Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Last week, I returned home for the funeral of my cousin Laura Kasprzyk (57). She was born with Down Syndrome. The doctors told my Aunt Gene that she would never speak, and may not walk. Determination and the dedication of her mother assisted Laura to not only walk, but also participate in every Special Olympics since its inception – winning gold, silver and three bronze medals in track and field.
Her mother also directed her faith development and fought for her Catholic religious education. Laura received all of her sacraments. Laura did speak, and she spoke lovingly of her immediate family. In the last years of her life, Laura was plagued by dementia. Laura had a twin sister, Linda, who was an equestrian police officer in Chicago. Linda told me that it seemed that Laura held onto life until the reception of the Last Rites, which gave her the peace to return home to God. A blessing for Laura was that she had a devoted twin sister, and was also supported by her older sisters, Mary Jo, Betty and Patti. A tearful eulogy delivered by Patti outlined the full life that Laura experienced. It was filled with faith, family and activities. It’s amazing how those who might be challenged in life seem to be an instrument in God’s hands to teach and remind the rest of us, who are blessed without those challenges, what really is important in living fully and completely in this life.
When society discards anything that is not materially or physically perfect, God will, at times, use individuals to point to the importance of the unseen (kindness, gentleness, love, unsolicited affection and giving without demanding return), which is worth more than gold itself.
Laura was buried at St. Columba’s Parish on the southeast side of Chicago. I remarked at her funeral that Laura brought us all back home. She was teaching again. St. Columba’s Parish is located on Green Bay Avenue and 134th Street in Chicago. What is ironic (opposite to what is expected) is that Green Bay Avenue was the street of my home, and the home of Laura’s family. It was ironic that Laura was taking us all back to the days when we were kids, and allowing us to draw upon the strength of our place of origin.
Faith, family and neighbors all contributed to who we are, and helped us to build the lives that we enjoy today. Laura was reminding us that we are all never far from the simple lessons of life. Laura unabashedly, a child of God, was reminding us to simply LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the February 6, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.