Patron Stories: Father Larry
At the age of eight years I was given a “terrible gift” of losing my sight through a fall from a porch’s railing. The fall resulted in a blood-clot on my brain. I had to switch from the Catholic grade school I was attending to a public school program for the learning of braille.
Upon graduation I was thrilled to be accepted to Marquette University High School in Milwaukee. Thrilled, because, as I told my parents, I did not know much about this Catholic Faith into which I had been born.
I did not use braille very often those years nor during my two years at St. Norbert College near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Those six years deepened my faith and a desire to be a Religious. Because of my being blind, I never thought of being ordained a priest, but because I loved hard physical labor, I was attracted to the life of a Lay Brother within the Society of Jesus. Again, I was thrilled and a bit surprised when the Society accepted me as a Novice Brother in the summer of 1960. During my first few months, I was informed about Xavier Society for the Blind, a ministry of the New York Province of the Jesuits.
My Novice Director sent for some braille books, the first one being the biography of Brother Andre a Holy Cross Brother in Montreal. Eventually I read in braille the Confessions of St. Augustine and many others.
The liturgy then was in Latin, so every Sunday a fellow Novice would record the Readings and prayers for the up-coming masses. Then, behold, the little braille booklets for the Sunday masses became available, what a gift! Books on tape of all kinds assisted me in my advancing in the Jesuit spirituality and my own studying of Theology.
After Vatican II the Brothers were allowed and encouraged to advance themselves in academic studies which I did, receiving my degree in English from St. Louis University in 1966. Xavier followed me through those years and my three years of teaching at Campion Jesuit High School in Wisconsin. It was during those years that I was encouraged, even challenged to consider requesting my Superiors and eventually the Vatican, to receive special permission to receive ordination. During those years of seeking that permission I was allowed to study Theology at Regis College in Toronto. Xavier followed me there as well with their sending me liturgical texts, recorded books for prayer and study.
I was again thrilled to receive permission to be ordained which I did in the Gesu church in Milwaukee in 1972. Amazing! It still is! The Xavier Society has been and remains an amazing friend to me. Each month I receive a copy containing all the Readings and prayers for the Sundays and major feast of the month. I have a well-used copy in braille of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I have a full set of the New Testament. I listen to digital books of all kinds of topics which are helpful for my personal prayer and communal liturgies. I have been celebrating a weekend-mass at a local diocesan church here in Omaha for over thirty-five years. Without those monthly Braille mass books that would not be easy or even possible. I keep a complete three-year cycle of these books over there on my shelf. I presently am the director of the Ignatian Spirituality Center at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
It has been quite a life of being assisted by Xavier Society from those old bulky hand-brailled on only one side of the sheet to now with all the advancements to which Xavier has kept up. I personally am deeply thankful for this group over the past fifty-seven years. I am grateful to the benefactors as well who have supported Xavier Society as well as the Society of Jesus.