When was the last time you truly felt blessed by God and maybe shared your true feelings with another person? Did your parents buy you a new car for your graduation? Did you sell your home after burying St. Joseph in the backyard? Did you get hired for the job you and nine others interviewed for? Did you marry the love of your life, and now 50 years later are still celebrating that love you felt when God united you as one? Was it when you held your first born for the first time in your hands? When do we get to that point where we simply know, “I am blest”?
Being a steward, and living “discipleship and stewardship as a way of life” is a Biblical call from the Lord to all the baptized. It is what parents, pastors and catechists should be sharing with our young folks as they are being brought into Christian formation from the beginning of their faith journey. The youth who hear their teaching must also see these adults “living this discipleship as a way of life” for to be true disciples we are called to “walk the walk” as we “talk the talk.”
Living stewardship as a true intentional disciple, as the Diocese of Wichita states: is “the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts, and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
Msgr. Thomas McGread was key in bringing this stewardship/discipleship way of life to the St. Francis Parish in Wichita and, with Bishop Eugene Gerber, helped bring it to the Wichita diocese. Msgr. McGread once said, “A stewardship way of life is a thanksgiving way of life, living life as God intended it to be lived.”
Msgr. McGread went all over the United States giving conferences preaching on this call “to live this stewardship way of life” — this life of a grateful steward. In Grateful and Giving by Deacon Donald McArdle, we hear how many of the participants of these conferences “are awestruck by the … priest who preaches this life-changing message.” Msgr. McGread proclaimed boldly, “Embrace stewardship as a way of life and you will never be the same.”
Deacon McArdle goes on to write, “Msgr. McGread believes this with all of his heart. He has witnessed the stewardship way of life change the hearts and minds of his parishioners, and he knows, in the depths of his heart, that if stewardship is embraced by all, the church will more powerfully live Christian discipleship today.
“The seeds of faith Msgr. McGread’s parents planted in him during his earliest years had a big impact on the life he would lead and the change he would help make in the life of the local church in the Diocese of Wichita and beyond.”
Msgr. McGread admitted often, “Dad and Mom both taught me what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.”
Now our Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is engaged in promoting “stewardship (discipleship) as a way of life.” Parishes are studying, praying, discerning, and talking about this call to “live this way of life as the response of grateful stewards.” Thousands are involved in this promotion.
As Sherry Waddell emphatically reminds us in her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, we must “break the silence” and “tell the story.” It is in telling the story of the life, death and resurrection (paschal mystery) of Jesus Christ that we encounter (kerygma) the risen Savior. We must encounter Christ, and enter into a personal relationship with our God; a God who can be the loving Father who created us, the loving Savior who embraced the cross and gave his life for us, and the power of their Holy Spirit, first given to the Apostles locked in their upper room, and also to us in our sacramental life.
We make a difference. We bring all of God’s people to a true conversion and lead them to deepen this personal relationship, and call to discipleship. They who accept truly are changed and recognize they “are blest.”
Allison Holbrook was truly one of these “intentional disciples.” She learned this truth, she heard this story, she broke the silence and was a true evangelist for Christ for all 30 years of her life. As a youngster she first heard about this “loving God” by her awesome parents Dennis and Pat. Never did these parents waver from their commitment to “hand on the Catholic faith” to their girls, Nicole, Elizabeth and Allison. All three heard “the Good News” at home, at church, and at school; from parents, families, priests/sisters, teachers, and the Christian community. Allison loved her time at St. Francis School and Quincy Notre Dame and took advantage of the great opportunity to be formed in the way of the Gospel to become at a young age a “true intentional disciple.” She was the real thing.
She served the Lord so well in so many ways in her home town. She was a Teens Encounter Christ youth who not only encountered Christ, but let others encounter Christ in her. She “broke the silence” often and shared the Good News in every aspect of her life. She had a unique love and compassion for the poor and needy.
As a child she was in a car with her parents and saw a poor person looking for help on the road. Her parents pulled out a few dollars to help, but from the back seat Allison reached over to give them all the money she had on her, which was more than her parents were giving. Her dad told me they gave out of their excess; she gave all she had out of her loving, generous heart. It was already her identity.
Allison served throughout the United States at many Catholic HEART Workcamps, even joining the leadership staff. She led hundreds of youth to the same encounter she so loved, cherished and lived. She gathered with her closest friends, a group celebrating “Chad Fest” together, a group who truly had one of the most unique bonds of friendship. They know now it was faith, good morals, and a Christ-like love that sealed their bond. Many times when they were together if the topic of conversation was getting out of hand, it was always Allison who stopped it right then and there.
Allison received her degree in counseling and worked for the last three years at Greenview High School. She told her parents she wanted to set up a scholarship for the seniors to go on to college, for many would never be able to afford it. She was only there for three years.
Last spring, while working there, she began to have back issues, and eventually was told she had cancer. Within four months, on June 29, the feast day of the Apostles Peter and Paul, Allison Holbrook peacefully left us to enter eternal life.
Hundreds of friends joined her family at the visitation and funeral. Great preaching by Father Duc Pham, OFM, and fine eulogies helped us all to find a sure peace and joy in our celebration of Allison and her “life well lived.”
Her memorial was centered on one main theme — and it was what Allison was known for by all who knew her. Whenever you asked Allison (even during her suffering with the cancer) “How are you?” or “How are things going?” she answered, “I am blest.” This was recalled by the two busloads of youth from Greenview who came to her wake; her friends who knew her well; her parents and siblings and their families; and her fiancé Jake. At 30 years old, he shared his eulogy and was stellar in his love and care for the woman who called him “My Love.”
Allison Holbrook died young, which saddens us. But as her parents said at Mass, “We are at peace.” As her dad said those words, a peace fell upon all who filled that church. We realized through this journey, she was blessed. It was a great blessing to know this true disciple of Jesus who after falling in love with her God, lived for 30 years in his way, his truth, and his life. Now we can say, “Well done, Allison. In knowing you, we too have been extremely blessed.”