, but can't afford to buy it! 

Sunday, December 17, 2023



Test everything. Retain what is good.
Refrain from every evil.
I Thessalonians 5:16-24

There are two great “temptation” stories in the Bible – the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden and the temptation of Jesus in the desert. In the first temptation story, goodness falls and evil wins. In the second temptation, goodness wins and evil falls. All other temptations in history are just more versions of these two stories of temptation – the temptation to choose evil over good or good over evil.

What exactly is a “temptation, anyway?” It is a personal inner struggle with a choice - a choice that has at its base a desire to do something, usually something wrong or unwise. It is such a part of our everyday living that every time we say the Our Father, we pray that we will not be led into temptation.

Test everything. Retain what is good.
Refrain from every evil.

I am reminded of something from the Book of Sirach in the Old Testament. "Set before you are fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch out your hand. Before everyone are life and death, whichever they choose will be given them.” (Sirach 15:16-17) That is worth repeating! "Before you are life and death, whichever you choose will be given to you!"

A lot is made these days of our "right to choose," but increasingly little is said about our responsibility to choose wisely, not to mention our responsibility to accept the consequences of our choices. Some people are like kids who go through life eating the filling out of the Oreos and then throwing the cookies away. They want freedom without the responsibility that goes with it! They want to choose, but they are not necessarily willing to accept the responsibility that goes with their choices, especially when they turn out badly!

You may have the right to eat French Fries and Chicken Nuggets three times a day, but you also have the responsibility to eat healthily. If you only exercise your right to eat whatever you want, without accepting your responsibility to eat well, you will sooner or later have to accept the consequences of your choices – bad health and maybe death! You have a right to skip class when you are in school, but you also have a responsibility to go to class. If you only exercise your right to skip, you must be willing to accept the consequences of maybe flunking out of school and have to find some menial work to stay alive! If you only exercise your right to accept a credit card, without accepting your responsibility for paying for what you charge, you will sooner or later have to accept the painful consequences of your choices - ruining your credit for years to come! Our culture is being ruined by people who keep trying to beat this basic truth!

All you young friends here today, I have something to say to you especially, so listen up! One of the benefits of being a young adult is finally being able to enjoy the freedom to make your own choices. One of the upsides of the freedom to choose is the ability to build your own life the way you want to live it through a series of personal choices. On the other hand, one of the downsides of the freedom to choose is the freedom to ruin your own life through a series of poorly-thought-out choices. Yes, you are totally free to ruin your own life or build a fabulous life! The choice is yours! If you mess it up, you can’t blame your parents or the government or the internet or anybody else! Win or lose, you did it to yourself either through your own wise free choices or your own stupid free choices!

Test everything. Retain what is good.
Refrain from every evil.

The freedom to choose, combined with the ability to choose wisely, is the ideal. Yet there are many who cannot handle their freedom well and end up losing it. Choosing what feels good at the moment, without the personal discipline to choose what would actually be good over the long haul, is a recipe for disaster. Hearing about people ruining their lives has actually become a favorite American TV entertainment.

Every day people like Judge Judy, Jerry Springer and Maury Povich have made big bucks featuring people who have ruined their lives and the lives of those around them because of the poor choices they have made. They have the "freedom to choose" but choose poorly. They have the "freedom to choose" but they don't have the ability to discern what is of value. Illegitimate children, ruined marriages, endless abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, serious financial debt, family disintegration, squandered opportunities for a good education and loss of reputation are only a few of the consequences of making choices without the ability to choose wisely. Do yourself a favor! Don’t make the same stupid choices they made!

As St. Paul reminds us in our second reading today, “Test everything, retain what is good and refrain from every kind of evil.” To be able to discern what is of value, we must develop self-mastery. By self-mastery, I mean we have to be able to name and then "stand up to" our addictions, our cowardice and our laziness in order to create the life we want to have! We must be able to "handle" ourselves and our cravings - for a higher purpose and for our long-term good. We must be able to continually clarify what we really want out of life, constantly focus our energies to reach for what we want and consistently deal in truth rather than self-deception.

People with self-mastery approach their lives like an artist approaching the task of producing a work of art. People with self-mastery know how to discern what is of value and use what they have discerned to live on purpose! The spiritual disciplines of both East and West speak often of the practice self-mastery. I published a new book a few years ago on this very subject. It is my autobiography mapping the courageous choices I have deliberately made since age six and how those choices made me what I am today – for good or for bad! It is called BETWEEN COURAGE AND COWARDICE: Choosing to Do Hard Things for Your Own Good. It is a total detailed life review. 

Test everything. Retain what is good.
Refrain from every evil.

One of the sad things about our culture, in which freedom of choice is so highly honored, is the growing tendency to deflect responsibility for our choices after we make them. If our culture is to survive, the freedom to choose must be combined with personal responsibility. To demand the freedom to make our own choices and then throw the blame on others when those choices backfire is the height of cowardice and irresponsibility - and yet it is so popular in our culture. Freedom without responsibility is wreaking havoc all around us.

When enough of us have the ability to discern what is of value and when enough of us have the self-mastery to choose what is of value, marriages will improve, families will improve, neighborhood will improve, the economy will improve, churches will improve, nations will improve and the world will improve. These problems can only be fixed one person at a time. In reality, no one can save us from us, but us!

Discipline is about choosing “delayed gratification” or “good things coming to those who wait” or “the ability to resist the temptation of an immediate reward in favor of a larger prize in the future.” Numerous studies have shown that the ability to delay gratification is one of the biggest indicators of success through life – be it your ability to manage your resources, choose the right spouse, maintain your weight, becoming skilled at a sport or launching a career. Those who can resist temptation in pursuit of long-term goals are blessed with an enormous advantage over the rest of the herd. Leonardo de Vinci was right when he said, “One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.”

The ability to discern what is of value and self-mastery in the face of severe temptation is at the heart of Jesus’ desert experience. To do his Father’s will, not his own, Jesus had to be able to see the difference between what “looked good” and what was “actually good.”





Saturday, December 16, 2023


The clipping (below) was given to me by one of the residents of the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged on a recent visit. 



Thursday, December 14, 2023


After making twelve trips down to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, after COVID struck and after the local volcano erupted, I had to end my trips to the Caribbean missions. However, I will never forget the many kids we were able to help especially at Christmas, Easter and the beginning of the school year.  

I remember the toys at Christmas, the chocolate and candy baskets at Easter and the boxes and boxes of school supplies when school started.  I remember the fund-raising, the shopping, the packing, the shipping and the happiness that it brought to the people donating it and the people receiving it - whether it was the huge shipping containers of medical supplies or the candy, food, toys, school supplies, vans and cars, the summer computer camps for kids and the upgrading of a few churches. I will never forget our involvement in the total renovation of the Pastoral Centre with its new St. James Chapel, several retreat rooms, offices, upstairs kitchen, dining room, living room and its air-conditioned meeting room and second kitchen downstairs.    

Yes, I remember all the things that so many of us were able to do for the children, the parishes, the diocesan staff, the Pastoral Centre, the schools and the hospitals, but I will never forget what meeting so many of them has done for me personally. They will always occupy a special place in my heart, especially at Christmas time. 

Sister Nya Ann, Sister Carmen, Santa Claus (Fergal Redmond) and a few of the kids of St. Benedict Home for Children with their Christmas presents (above). 

Sister Zita and a few of her kids from the Bread of Life Home for Children. 

When I first started volunteering, I noticed that many of the kids were carrying white dolls with golden hair that people had sent down. I think I bought over 50 black dolls for the kids. 

Some of the kids for whom we bought Christmas presents were so excited. 

We did not forget the kids on some of the outer islands. Here they are waiting next to a table of presents ready to be opened. 

An ocean of happy kids ready to open their presents. 

I'll never forget this little girl patiently "waiting in joyful hope" for her Christmas present in the "Loaves and Fishes" soup kitchen shelter in downtown Kingstown. 

More kids at one of our Christmas parties at the "Loaves and Fishes" soup kitchen.