After the 6:30 Mass this morning, once I had put off the vestments and things had been put away, the early Mass crew and I settled in front of the Blessed Sacrament to pray. It was about ten minutes after seven o’clock in the morning. All the church was silent; but outside, I could hear a lawn mower. It was Anthony Dao mowing the acres of our parish lawn.
That may not strike you as unusual at all, and indeed it is not, since he does so every Thursday for seven or more months of each year. He does it Thursday so it will look good on the weekend, and he has a fallback day, Friday, in case of rain. You have probably noticed how beautiful and park-like our campus is, but may never have seen it being mowed to look so good.
This work I appreciate each week. But Dao (what we call him for reasons I am not entirely sure of) did something this week to catch my attention. It, too, is thoroughly routine but, nonetheless, I do not want you to overlook it. He waxed the floors in the church; all of them, under the pews, and in the choir and sanctuary. For the latter, he had to move out all the furniture. I did not ask him to do this because it was looking bad; it is just one of the things he does periodically.
There are many things like this he does routinely, like mowing the lawn, or vacuuming the church each Monday (after the weekend) and Friday (before the weekend). Again, you may say, of course, but do you know how many of my priest friends are discouraged to arrive at new assignments and find their churches filthy? It’s not FedEx Field, or one of the Regal Majestic 20 Theatres, but two thousand people each week leave their mark on a place even without beer or popcorn – but maybe a few Cheerios. Have you ever appreciated how clean our church is?
Dao also changes the light bulbs, including the new floodlight on Our Lady on the façade of our church this week, and in the high fixtures in the church (you do not want to watch him go up that ladder). He can fix anything, and around a plant that is mostly more than sixty years old, often does.
He has been here since shortly after he arrived here from Vietnam, sometime in the 1980’s, and can tell you which Pastor did what for the place (or to the place) all the way back to Father Krastel (third Pastor of St. Bernadette, 1983 – 1987). I think he must have been twelve when he started, since he doesn’t look old enough to have been working that long ago.
As much time as he spends here during the week, I see him every weekend. Dao, his wife, and their four children are parishioners here too. Which is my only clue to why he works so hard on this old operation: he must love the place.
Thank God for Dao, and for people who love this parish, and work for this parish, like Jackie Nguyen in our tuition office, also from Vietnam, and our business manager Delfina Castro, from El Salvador. I am grateful not only for their service here, but that they can serve here, working and supporting themselves and their families, laboring for the good of Christ’s holy Church, their church, and for all the faithful. I am grateful that they live in a country where this is possible.
God bless America! A blessed Independence Day to you all.