Have you ever had the honor to have someone pass your path and then walk along with you for a while? Well kathy and I had just this honor when Fr. Frank Liistro came into our life one evening about a week before Christmas many years ago.
We were working at a factory building on the 4th floor that we had begged from a college classmate of mine for the Christmas Giving Program. All of the volunteers had left, it was about 7:30 in the evening and I heard someone desperately gasping for breath near the stairwell. I went over to him and asked, “You going to make it?” As he straightened up, still gasping he said to me, “Oh, yes, but boy those stairs are a killer!” It was then I noticed he was wearing a Roman collar. “Oh father, are you all right?” all the while thinking those stairs, all eight flights, are really a killer.
“Hello, I am Father and we had these gifts come back to the parish late and I wanted them to get to the children they were bought for.” It was then that I noticed that he had carried up four large bags of beautifully wrapped presents. “Well thank you very much.” I was saying when he interrupted me asking, “So where did all these gifts come from?” He started walking up and down the long rows with gifts stacked on numbered plastic trash bags, each one for a child. He was smiling and waving his arms and pointing to this pile of gifts and that pile asking, although not really expecting me to answer him, “Who bought all these gifts? This is a tremendous thing that you are doing. Where is all your help? As he said this he stopped and look directly at me and asked,You do have help, don’t you?” I smiled back at him and answered, “I have lots of help. I could not do this program without all of the help I get. We talked for a time as I explained the ministry of the Refugee Apostolate to him. Finally he said, “It is getting late and I have to get back to the parish.” We said good night and we shook hands. He wave good bye as he descended into the stairwell.
This was the first time I met Fr. Frank over the next twenty years Kathy and I would cross paths with Fr. Frank and whenever this happened we would always say, ” What an amazing priest.”
One of the funniest stories happened to Kathy. One day Fr. Frank appeared in the doorway of the Little Store when it was on Main Street in Worcester. “Hi,Kathy Could you use some fresh fish in the store?” Needless to say Kathy was somewhat taken aback because we usually don’t get asked so she thought a moment and said “Yes, I think we can.” “Good, he said, because I have over twenty-five pounds of fish left over fish from our Friday fish fry at the parish.” “Great,” said Kathy can I help you carry it in? “No, he said, ” I can get it.” When he brought it in he gave Kathy a wink and said,”Do you want to hear why I brought this fish to you?” Kathy nodded. “Well. for a while I have had the suspicion that the the folks who run our fish fry have been over ordering the amount of fish needed every Friday. So today I swooped in and gathered up all of the left over fish and announced that I needed to get it to some friends whom could really use this.” “you should have seen their faces,” he said. For the next four Fridays Fr. Frank dropped off 25+ pounds of haddock for us to pass out in the store. Our customers just loved it. Where else could they get fresh fish for $0.50 a pound!
As the years rolled by we would interact with Fr. Frank in our Christmas Giving Program. His parish did 250 gifts every year. It was he who introduced us to the Guild of St. Francis who have since supported our ministry with time and money ever since. We prayed for him when he needed a kidney and in his final days with us. We miss him mightily, especially that broad smile, the twinkle in his eye and that Liistro wit! May he now rest in the peace of the Lord.