PENTECOST THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR TIME
When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon the Apostles. He reminded them that He would be with them always until the end of time. With that, Jesus showed great trust and confidence in His Apostles by sending them out to make disciples of all the nations. For the three years the Apostles had been with Jesus they saw how the Savior always cared for the poor and the needy. By his actions Jesus taught them that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
One of the great ways to follow the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit has been through the ministry of our St. Vincent dePaul Society. I thank GEOFF MORRISON for this beautiful tribute that he has written:
BRIGGS HOFFMANN changed our lives.
Marilyn and I retired from full-time teaching in the School District of Clayton in 1998. Briggs waited perhaps two weeks before recruiting me for the Annunziata Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Before I knew quite what was happening, he and I were driving to south St. Louis to visit several Bosnian refugee families.
In 1980 or 81, the Annunziata Conference of the St. Vincent dePaul Society was established, led by David Blanton and Briggs Hoffmann. When Mr. Blanton died in 1982, Briggs took over and led the organization for the next eighteen years. Under his leadership, ministries were established in North and South St. Louis and in East St. Louis, funded by Annunziata parishioners. Vincentians help the poor and refugees with rent and utilities payments, food, clothing and household items. They also intervene, on behalf of their clients with utility companies, landlords, and, sometimes, the police. They provide job and legal information. Known only by their first names, Vincentians provide a helping hand and a lot of encouragement.
As Briggs and I got to know each other in 1998, I asked him what motivated him to devote so much of his time to SVDP. He said that during World War II, his unit was pinned down before terrific cannon and tank fire during the Battle of the Bulge. When there was a pause, he stood up and only a sergeant also stood. Every man in his company had been killed. Since there would be patrols searching for survivors, the two men split up to make their way west to the main US Army. When the firing resumed, Briggs spied a barn, where he hid for three days. Finally, he rejoined the army and marched into Germany by the end of the war. But in the years that followed, he wondered why he had been saved. Did God have some plan for him?
When I joined in 1998, Briggs introduced me to the Bosnian refugee population, many of whom were Muslim, displaced by the Balkan War. Later, we served Afghans, Pakistanis and many Africans, in addition to a large U.S. native population. My wife, Marilyn became involved initially because Muslim widows are not allowed to have unaccompanied men in their homes. Later, French-speaking Marilyn communicated with Africans from former French colonies. We were grateful to Briggs because he showed us the face of poverty and the desperation of immigrants who were driven from their homes by violence. He showed us the poverty in our own U.S. Through his influence, we discovered a rich new area of service. It changed our lives in a good way.
“Our general rule is that we spend $100 per family - that is unless the Holy Spirit tells you differently.” Growing up in the 1950s, the “Holy Ghost” was a vague aspect of my Catholic belief. But Briggs taught me, and later Marilyn, that the Holy Spirit is real. It’s that voice in your mind that says, “This family needs a little more money, a little more attention.” To understand this phenomenon, one has to experience it. We are grateful to Briggs for enlarging our understanding of our own faith.
Finally, Briggs taught us the power of Christian love. In 2009-10, I was treated for cancer. During the grueling five months of surgery and chemotherapy, Briggs and Don Carmody brought communion to Marilyn and me each non-hospital day. Since Don was still working, Briggs appeared most frequently. Each day, there would be prayers, communion, and a few words of encouragement. Invariable, our 88 year old friend would exit saying, “Now, if you two need anything, just call me.”
By coincidence, Cardinal player and announcer, Mike Shannon, died at the time of Briggs’ funeral. Monsignor Leykam asked me to serve his mass. As I sat on the altar during the private mass, a couple of thoughts came to mind. First, if all the people whom Briggs helped during his 100 year life attended his funeral, there would have been no empty pews or aisles. Second, Briggs certainly “re-paid” God for saving his life at the Battle of the Bulge! Finally, if Mike Shannon was the most loved St. Louisan, Briggs Hoffmann was the most loving St. Louisan.
May you rest in peace, old soldier. You fought the good fight. You finished the race.