“Father, have you heard this joke before?”…

I will always remember the letters from Frank Joyce a loyal supporter of the Columbans from Govan in Glasgow, because he always wrote a joke as part of his letter. He also enclosed a substantial cash donation which came out of his meagre pension.

The office staff here at Solihull thought it appropriate that the Regional Director should reply to Frank's letters which I was happy to do. Through our correspondence we became great friends over the few years I knew him. I eventually persuaded him to allow his niece to write a cheque on his behalf as sending cash through the mail was a quite a risk. I was always under pressure when I replied to include 'a joke'.

On one occasion when I was in Glasgow visiting my Columban colleagues I went to visit Frank at his home in a tenement flat in Govan. The day I called I got no reply but his neighbour informed me that Frank was quite deaf and suggested I leave a note for him to say I would call maybe the next morning.

I did this and returned the following morning to find the front door open. I called out and walked into his small living room where I met Frank. He sat in a wheelchair with a few pieces of furniture around him including a small table covered with a lovely white table cloth with cups, saucers, milk and sugar etc... all set for a party!

Photo: Liang Zhang/Bigstock.comFrank had no legs! He told me he was in the tank regiment during World War Two and in the battle of Alamein his tank was hit by a shell and he was badly injured.

He had adopted the Columbans as his favourite charity after a mission appeal from one of our priests some years before and had continued to support us with regular donations from his pension.

I gave Frank a special blessing before I left and felt that I had received as much from the visit, if not more, as Frank had, as he was clearly delighted to greet me ...you would thought it was the Pope that had called!!

We had a lovely visit and I felt privileged to be in the company of a very special man.

Frank died some time later and I, together with two other Columbans and the parish priest celebrated his Requiem Mass in his parish church in Govan.

Some weeks later I received a letter from the manager of Barclays Bank enclosing a cheque for £1500 for the Columban mission. It was a final gift from Frank Joyce and was the total sum left in his bank account. MAY HE REST IN PEACE.

I felt it a privilege to have known Frank Joyce and his example of generosity is typical of many of our loyal Columban supporters who are remembered daily in our Masses and prayers.

Columban Fr Bernard McDermott is assigned to Britain. He is the former Regional Director there.


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