Sunday, November 24, 2019

(238) Tapping the Tremendous Potential of the 80% of Members Who Contribute Little in a Volunteer Group


Grand Knight Tyler Reynolds and Paul Sebastian Delivering His Acceptance Remarks

      Today, I was recognized by my Knights of Columbus Council 3335 as “Knight of the Year”.  In my acceptance talk, I brought out problems specific to our Council, yet common among all volunteer groups……..local churches, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Elks, etc.  

       Very applicable is the Pareto Principle or in other words, the "Law of the Vital Few".  That is, 20% of the members do 80% of the work.  In that 80% of the membership who are rather inactive and do little, there is a tremendous potential to be tapped.  I addressed that issue in my acceptance talk and offered a suggestion to better utilize the 80%.

       There are many who don’t like to attend meetings, but are willing to work.  Then ask them for their help when work is to be done.  The point is to get the 80% involved in one way or another even if it’s occasional.

        The text of the acceptance talk with some additions is as follows.   

Knights of Columbus Council 3335 
St. Louis Church Gallipolis, Ohio 
November 24, 2019

       I am deeply honored by this recognition.  Thank you so much for this honor.     I tried to tell the guys that there are others more worthy and I recommended one.  But those boneheads wouldn’t listen.

       This award really is no big deal for an old fogie like me because I’m retired and have an empty nest.  I should do more as long as the Lord gives me the health and strength to do so.  Many guys work full time and have young kids at home.  Yet they make great contributions to our council and the parish.  I could never do what they do when I was working full time and had a full nest of four kids.

       You know what?  I feel guilty about receiving this award because I’m not sure if I have my priorities straight.  Our first priority must be God which begins with Mass attendance every single Sunday as a bare minimum.  Second is family.  Third is job; and fourth is volunteer work, that is charity.  Dead last if time allows are hobbies, tv, watching sports, pleasure, etc.   I tried to do it all and fell behind with things at home, taxing the patience of my wife.  I’ve struggled with maintaining that balance.  Thus I paid a price for this award.

       You know?  Our Knights of Columbus Council can do so much more for our parish and for our community.  We can be a real force for the renewal of our parish, to make it a dynamic parish, a solid parish family, a contagious environment for spiritual growth, a stronger community of love where people care about each other and help each other more.

       WE CAN DO IT, if each member would do just a little bit more.  Yes, there’s family and job obligations that cannot be neglected.  But if we really want to do a little more, we can.  Too often we have the attitude:  “Let George do it.”  Guess what?  You’re George!  Because of that attitude, we no longer have a monthly breakfast.  All we can give you today is coffee and donuts.  It’s discouraging when only a small fraction of our membership (about 20% sometimes less) show up for monthly meetings.
       Let me propose a way WE CAN DO SO MUCH MORE.  Members of the 80% who do little, come to a meeting once in a while and specialize in SOMETHING.  Mike Ours can’t attend meetings, but once a year he mobilizes his family to do a tremendous job with the Giving Tree.  That combines faith, family, and charity.  That teaches the virtue of charity to his kids.  Every October Tim Stapleton and his extended family put together a fabulous Family Fest of faith, fellowship, and a lot of fun for young and old.  They even built a chapel, confiding that people will come and they did.  

     Allen White mobilized his son and nephew to work on the annual Coats For Kids campaign.  Mike Haas specializes in maintenance and needs help.  I specialize in writing the newsletter and bulletin inserts.  Jim Ryan specializes in organizing the Free Throw Competition for the developmentally handicapped.  

    Even though Oscar Bastiani uses a walker to make it to Sunday Mass and meetings, he is in charge of our two raffle ticket fund raisers for charity and youth scholarships.  He is currently in the hospital.  Even the bed ridden and shut-ins are most valuable as they pray and offer up their aches and pains as dynamic prayers for the Knights of Columbus.  St. Mother Theresa attributed much of the success of her nuns to an army of invalids or “other persons”.  Each one is assigned to a particular nun for whom s/he prays and offers his or her sufferings.  Every single knight is most valuable and can contribute something.  
     We urgently need a couple of teams to specialize in the monthly parish breakfast to bring the parish together as a solid community.  Each team would work every other month.  Some of our offices take a lot of time, especially the Grand Knight (Tyler Reynolds), Financial Secretary (Keith Elliott), and Treasurer (Josh Davison).     

       Let’s do our part, each one of us.  The old guys can’t do it all.  We need the energy and innovative ideas of the young guys.  May every Knight step up and may new guys join us with fresh blood and fresh ideas.  Then we will become a great force for good in the parish.  Thank you so much.

Appendix - McDonald, Mark “Why 20 percent do 80 percent — and how to fix it”.

Monday, November 11, 2019

(237) Capt. Fr. Willie Doyle S.J., a Future Saint......Saving Souls in the Trenches of World War I

Capt. Fr. Willie Doyle S.J.: Chaplain of the 48th Brigade of the 16th Irish Division
       In all of our wars soldiers in combat need the saving grace, consolation, support, spiritual strength, Confession, and the Eucharist  that the Church provides.  And the Church is always there in the chaplains whose service is indispensable in the war effort.  “The chaplain is a noncombatant that stands as a sign of peace in the midst of war. They embrace the silence and are the space for God to speak when the air is filled with anger, disbelief, guilt and pain.”
In this series we have already examined the lives of four American chaplains of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam who received the Medal of Honor, the highest award for heroism on the battlefield beyond the call of duty.  

For this Veteran’s Day let us go back a little over 100 years to Ireland and World War I to examine the heroic life of Captain Fr. Willie Doyle, who served in the Army Chaplains' Department of the British Army as chaplain to the 48th Brigade of the 16th Irish Division.  He received the British Military Cross for his heroic bravery during the assault on the village of Ginchy.  He was passed over for the highest award, the Victorian Cross; being Catholic, Irish, and Jesuit in Protestant Great Britain didn’t help.

One of at least three books on the saintly life of Fr. Willie Doyle
Fr. Doyle was born in Dalkey, Ireland near Dublin, the youngest of seven children of Hugh and Christine Doyle in a middle class Christ centered home, really a domestic church that gave him a spirit of charity and love for the poor.  He would always find a coin to spare, food to give or a good deed to offer.  Three of the seven had religious vocations.  

       Incipient holiness can be seen in his boyhood diary:  “To do something great and heroic may never come, but I can make my life heroic by faithfully and daily putting my best effort into each duty as it comes round.”  At the same time he loved sports and enjoyed playing practical jokes on friends.

       Even as a child Willie Doyle had a passion for saving      souls by bringing them to Christ.  After all, the mission of the Church and its priests, as instruments of the great love and mercy of Jesus Christ, is to save souls and help us to get to Heaven with little or no time in Purgatory.  That’s what life is all about.  Nothing else matters, be it power, honor, wealth, or pleasure.
Willie was educated at Ratcliffe College, Leicester.  After reading the book by St. Alphonsus,  “Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State”, he was inspired to enter the priesthood and was ordained a priest in 1907 at the age of 30, after years of rigorous Jesuit training.  

His first assignment was serving for five years on the Jesuit mission staff that conducted parish missions.  In the midst of such an active apostolate, he maintained a fervent spiritual life of union with his Eucharistic Lord, offering himself as a victim for the salvation of souls, following the example of the Divine Victim.

       Father Doyle devoted his priestly ministry to serving the poor and forgotten. He often accompanied working men to and from work, preached retreats to priests and parish faithful, offered spiritual guidance, and even converted a prostitute.  He excelled as a preacher and confessor, thus attracting crowds to his parish missions.  Holiness attracts.  

     “He seemed to have a special gift for connecting with disaffected or wounded souls,” wrote Patrick Kenny in his book “To Raise the Fallen”, a selection of Father Doyle’s war letters, diary entries, prayers, and spiritual writings…. “In his diaries you can see, day after day, the resolutions that he made to try and be better tomorrow; sometimes he succeeded, and sometimes he didn’t.”.

       In 1915, World War I had already dragged on for a year.  Postponing his desire to be a missionary in Africa, Fr. Doyle followed the call to do his part as an army chaplain.  With thousands on their way to meet death, someone had to be with them and Fr. Willie stepped up. “The thought that at any moment I may be called to the front, perhaps to die”, he wrote, “has roused a great desire to do all I can while I have life...... I may not have long now to prove my love for Jesus”.  He suffered through many a brutal battle with his men……notably the Battles of Somme, Messines, and Passchendaele.
The wounded are treated behind the lines.
       World War I is characterized by trench warfare.  The soldiers would fire their weapons from trenches that would zigzag for miles.  They were as much as 10 ft. deep and 6 ft. wide.  Support trenches were much deeper and wider for some rest, treatment of the wounded, ammunition storage, etc.  

     The conditions were terrible……cold, dampness, rats, bugs, smelly, mud, dirt, frequent shelling, etc.  Each side had its trenches, separated by 50 – 250 yards of territory called “No Man’s Land”.  Each side would take turns in charging the opposing line of trenches and being mowed down by machine gun fire.  Much of the war was a brutal stalemate with little change in the lines.  It was a war of attrition.

A British officer leads a charge over the top of the trench.
        In Battle.  In his time as a military chaplain, he carried out his priestly duties, serving his “poor brave boys” by offering Mass, hearing confessions, spiritual guidance, companionship, physical assistance, giving the last rites, comforting the shell shocked, the sick, and the dying, and raising spirits.  

       It didn’t matter if they were Catholic or Protestant; he wanted to be next to the men in the trenches. Through shelling and gas attacks, Fr. Willie often ventured into “no man’s land’ to drag the wounded back to safety, administered last rites, and even buried the men who didn’t survive.  During the Battle of Loos he was caught in a German gas attack and his heroic conduct was mentioned in dispatches.

        His self mortifications in reparation were thought to be too harsh, his prayer life too extreme.  In his free time, Fr. Doyle would spend hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, praying for the sanctification of priests.  In the trenches he would have his private adoration with the Eucharist inside a pyx around his neck.  

    Nevertheless, he was a much loved, affable priest, constantly joking around.  Fr. Doyle loved his men dearly and they in turn loved him; he was their shepherd.  His goal was their sanctity and salvation.  Fr. Willie refused to leave the front for rest and recuperation.  He had to be with his men.

During the Battle of Langemarck, Chaplain Willie ventured out into no man’s land to rescue a trapped and wounded soldier.  After many close shaves on the Western Front, Fr. Willie Doyle was hit by a German shell while doing this heroic work of mercy on 16 August 1917 at the age of 44.  Fr Doyle's body never recovered was buried in a makeshift communal grave where he fell…….without marker or tombstone, but he is commemorated at Tyne Cot with a memorial.  A stained glass window in St Finnian's Church, Dromin, Co Louth Ireland honors his memory.

Fr. Willie’s last diary entry indicates his strength of faith amid battle: “I will try to take all that happens, no matter from whom it comes, as sent to me by Jesus and will bear suffering, heat, cold, etc., with joy as part of my immolation in reparation for the sins of priests.  From this day I shall try bravely to bear all little pains in this spirit.” Apparently, even Catholic Ireland a century ago had its share of holy priests, good priests, and bad priests.  

The future saint’s heroism and holiness are evident in his many letters, diaries, and papers in the Jesuit archives on Leeson Street in Dublin.  It was claimed later that on the Western Front alone as many as 40,000 soldiers converted to the Catholic faith, due in no small part to the exemplary service of Catholic chaplains—men such as Father Willie Doyle.

Within 12 years of his death, the Jesuit order received more than 6,000 reports of alleged favors through his intercession……more than 50 from India, more than 70 from Africa, more than 100 from Australia, and almost 2,000 from every single state in the USA.  A few months ago, EWTN published a video documentary/drama which can be obtained from  

After being hit hard by the horrendous Clergy Abuse Scandal, may all Americans and Irish recognize that there are more priests in the mold of Fr. Willie Doyle than the few who betrayed God, their flock, and their holy vocation.  The prime targets of the underworld are families and priests.  May we join the heroic priests in eternity, who gave their all, in praying for our priests here on earth who are sometimes weaker than we are.  The world urgently needs holy priests to help us on our journeys to eternity.
APPENDIX - A short history of World War I. - A more detailed summary of World War I. - Causes and Timeline of World War I. - Thoughts of Fr. Willie Doyle for each day of the year,his life, his writings, etc. -  Lanz, Rachel “Father Willie Doyle: World War I’s Forgotten ‘Martyr of Charity’……..Looking back at the legacy of a military chaplain”.  National Catholic Register, November 10, 2018.

Hynes, Sam; “A Soldiers Tale” – gives a good idea of life in the trenches. – overall documentary of World War I. – Interview of Patrick Kenney, author of the book “To Raise the Fallen” on EWTN’s “Bookmark”. -  Another interview of Patrick Kenney, author of the book “To Raise the Fallen” on “EWTN Live”. – the trailer of the movie, “Bravery Under Fire” – Fr. Willie Doyle on Irish Television.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

(236) John Stapleton: A Veteran Still Living His Vietnam Past 50 Years Later

This article hit the front page of the Galipolis Daily Tribune on November 8,, 2019.  The on-line edition also featured the article as "Reflecting on Vietnam 50 Years Later" at


John Stapleton of Crown City, Ohio

John Stapleton is one of the 2.64 million Vietnam veterans (9.7% of their generation) who made it home after their Vietnam experience.  However, 58,479 American soldiers were brought home in coffins.......imagine a sellout crowd at a major college stadium giving their all for our country.  Less than 800,000 remain, all over the age of 60,  They did not want to go to Vietnam; our country sent them there and they obeyed.  To them all we owe an eternal debt of gratitude. 

    John Stapleton of Crown City in the foothills of Appalachia in southeastern Ohio, like many of his former comrades in arms, still suffers from PTSD and other wounds, such as from Agent Orange 50 years after fighting for our country.  They didn’t know what PTSD was then.  When a fire cracker goes off or a car backfires, his instinct is to dive for cover.  

      He still feels very uncomfortable in crowds and wakes up at night from the slightest noise.  John Stapleton often relives the experience in flashbacks and his mind is never quite right.  According to Bill Mangus, the commander of the local VFW, "it’s very common for a Vietnam veteran to sit in a restaurant with his back against the wall to have a clear view of the entire room in case of trouble".

Today, although officially disabled, John Stapleton started up his own business, restoring and selling salvage cars.  He’s a great mechanic and gardener.  John and his wife Karen have nine adult children and numerous grandchildren. 

Sp 5 John Stapleton works on the top of an aircraft.  Soldiers often worked shirtless in the humid jungle heat.
       A Job to Do.  As an Army Sp 5 in 1969, this 21 year old young man was responsible for repairing surveillance OV-1 Mohawk aircraft, equipped with infrared cameras, on an airfield cleared in the jungle and keeping them in the air.  The runway was constructed of steel planks and the base was operated by some 200 men.  The base, some 10 miles from Battalion Headquarters, consisted of a tower, bunkers, barracks, etc.  He would have to take his turn at perimeter guard duty because their small airfield and repair center was a prime target for an ambush. 

Taking a break from repairing an aircraft.  Sp 5 Stapleton is on the right.
       In fact the base often had to withstand mortar fire.  One mortar attack killed a number of his buddies and destroyed 10 helicopters.  Stapleton once had to wade through a marsh full of cancer causing agent orange, the herbicide to defoliate the jungle.  At times this soldier had CQ duty in which he was a courier, hand carrying messages in a truck to the commanders in the jungle while exposed to possible ambushes and mines along the way.  Sometimes hand written messages by courier were the only secure means of communication.

Sp 5 John Stapleton at his base in the jungle.
      It was a dirty and difficult war as Mr. Stapleton related.  They didn’t know who the enemy was.  “Sometimes during the day Viet Cong would work for the Americans.  At night they would become the enemy.  In one case a trusted Vietnamese barber slit the throats of two soldiers on the chair.  In another case they discovered a woman with numerous hand grenades under her blouse.  Small kids would carry a hand grenade with the pin pulled and only the lever remaining.  Then he would simply drop the hand grenade and run”.  Imagine the stress that every combat soldier had to go through.  War is hell!  No wonder that a few American soldiers were accused of committing an atrocity.   

Like thousands of other soldiers who survived combat conditions, John Stapleton brought Vietnam back home in his head.  He can never really get away from the jungles of Vietnam.  In 1995 about 26 years after his Vietnam experience, John Stapleton wrote the following poem.

As we fly above the bomb scarred land,
   the pilot says: “Welcome to Vietnam.”
As they open the gates to hell,
   we hear the sounds that we’ll know so well.
As we ride on the bus to Long Bihn,
   I wonder: “Will I ever see home again!”

As the mortars explode and sirens wail,
   it’s just another night in hell.
As the cobras do their mighty dance,
   the mini guns blaze a shower in the sky;
   the rockets fly and more gooks die;
   machine guns fire and mortars too.
Thirteen GIs are dead when it’s through,
   many more crippled and maimed;
   their lives will never be the same.

This is not a war, so I’ve been told.
I’ll tell you that line is getting old.
They stole my mind; they stole my soul.
I wonder: “Will I ever again be whole?”
I finally made it through a year; and then
   as the plane takes us back to Long Bihn,
   they are shelling us again and again!
 God, let me make it to another day,
   cause tomorrow I’ll be on my way
   to the land we call the USA.

As we land on American soil,
   I thought I’d never see that place again.
But after all these years, to my dismay,
   I see it every night and day.
The battles on and on they rage;
   my young soul will forever walk that land
   until God calls me home again
   from that hell called Vietnam!

                             SP 5 John Stapleton
                             Written in 1995.

        Thank you, John Stapleton and thousands of other old soldiers who sacrificed themselves for our country and continue to do so 50 years later until the day they die.

Appendix - A short history of the Vietnam War. - Vietnam War Dates and Timeline.  - Detailed history.  - Short Documentary History.  – Hearts and Mines……..a more detailed documentary of the war. - 2016 Statistics on the Vietnam Veterans.