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Thoughts and a Thank You

I was probably nine years old the first time I got to meet a Holy Cross Brother.  It happened in our humble home on Ellor Street one Christmas Eve.  It’s easy to remember that day because nine-year-olds have indelible memories when it comes to Santa Claus.  As I look back, however, for the purpose of this evening, the snapshot that I hold in my memory of two strangers sipping coffee and eating bunelos around my mom’s kitchen table holds a significance that I hope touches all those who have come to honor this particular Holy Cross Brother.

On this first of many Christmas Eves, Bro. Stanley and Brother Rene stopped by to pay their respects to our mom and dad.  I remember vividly my sister Chacha calling out, “Mama, los hermanos de Holy Cross llegaron a visitar.”  I  remember thinking how’s this gonna work, these guys don’t look to be the Spanish speaking kind of people my folks are used to, and I darn well knew my pop wasn’t about to start quoting Shakespeare any time soon.   But work it did.  My dad sat philosophizing as he was wont to do, while one of my siblings interpreted as many of my father’s insights that they themselves could understand.  And if my pop would ever pause to let the Brothers speak, well, there my brothers and sisters were to bring clarity to my wonderful parents.

Now, many years later I am able to remember those moments as those teachable events that I’m sure Bro. Rene was referring to when he told us one day in our Biology class, “Don’t ever let a book get in the way of your education.”  Brother was telling us that life happens in the day to day interactions of good people and here is what I learned as I look back:

 I learned that my mother and father welcomed these men into our home because they represented for them the hope that their children would one day have the opportunities that they themselves did not; a chance to read and write and speak in a language that in their view equaled success and promise.  For my mother, it also meant that her sons would find a relationship with God and I can’t help but conclude that these men who took time to pay their respects to her family were the fruit of her constant prayers.  As for my father, well, he was a man who went to church for baptisms, weddings, and funerals but the respect and reverence he held for these visitors went well beyond what I thought a man who so consistently avoided religion would have.  Even as a nine year old I could sense that my father held these men up in a light that he reserved for few people.  

As for what Brother Stanley may have taken away from his visits to our family those many Christmas Eves, I can take a guess based on the privilege of having worked side by side with him these many years.  I think my family gave Brother Stanley the validation he so much deserved for taking on the responsibility of Holy Cross.  When he entered our home he saw happy, loving people who were being raised by a mother and father who daily toiled to make a better life for their children.  He saw good, respectful people who deserved to chase any dream our great country had to offer, and he saw the absolute necessity that there be a system of education both affordable and available as the vehicle by which to achieve these ends.  

It’s been more than 45 years since a Holy Cross Brother first became a reference that would help shape the person that I am today.  More to the point, I leave you with this:

On a Sunday morning not too long ago our family gathered for breakfast at my brother’s house.  While we sat around catching up with each other’s lives my brother Ricardo made a request.  He asked that each Cedillo child and grandchild bring him a coffee mug from the university that they have or will graduate from.  He said he had a shelf in his newly remodeled home that he was making special for these souvenirs.  I very much wish that Brother Stanley had knocked on the door for a visit and a cup of coffee on that Sunday morning.  He would have heard that that shelf will soon hold mugs from Harvard, Trinity, St. Mary’s, UT Austin, Texas A&M, UTSA, University of New Mexico, Notre Dame, De Paul, Creighton, and St. Edward’s University. 

Brother Stanley,

Many of us are successful today because we had loved ones who sacrificed.  We were all blessed to have people in our lives who woke up every day with the intent of bettering a life.  We know that you will be the first to give credit to our parents, but I would still like to thank you on their behalf.  For over 60 years you’ve served as God’s conduit.  Your faith and your vision brought to life those many prayers that our parents offered to our Father in heaven.  Thank you for helping us fill our shelves with coffee mugs and as my mom was fond of saying, “Que Diosito le de mas.”