December 24, Christmas Eve, 2022
Dear Bishop Dewane,
I wanted to bring to your attention the death of one of your frequent pen pals, Mrs. Mary Jo Maher. Mary Jo wrote to you often, as so many have done, begging for you to exercise mercy and compassion. Except for the occasional letter she would share with me (look them up), her pleas for mercy, justice, kindness, and acting in a manner befitting that of someone who holds the office of Bishop, were met with silence. Mary Jo suddenly went to her grave, as have so many others, without her prayers being answered. In many cases the unanswered prayers can be assumed not to be in accord with God’s will, but Mary Jo knew her God intimately, and would never want something not in accord with God’s will. Her prayers went unanswered not at the doorstep of heaven, but at the place where hatred and vindictiveness flourish. Sadly, that place is in the heart of man, in your heart Bishop Dewane, and in the hearts of all those who promote war, take advantage of those who are less fortunate, and who never see the beggar laying at their door.
With Mary Jo Maher’s passing I have lost one of my strongest cheerleaders, someone who was quick to respond with a kind word, yet someone who was not unwilling to “tell it like it is.” I received her Christmas card just this week, written shortly before her untimely death. There was no hint that God was coming shortly to call her to the place her sights were firmly fixed on. The card was filled to the brim with her red handwriting, bemoaning the grey days of Michigan, introducing me to the Jesuit who founded Homeboy Industries, and inquiring about my health.
Mary Jo always used up every available blank space on a card or letter, and it was a challenge to know where the message actually ended. She spoke about her and her husband Hank, saying “we’re O.K. Age is not so easy in your eighties. How do people make it to 100? Its O.K. Life has been pretty good.” It is that kind of optimism that you could always count on Mary Jo to muster.
No card or letter ever failed to mention the position you so harshly put me in over six years ago. Her final encouragement to me was, “God bless you in 2023!! We pray still! We care! You are a great priest!!”
It is unfortunate that you never surrounded yourself with people like Mary Jo, people like the hundreds and hundreds who have written to you over the last six years. Men and women who tried to move your heart, who have prayed for a conversion like that of Scrooge, a complete “about face.” Sadly, your heart is harder than that of Scrooge, and no spirits, apparently including the Holy Spirit, are capable of making your heart do what is right.
Consider this my Christmas Card to you. Look among your cards, for I would not be surprised if there weren’t one from Mary Jo Maher, who never had a mean bone in her body. I will miss her prayerful support and newsy letters. But most of all I will miss her faith which was so evident in everything she said and did. No doubt she was disappointed when she got to heaven and realized her faith was unable to move your heart toward justice, mercy, compassion, and peace. Kindly say a prayer for Mary Jo, although there are few people that I think are rightly less in need.
Still a priest!
Fr. Christopher Senk