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In November of 2009, our 15-year-old daughter, Kaitlin, was hospitalized for 30 days recovering from a stem-cell transplant for recurring Hodgkin lymphoma. She had been battling the disease since September of 2008, just weeks into her freshman year at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. She was released from Riley Hospital on the day before Thanksgiving, but the quarantine period for recovery was approximately six months.
There were two things Kaitlin really wanted for Christmas that year. One was to attend the Christmas choir program at Roncalli, and the other was to attend midnight Mass at our home parish of St. Jude. While both of these seemed out of the question since she was supposed to stay away from large crowds, I made the contacts to see if her wishes were possible.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when Chuck Weisenbach, the principal at Roncalli, made arrangements for her and me to be in the loft of the auditorium before any of the students arrived for the Christmas concert at Roncalli. This way, she could be a part of the program and see her friends while staying away from personal contact. The smile on her face as the kids looked up and waved, cheered and blew kisses to her was priceless! The whole school rallied around her being there and making it a good Christmas for her!
It was also not surprising that Father Steve Banet and the St. Jude family made arrangements for our whole family to be at Mass early and to be in the front by the chapel area—again away from a lot of people, but a part of the beautiful celebration.
At Communion, Father Steve brought Communion to Katie so that she was able to stay protected from the crowds. But this special place at Mass allowed her to see so many people that had been praying for her and to, once again, feel the love of waves, blown kisses and prayers.
These two events made Christmas 2009 one of the most special to our family. It allowed us to witness the true meaning of Christmas, and the special love from the wonderful people at Roncalli and St. Jude.
It made Christmas wishes come true for a 15-year-old girl and a lasting memory for her entire family.
(Kathleen Lynch is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis.) †