August 4, 2017

Serra Club vocations essay

Priest-uncle remained faithful disciple in the midst of illness

By Katie Kelley (Special to The Criterion)

Katie KelleyLife is unfair sometimes. We may expect to grow up, get rich, get married, have kids, and then die when we are like 100 years old after living a good long life.

But life doesn’t work like that. Just ask my great Uncle Barry. He had gotten the opportunity to live a great life, but it wasn’t always easy. My Uncle Barry was only 18 when he left home to join the seminary.

He has been a priest for nearly 50 years. For the first 10 years of my life and the five prior, he lived in Kenya.

When my uncle left to go to Kenya, it was very hard for him and our family. The whole time he lived there, he never got the chance to come home. It wasn’t until six years ago when my uncle was forced to leave that he finally came back.

While in Kenya, Uncle Barry was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors there told him to go back to America and get treatment, but he wouldn’t. He knew he was to stay in Kenya. It was his calling from God he said, so he didn’t leave until the cancer almost killed him.

When his cancer got worse, he was forced to go back to America to get the treatment he needed to survive. This would be the first time in 15 years he would be back home.

The doctors in the United States told Uncle Barry that there was a slim chance he would survive. Instead of becoming depressed like most, my Uncle Barry was happy. He said that he had fulfilled God’s plan for him, and that he had completed what he was created for.

After many grueling weeks, to the doctors’ surprise, he got better. Slowly, he got stronger and the cancer started getting smaller and smaller until it went away completely. After his miraculous recovery, my family started to call him our very own miracle.

Once Uncle Barry got better, he never went back to Kenya. Instead, he retired and joined DePaul University in Chicago. He believed helping the people of DePaul was his new mission in life, and he faithfully followed this new path.

My Uncle Barry was completely faithful to God and his plan. Sadly, my Uncle Barry’s cancer came back, and he passed away on March 2, 2017. What I know, though, is that throughout his entire life, through all his struggles, my uncle remained a faithful disciple of God, and he remains faithful today with God in his kingdom.

I never worried about the future, until my Uncle Barry. I always thought I would grow up, get rich, get married, have kids and die old. I never imagined a life full of hardships, but life stinks sometimes. What I’ve learned from my uncle is that it’s what a person does with struggles that makes him a true disciple of God.

(Katie and her mother, Mary Kelley, are members of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She completed the 10th grade at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis last spring, and is the 10th-grade division winner in the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2017 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

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