As this Advent season begins, I look backward at this past year’s experiences, as well as look forward to new and exciting adventures that are waiting to be born. I can’t help but pause at the loving influence that Fr. Mike Mandala had on my life. December 7th would have been Fr. Mike’s 72nd birthday. I still see his joyful face, eager for life, even as he continued to slow down due to the illness that ultimately claimed him.
About a month after Fr. Mike’s funeral, I received his set of keys to Verbum Dei and was asked to close down his Verbum Dei cell phone account. But before I did, I thought I should call whomever might have his phone to warn them that phone service was about to end. When I called Fr. Mike’s cell phone, I was immediately greeted by the jovial and welcoming voice of Fr. Mike’s message, still alive with his enthusiastic and uplifting manner. I was compelled to call multiple times because I needed to hear his voice and didn’t want to be the one to finally silence my friend. When I struggle with the loss of a loved one, I often want to hang on to those things that remind me of their goodness and inspire me to be a better man. Fr. Mike was that kind of person. May this Advent season connect you to your faith, your friends and your family the way that Fr. Mike did for so many of us.