Some forty years ago, when Tom’s name was announced at supper as one of those accepted as applicants to begin formation to become MH staff workers, he immediately jumped up from his chair and ran up the stairs to the chapel above the dining room, presumably to thank God.
I attribute my vocation in part to Tom. He loved to play cards, and when I was a guest, I, along with several others, often played Euchre with him at teatime.
Tom was just himself. He would really get into the game, and if his partner played differently from what he expected, he would grumble or yell. But immediately he would catch himself and apologize to the person. This would happen several times during the course of the evening, and it was quite fun.
So I was assured that at Madonna House you could just be yourself.
In Marian Centre Edmonton Tom was sometimes the stew cook for the soup kitchen.
One day when he was especially busy, he saw a bucket of dark liquid in the fridge. Thinking it was gravy or meat stock, he poured it into the stew. It was coffee!
He tried all kinds of additives to hide the taste, but without success. Though I wouldn’t say that the men loved it, they did eat it.
When we were at Aquia House, Tom and I were driving somewhere and the car got a flat tire. Tom, who suffered from lack of mechanical ability, couldn’t change the tire. He suggested we flag down a car and ask for help.
“All right,” I said. “But you better hide until it’s done. Nobody will believe me when I say I need help if they see a man here.”
a woman staff worker
I lived with Tom in the Yukon for two years and I gradually discovered who he was. What I discovered was a man of prayer.
He was in poustinia two days a week and told us to feel free to “disturb” him. If we had any prayer intentions, he told us, we could slip them under his door. I did so several times.
How many people Tom has taken on in prayer, God alone knows.
Tom was a passionate man. I never met anyone more passionate.
Tom had a deep love for the priesthood, and he wove in his free time. Whenever a layman of MH became a priest, he would weave him a beautiful stole as an ordination gift.
Shortly before he died, he finished his last one — for Kieran Kilcommons, who is due to be ordained this year.
a staff worker
Especially after I became director general, Tom would sometimes arrange to talk with me to remind me of my responsibilities. Was I spending time before the Lord in adoration, for example? This blessed boldness of Tom’s came out of his brotherly affection for me and his profound love for the apostolate.
Mark Schlingerman, director general of laymen
The desires of Tom’s heart were big. But he was wounded, and often his gifts and personal resources were modest. He persevered, and through his very weaknesses, the Lord refined and purified him.
Tom knew how dependent he was on God. He knew that the realization of the immense desires of his heart and mind lay ultimately in his union with and dependence on the Lord for whom he waited and more so as his life went on.
As Tom persevered and waited, he grew in love and gentleness, and in patience, humility, and serenity.
This was clearly evident to us who knew and loved him.
Fr. Bob Johnson
When I heard about Tom’s death, after the initial shock, what was in my mind and heart most strongly about him was the great joy he had, particularly during the last few years or so since his stroke in Edmonton.
One memory I have of this wonderful childlike joy occurred a couple of summers ago.
It was early morning, and I was sitting outside enjoying the quiet and the beauty of the sunrise when suddenly, right above my head, through the open window of his room on the second floor came Tom’s voice singing, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” It was very loud and off-key as usual, but it was jubilant!
1925 – 2005
Born: July 31, 1925 - Yonkers, NY (just outside New York City)
Education: Roosevelt High School (Yonkers, NY), Acting School, Course in Printing, Course in Public Speaking
Employment: Military service during World War II, Production expeditor for a trade journal for chain stores, Volunteer fireman for 11 years, Participated in a Holy Name Federation Speaker’s Bureau
Key Events in Madonna House:
1959: July summer school
1961: Jan. began applicancy
1961: Aug. first promises
1961: Sept. Aquia House, Virginia (founding team)
1964: Sept. MH Combermere
1965: Apr. Aquia House, Virginia
1968: Sept. Marian Centre Edmonton
1972: May Marian Centre Regina
1975: Dec. MH Combermere
1980: Oct. Maryhouse, Yukon
1984: Jan. MH Combermere
1984: Mar. St. Joseph’s House, Combermere
1987: Feb. MH Combermere, Housefather for Spiritual Formation Program
1994: poustinia 2 days per week
1998: Jan. Maryhouse, Yukon (poustinia)
1999: Feb. Marian Centre Edmonton (poustinia)
2000: Nov. MH Combermere (poustinia)
2005: Mar. 3 died of a stroke
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