Fr. Tom Forrest, C.Ss.R. and the Good News of Christmas

Fr. Tom Forrest who died a couple of days ago, loved our Lord and worked every day to introduce people to Him. One hallmark way was celebrating Jesus' incarnation.

Every year Fr. Tom thoughtfully selected a Christmas card with artwork of the manger and crafted a personal message. It was always mailed before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday (at the beginning of Advent) so it would be certain to arrive on time. He wrote personal notes in as many letters as he could, and he always signed every letter by hand. His greeting was sent to hundreds of people. Everyone enjoyed the returned greetings that would flood into the office from throughout the Church and around the world.

I had the great privilege of working for Fr. Tom's EVANGELIZATION 2000* effort for a few years before our first child was born and on-and-off after that right up until he moved to semi-retirement at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, New York where he received his vocation as a very young boy and where he will be laid to rest tomorrow morning.

The photo above is of my three oldest children playing "airplane" outside the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It was taken on an unusually warm day after one of Fr. Tom's annual Christmas parties many years ago. This also became an annual Christmas tradition for the children of those who helped Fr. Tom with his efforts. He would have gifts under the Christmas tree in the Redemptorist's dining room and have a pizza lunch prepared. There was also a game of Bingo with Fr. Tom himself calling the numbers. He would "wow them" with the thrill of Christmas to a child, and introduce them to Jesus who far surpasses the imagination of a child.

It was a hallmark of Fr. Tom's ministry, that he always appealed to people "where they were at" with the best news we could ever hear, that of Jesus' incarnation, death, resurrection, assumption and sending of the Holy Spirit for us, so that we could be holy, healed, and share that Good News with as many people as possible.

It may have been this particular year when my son was asked a very important question by Fr. Tom: "What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?" He responded, "A real, live helicopter." With the most joyous, "Santa-like" laugh Fr. Tom responded, "Don't you think Santa is going to have a little trouble fitting it under the tree?" Without skipping a beat, my son turned to me and said, "Mom! We need a bigger tree!"

That same son - himself particularly blessed "from the beginning" with Fr. Tom's intercessory prayers - went with me to visit Fr. Tom just a few weeks before he passed away this past Monday, two days short of 91, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

*Beginning in the mid-80's Fr. Tom started an initiative that he called, EVANGELIZATION 2000 to prepare the Church for the for the most important celebration in the world: The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. People thought he was crazy suggesting a beginning some 15 years in advance of the Great Jubilee. In time they came to realize his vision was quite extensive, reaching to the far corners of the world, and would include efforts on every continent and events including two worldwide retreats for priests - one on the call to holiness and the other on the call to evangelize - bringing thousands of priests to the Vatican with the enthusiastic support of Saint John Paul II and Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta.