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Jerry Costello

A Priest’s Gift of Laughter

Recently-ordained Redemptorist Father Aaron Meszaros has a secret weapon he brings to his priesthood. It’s called laughter, and Father Meszaros—who became a priest last April—dispenses it with a suitcase and a stuffed chicken. That’s right; a stuffed chicken. The suitcase is for the props he carries wherever he goes; the stuffed chicken—well, read on.

                Father Meszaros is assigned to St. Alphonsus parish in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota (the only Redemptorist parish in the archdiocese) and was the subject of a story by Dave Hrbacek in The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

                After he works his youthful audiences with an honest-to-goodness chicken dance with the stuffed you-know-what in a lead role—as he did in the spring at St. Alphonsus School—they’re usually howling with laughter. Then he gets down to business, taking placards with words written on them from his suitcase and using them to convey important concepts. They’re about things like love, forgiveness, kindness, friendship, joy and peace. Despite all the hoopla, the message gets through.

                “It’s a real gift to be present to the students, to bring a little laughter, to walk with them in their journeys,” said Father Meszaros, age 30. And somehow it works both ways. “As much as I want to bring a sense of hope or laughter or a sense of joy to them, they do the same to me. It’s mutual.”

                Actually he had used many of the same words before, in an all-school Mass the day before, and he was anxious to know if they had retained any of the “magic” he had taught them. Indeed they had, and, in Hrabcek’s words, they made “short but insightful comments” on the words he had brought to them.

                The new priest comes to Brooklyn Center from his home town—Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was ordained and where his parish is also named for the founder of the Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus Liguori. The new parish serves as a spiritual home to many Latinos and Africans, something Father Meszaros finds “beautiful.”

                “I don’t do as much with the Latino population because I don’t speak Spanish,” he said. “But my encounters with the Spanish-speaking people of the parish have been very, very positive, very fruitful.” The gift of laughter that he brings to his ministry undoubtedly has a lot to do with that.

                There are eight Redemptorist priests at St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center; four serve in the parish and another four are on an evangelization team that reaches out beyond its boundaries. Father Meszaros has not been assigned to one of the other as yet, but he finds himself drawn to the school, with his suitcase and that chicken. 

                “Working with the students, seeing them grow gives me a sense of hope for the future, a sense of hope for the Church,” he said. “These children have such talent and so many gifts. Sometimes, it’s just helping them to see that, to see the gifts that they have. That is one of the powerful moments of working with these kids.”

                And by the way, Father, don’t forget the stuffed chicken. You’ve shown that it comes equipped with a lot of smiles.

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, HUMOR FOR THE SOUL, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org