Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Which Jim Gets a Letter from Fr. Pete in Papua New Guinea!

Readers of this blog and of my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) will recall that I happily dedicated the book to my second cousin, Fr. Pete Meis, OFM, Cap., a missionary in Papua New Guinea for the past forty years. You can read about Fr. Pete and the Dedication in a previous post (here).

As soon as I got my first shipment of books I sent a signed copy by airmail to him in New Guinea.
I was so happy this week to get a letter from him, parts of which I share below.

The letter demonstrates his sincere kindness, humility, and spirituality (not surprising) but also an eye for an amazing thread of history (read below to find out!):

Dear Jim...

Greetings and blessings on these days of the new year...

You posted your packet on November 26 and it arrived a few days after Christmas. Thank you for your wonderful gift. You really blew me away! Your note advised me to open and read the first few pages of the book - well, it made me feel so humble to have you dedicate this wonderful book to me. I certainly have done nothing as heroic as the persons of whom you write in this account of the Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters during the Civil War...

I am half way reading through your book and find that your writing style brings these men and women almost to life. I could be sitting here listening to them tell their stories...

Of course when I read the name of Fr. Edward Sorin my thoughts went to Bishop Andre Sorin...these two men might be from the same area or "line" of ancestors in France. Bishop Sorin might be fifty years younger than Fr. Edward...

Another very interesting historical bit of information that I really enjoyed is about St. Martin. Your explanation of how the word "chaplain" came to be used was something I did not know. But from a Capuchin Franciscan point of view we know that Francis of Assisi had as one of his hero saints this very same St. martin. Francis wanted to be chivalrous in everything he did, and as a young man he saw Martin's life and actions as a military person of honor and
generosity so inspiring. Francis was a soldier for a time, but not very good at that. He was better in imitating Martin by his own embracing the leper on the road and caring for lepers in their abandoned condition.

Thank you for the inspiring stories of Fr. William Corby and Mother Angela...

With love,

Fr. Pete

Wow - what a great letter, huh?!

First...Yikes! It took a month for the book to get

In my mind, Fr. Pete demonstrates every bit of missionary zeal and heroism as the Holy Cross priests and brothers demonstrated on the battlefield and in the hospitals.

His mention of Bishop Andre Sorin is so interesting! Andre Sorin was born in 1903 in France, ordained in 1929, appointed Bishop in Papua New Guinea in 1946 and died there in 1959.

Wouldn't it be amazing if he was indeed related somehow to Notre Dame founder Fr. Edward Sorin? I'll have to do some digging!

In any event, the Dedication of the book to Fr. Pete is sincere and well-deserved and this is a letter I shall treasure always!

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