On the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, my dear friend, Fr. Al Hewett, a priest in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, passed away at the age of 95.
“I have thought, if I ever retired, and learned how to write,” Fr. Al said years ago, “I’d write a book—that it’s fun to be a follower of Christ. That it’s fun to be a priest!”
I wanted to help Fr. Al write that book. The world needed that book. I needed that book. And I couldn’t imagine a better person to tell readers how fun it is to be a priest than Fr. Al.
He was the definition of fun. And he was the definition of priest.
He cracked the same jokes so many times that my children learned them by heart and told them to their friends.
“Why do they put fences around cemeteries?” he would ask, with a twinkle in his eye. “Because everyone is dying to get in!”
Next, he’d delight the children by flipping a spoon from the table into a water glass, or pretending to make his thumb detach.
In between the jokes and tricks, he would talk about his favorite subject: the Church. After six decades of priesthood, his enthusiasm never wavered.
“Every morning, as soon as I wake up,” he said as he sat at my kitchen table last year, at the age of 94, “I thank the Lord for the sacraments. I remember the dates of them all….”
Then he began to recall the dates of his reception of each sacrament, beginning with his baptism. The sacraments were etched on his heart as clearly as each verse of Scripture is inscribed in a Bible.
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