I emailed Pat many times after Steven called to let me know she’d emailed him first about Carmelo’s fatal heart attack the evening before.
Date: June 27, 2014 at 8:38 AM (edited)
Steven called from work at 7:43 a.m. to give me the news. Oh, my gosh!!!
You’re not going to believe this, but I’ve had Carmelo on my mind BIG TIME this week, especially Wednesday and Thursday. In fact, as I cleaned house Tuesday, I wondered how his meeting had gone regarding Casa [San Martin in Matamoros].
June is a time when I think of Carmelo. Summer is Carmelo time in my book of memories. His ordination anniversary was June 18th, mom’s birthday. After Carmelo and I reconnected, I told him about mom’s passing; so he told me he’d say some Masses for her. Then there’s his birthday July 16th. And, yes. The dates are marked in my calendar book so I can’t possibly forget.
Wednesday as I fixed my breakfast toast I thought, I haven’t written to him since before the LAMP reunion. I’ve been so busy that, when someone comes to mind, I simply pray for them and keep going. Yesterday I set out my box of stationery to write letters today but didn’t. Then last night I told myself to do it this morning. And that’s what I was getting to when Steven called to let me know about Carmelo.
Yesterday I had an odd thought. Just like that. Again, I was fixing my toast when I thought, I’ll never send him a letter again! Something’s happened, and I’ll never send him another letter. Then, just as quickly I chided myself, Why would you think that?!!
I felt this emptiness, this detachment that I couldn’t explain. But now I know.
It was Carmelo’s despedida.
From: Pat Finnegan Ishizaki (“Patish;” edited)
Time: 9:02 AM
I totally believe that there was a reason Carmelo was so strongly in your thoughts this week. I also totally believe that the reunion of the three of us was ordained by a higher power. Looking back it was so strange how everything just fell into place for us to meet up again.
Tom called this morning but he really didn’t have any more information. We will have a memorial service here in Madison. Sheila has not returned messages or texts. I just called Aggie this morning and told her.
If I get any updates I will send a text.
Date: June 28, 2014 at 9:39 AM (edited)
I found three obituaries online: One on WordPress (surprisingly), another that was about the same but on a different site, and then the one that told about the procession to San Miguel Arcangel, Carmelo’s church, after his coffin arrived in Diaz Ordaz [Mexico].
The English is butchered if one translates the page, so I read the Spanish version. I had to decipher some parts, as Spanish isn’t first nature; but the gist was that the body lay in state at the church overnight so that everyone could have a chance to pay their respects. Apparently, Carmelo was so loved by the parishioners that they withstood the terrible heat within the church to mourn their loss. I wonder if the temperature cooled during the night hours.
Each article mentioned the Red Cross and, because I associate the organization with disasters and situations where the poor need assistance, I felt so very sad that Carmelo had truly served in all humility since 1971. No one to do for him, I thought, when he did so much for so many.
Before finding his address I’d wanted so much to help. But, afterwards, I didn’t want to offend him. Then I sent him a contribution. He was so happy that I got a quick reply letting me know he’d bought fifty catechism books at two dollars apiece. Still, I felt oddly, so I waited. The next time I sent him double, and he bought himself a pair of pants. Wow. I got teary-eyed when I read his letter. A pair of pants. So, when I learned he’d be going to Madison for the reunion, I thought about his wardrobe, the fuel he’d spend on, and the hotel room he’d need on the way. May 8th, I learned that he’d received the letter with the check more than a month after the reunion.
We’d made plans, but I knew he wouldn’t be able to visit when we were down in Brownsville. He had weekend Masses and other obligations.
I never called, but I was really concerned. I told Steven, “I wonder how many of us will think back and wish we’d done things differently.” But one never knows when it’s time, when God calls us home.
I wrote a seven-page letter to Aggie and Ron last night. Finished it close to midnight. So many thoughts. But I knew they’d understand. I’m not even sure I made sense. Like now, I have these moments when the tears get to me. I want to cry and cry. Carmelo’s death leaves things incomplete for me. We didn’t even have a start at the face-to-face friendship we both looked forward to! Yet Carmelo’s life ended because it was God’s will for him to finally rest from his depression and his weariness.
I read in one of the obituaries that Carmelo was a good priest and a very understanding confessor who gave gentle counsel. I never got to know about any of that. Yet I’ve been friends with other priests and continue my correspondence with our beloved Fr. Sheehan, OMI (retired) who used to be at the cathedral in Brownsville. He’s now at the Oblate Madonna Residence in San Antonio where we’ve visited with him. We’ve known each other since Fall 2002, so he’s very dear to me. I’ve also befriended a few priests in the Corpus Christi diocese and elsewhere, but I wish I’d had this luxury with Carmelo most of all.
I always sensed that Carmelo cared a lot about me, so I told him I loved him every time I wrote. I thought of him the way I remembered him from our LAMP days. Still, I knew he wanted more: a camaraderie between friends in spite of decades gone by without communication. I really and truly went nutz off and on not knowing how to reach him, so to have the likelihood of a familial friendship snatched away just blows my mind.
Mind you, I’m not one to ask why. I’m not one to make demands of God. So I’m not doing it now. Still, I had quite an epiphany the day of the reunion.
I was taken aback by how much Carmelo seemed to be suffering, at how difficult it was for him to walk, at how much he’d withdrawn from all of us despite the joyful ambiance. I sensed something that I didn’t want to deal with, something that I tried to make sense of since that day. Even worse was that I couldn’t rush the move to Brownsville, so the situation was out of my hands.
Thinking about it one afternoon I said out loud, “Carmelo, if you want a relationship with me, you have to pull yourself out of this place you’re in!”
And now this.
You’re the only one I can talk to.
You know loss; I know loss. I’ve mourned my dad since I was five, yet I haven’t been unhappy or unfulfilled in life. We go on no matter what. We have responsibilities and people who depend on us, but the longing for more is always there. The memories linger, so the relationship becomes spiritual (and sometimes even emotional). There are no hugs; there is no laughter. Conversations become prayerful thoughts, feelings, and rich recollections.
The morning dad died, mom and my baby brother were fast asleep. We all were! Yet I immediately responded when he called me near. He was talking to me when he took his last breath.
What a gift that was then and now! Can you imagine if I’d been out playing? Or if I hadn’t heard his voice? I give thanks and praise for that final despedida. What a unique experience! What a lasting bond!
From the time dad died, mom prepared me for her death. She coached me on what to do, how to act, and so on. She, too, had lost a parent early on: her mom at age nine.
This made me different from my brother who was six months old then and our two half-siblings who are thirteen and fourteen years younger than me. None of them understands why but never thought to ask about my dad or what I felt or thought about my loss. So, when mom died in 2011, they were offended by my peaceful demeanor.
Joyful mourning, I called it. Mom had earned her way to heaven after much emotional loss in her life.
Firsthand experience with death and life should’ve made Carmelo’s loss more bearable, but coming to terms with what could’ve been but wasn’t has been very tough. For years I longed to rekindle our friendship. I treasured the three blue doilies his sister crocheted for him to give me; I remembered his unexpected but delightful visits to mom’s house. She really liked him!
The last time he’d dropped by mom’s he’d written his address on an envelope for me to stay in touch, but my adult life (as single parent, employee, graduate student, and all those unexpected roles along the way) was so demanding that I barely had time for myself, much less for friends or correspondence.
Most of that changed after I remarried much later in life. The haze cleared, and Carmelo’s ages-old envelope came to light. LAMP brought us together one last time; the rest was up to us.
Between June 18, 2012, and May 8, 2014 (mom’s and dad’s birthdays, respectively), Carmelo and I exchanged twenty-three cards and/or letters. He could hardly wait for Steven to retire so we could move to Brownsville. He was so stoked about our upcoming visits that he’d driven past the house already. Then he wrote to inform us about LAMP’s fiftieth anniversary. He wanted for me to contact Pat about the reunion so we could all spend time together again.
My St. Carmelo
Thanks to Carmelo, “we LAMPs” reconnected joyously, effortlessly. We picked up right where we’d left off Summer 1966. But Carmelo seemed preoccupied somehow and kept mostly to himself.
Before Mass I’d found him quietly observing the decorating committee members who, in their excitement, were almost oblivious of him. He didn’t recognize me even as I smiled and made eye contact. I hugged him hello, but he was off to change for Mass. I rode the elevator with him, but he had little to say.
Considering that we’d corresponded somewhat and that he’d been so eager for us to meet, I sensed detachment. Or was it tiredness from the drive? I gave him space, thinking that I’d write when I returned home.
I was concerned. Carmelo didn’t look well, and later Pat and Sheila told me that he hadn’t really spent time with anyone that day.
Had I disappointed him? I wondered. I’d written that Steven’s retirement would be delayed more than a year, so maybe I’d shattered his hopes?
It was this feeling of something not quite right that nagged me daily and kept me from writing. I knew I’d ask about it, so I kept myself in check. I’d even done the unthinkable— picked up the phone to call, something I rarely do with anyone— only to back down after dialing. I didn’t want to pry.
What was going on with Carmelo? I wondered. I wanted to know so I could help (if I could), but he hadn’t been all that forthcoming at the reunion. I chose instead to give him space— and wait time.
Then came Pat’s news… and two whopping realizations. Carmelo and I would never have our visits! He would never bless our house in Brownsville! It was like losing my childhood friend, Crucito, all over again.
So much unfinished business. And yet Carmelo had interceded on our behalf. My heartfelt wish to reconnect with him, Pat, and the “other LAMPs” had come true before God called him home to rest.
Father of all mercies and God of consolation, you love us eternally and transform the shadows of death into the dawn of life. Look upon our grief; be our refuge and comfort so that our sadness and sorrow may turn into the light and peace of your presence. In dying your Son destroyed death; in rising he restored life. Grant that, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, we may be found in his company with our brothers and sisters. There, you shall wipe away every tear. We ask this through Christ, our lord. Amen.
Lord, we pray for all whom you called to the religious life, including your faithful servant, Carmelo. Through his efforts the love of Christ took root and blossomed, lifting many out of darkness and into your light. We who receive the sacraments of salvation offer our deepest gratitude for this blessed individual as we pray that he may enjoy the fruits of eternal life in heaven. We ask this through Christ, our lord. Amen (FMA, B-36/2016).
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let your light shine upon them forever and ever. Amen.
June 28, 2014
We are greatly saddened to hear of Padre Carmelo’s passing. We had the privilege of sharing space with him at LAMP’s 50th reunion in Madison, Wisconsin in April and hoped for more visits in Brownsville; but God had other plans for our beloved friend. Our condolences to his family and loved ones, especially his parishioners to whom he was steadfastly devoted (My comment on Evangelizadoras de los apóstoles).
September 27, 2014
Pictured with Sheila are Tom and Steven. Carmelo’s photo and items shown here are from the memorial Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Madison, Wisconsin.
Following Mass, we met for lunch and shared recollections. Some got up to speak; others jotted down their thoughts on slips of paper. Mostly, though, we smiled and laughed, recalling Carmelo’s heartwarming (and sometimes annoying) antics, but I also learned why Sheila and company renamed him “Father Late.
Debbie Organ… I’ve known Fr. Carmelo thirty-three years— since he received me as a LAMP at the age of nineteen. Years later he and I worked together on the staff of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Valle Hermoso. We traveled many miles together in the pickup to small villages with teens and guitars in the cab!
He had a word of comfort and compassion for every person who came to see him. He is baptismal godfather for my nineteen-year-old daughter, Katie.
Fr. Carmelo taught me how to be a minister.
Elaine… Carmelo came to our house many times. Our young children loved his warm spirit, broken English, twinkling eyes, and bad singing voice. Once he and Padres Vicente, Hilario, and Roberto played guitar and sang so loudly that our windows rattled!
My growing children would run to the window to see which truck Carmelo would bring each year. For them the bigger the truck the better!
Greg Krahm… Each weekend Fr. Carmelo engage in the most strenuous schedule of priestly ministries starting with weddings, confessions, and vigil Mass on Saturday through several Masses and hours in the confessional on Sunday. All this in blazing heat without air-conditioning. I thought it a miracle that he could make it back to the rectory Sunday evening. Gracias a Dios.
K. Andreah Prochaska Briarmoon (1970)… When my own five children were old enough (ages six, eight, nine, ten, and eleven) to visit Mexico, Padre Carmelo met us at the border, put us up, assigned a different altar boy to each of my five children as their special tutor, and took us to five parish homes per day for separate bilingual banquet meals. Whew!! An amazing experience for all of us.
Kathy Ganser Shea… My dear St. Carmelo! I haven’t connected with you for almost fifty years, so I only remember you as a young teen. We had many laughs. I loved your jolly, full of love eyes. They were full of love for the Lord!
Thank you for reconnecting us so that we could continue to bring that sort of love to those in our lives! Thank you for your priesthood!
I will be talking to you often now.
Mary Ellen Gevelinger… When my mother, Margaret Gevelinger, died January 2002, Fr. Carmelo and a friend drove thirty-two hours to be present at her funeral in Wisconsin.
Note: Actually, she is Sr. Mary Ellen. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gevelinger of Verona, WI. They were LAMP founding members and a wonderful couple. Nicest people you could ever know. They may not have been in Matamoros for their two weeks when you were there. Sr. Mary Ellen is head of the Sinsinawa Dominican motherhouse in Sinsinawa, WI. She can be googled for more information (Pat Finnegan Ishizaki; email, 9.6.16).
Sheila Schyvinck… Carmelo valued mothers of LAMP members. As he did so often, endured the long trip to Wisconsin for special occasions. When my mother passed away ten years ago (on a Saturday afternoon), Carmelo finished his weekend duties and left early Monday morning to drive non-stop over twenty-four hours to come for her funeral on Tuesday. He forgot the services weren’t in Beloit and arrived after everyone had gone home— including me. A true sacrifice for a friend! But late.
Rest in peace, Carmelo.
Steven Lanoux… Neither do men light a lamp and put it under the bushel, but on the stand, and it shines unto all that are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:15-16).
Unsigned… My favorite memory of Fr. Carmelo is the time Tom Scott gave me twelve sets of candle holders for Mexico. Not knowing they were for
Fr. Carmelo, I gave a set to the nuns for the chapel at the birthing center in Weslaco, TX. Then I had to tell Tom and Father the mistake I had made. All turned out well.
Obituary: Wisconsin State Journal (2014, p. A6).
Later in the day Sheila and Pat gave me four photos: three oldies but goodies from 1965 and a more recent one from November 2012. I couldn’t believe it! I’d started out with one from the reunion and then received five the day of the memorial?!! I was ever so grateful for memories of Carmelo!
October 21, 2015
Subject: More sad news
Date: Wednesday, 8:17 AM
Yesterday Tom got a call from Kevin Fraher’s sister. Kevin passed away October 11. He was found in his recliner with a rosary in his hands. There was a Redemptorist memorial service in Liguori, Missouri; and there will be another one in Minnesota this Saturday.
When we were up there for his mother’s memorial service in May, we had barely five minutes to talk with Kevin. So glad we went up for the service, sorry there was so little time to spend with Kevin.
Too bad Kevin couldn’t make it to the reunion or memorial service for Carmelo.
Sheila mentioned that Carmelo has been on her mind a lot these days. October was the month that he usually visited Wisconsin.
My response (8:52 AM)
My goodness. Reading your email made me think of family members who are close and so die close in time. What a loss to the LAMP family, but what a blessing to have spent time with him even if briefly. And to have been praying his rosary at the end? What joy to have had a peaceful rest.
When you have time, can you please share your memories about Kevin?
Remember what I told you about Carmelo? We had hardly any time together, something I lamented to Steven time and again. And then to lose him? I can understand why he’s been on Sheila’s mind a lot. My eyes still water just thinking about him.
Anytime you have an obituary, if you share it (or let me know how to link to it online), I’ll add it to the LAMP page on my blog. I googled Kevin Fraher and Liguori, MO and found this link and left a comment.
Patish (9:35 AM)
I found the same obituary last night. It did not mention that Kevin was a missionary in Brazil for many years or that he headed up the Redemptorist Center in Illinois or his position at Liguori, Missouri.
Kevin was part of a large traditional Irish Catholic family. They are a terrific family, so they must have their reasons for the brief obituary.
Sheila always mentions how unhappy it makes her that Carmelo’s last visit(s) were so lacking in quality time together. Always thought the next visit would be better.
Do you mind if I add some tidbits (from what you’ve told me) on the LAMP page along with posting the photo you sent?
Patish (2:26 PM)
Sure, include whatever you want.
Thanks! Pictured left to right are Tom, Sheila, and Mary with Fr. Kevin at his mom’s memorial service, May 1, 2015.
Subject: Fr. Kevin Fraher
From: Mary Schaller (6:20 PM)
Fr. Kevin Fraher, a former LAMP volunteer in 1965, ’66, ’67, ’73, ’74 and ’83, died October 11, 2015. [The obituary that Mary referenced is the same as the link already noted on this page.]
P.S. I am still working on the newsletter which I hope to complete soon.
My response (6:28 PM)
Thanks for your thoughtfulness in letting us know about Fr. Kevin. Please add us to your newsletter list because I don’t think we’ve been receiving them.
Wishing you all God’s blessings!
November 26, 2015
Date: Thursday, 7:05 AM
We are celebrating with Bridget, Shannon, Jim & Teri (brother and sister-in-law), and Sheila.
So thankful for wonderful friends and family. Ups and downs of life but, overall, we are very blessed.
I see a lull of a few days coming up so will be checking in with updates.
My response (9:58 AM)
Hi, Pat! Off and on each day as I go about my business here, you are in my thoughts and prayers. So I smile.
It’s going on two years since we’ve reconnected; and, regardless of the time between emails (and/or visits), you’re as close as a heartfelt memory.
We’re grateful for the gift of you in our lives! We’re grateful for your family and friends! We look forward to hearing all about your adventures.
God is good, awesomely good. We are all so abundantly blessed!
I hope that… Sheila is feeling great; Tom spends a wonderful day with friends; Kathy feels fulfilled in her comings and goings; and everyone LAMP is happy, healthy, and fine. I hope that Carmelo’s family is thriving and that his legacy continues through those whose lives he touched.
We love you! Happy Thanksgiving!
Patish (10:14 AM)
Wonderful feelings. Thanks. We are all brought together in thoughts this Thanksgiving. Sadly remembering Carmelo and Kevin.
September 10, 2016
Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore let us be extremely patient with each other’s faults and failures (Mother Teresa).
Links of interest… Bishop Hastrich… Bishop O’Connor Center (BOC)… Coping with grief & loss (five stages / more / seven emotional states)… LAMP: 40th year serving in Mexico / 50 years / 50th anniversary… Liguori Mission House… Queen of the Americas Guild (more)… Sinsinawa Dominicans (directions / Mound Center)… St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Parish…
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