One of the primary responsibilities of a parish should be to concentrate on the growth and development of all of the children not just those that attend the parish schools. Much to my amazement there was a negative perception at Holy Trinity toward children who attended the public schools. In many respects there was a second class citizen approach to them and in Holy Trinity parish there was an additional challenge. The parish had no youth organization and though Gene McCoy and others did yeoman work with the children there were no formal activities geared toward the youth.
Marvelous parents like the Dirnbergers, McGlynns and the Kileys to name a few were relentless in asking the pastor to start a CYO. Grudgingly he finally agreed but put a strict limit on what resources the program could utilize. Gene McCoy was the logical choice to head up the program ,but I was assigned probably with the belief that I was new and would be less of a problem.
The first thing I put in place was to have the organization led by one student from Westfield High and one from Holy Trinity High. It was critical that all of the kids in the parish knew that we cared about them. My two choices were such great leaders that the program immediately took off .One of the key benefits was that there was now a structure where kids could not only enjoy social activities but have contact with a group of caring adults. One of the off shoots was a rotating weekend drop in service run through the synagogue and the churches where any child could drop in and seek counseling and guidance. I became convinced that slowly the work of the Rabbi ,the ministers and priests would send out the welcome sign and it would bear fruit.
One night a young man dropped into one of the centers and asked if was to be there that night. It so happened that I was out of town but he was told I would be back in two days. When I returned the young man called me and informed me that he was going to kill himself but wanted me to give him absolution over the phone. I needed to stall for time but told him that it would not be valid over the phone, but if he gave me his address I would personally give him absolution.
Arriving at his home I was aware of two things. One was that there was no one else in the house, and the second thing was that he had a loaded forty five revolver in his hand. It took me over two hours to convince him not to kill himself and I thought now I could get him help. Instead he pointed the gun at me and said “Father I changed my mind I think I will kill you.” I knew that if he hit me anywhere with a forty five it was curtains but for some reason I was calm. After another hour of talking him down he broke into crying convulsions and gave me the gun.
I was immediately able to contact his parents’ and had him hospitalized. In a few short months he was back in school and able to work on all of the issues that had led him to the decision to end his life.
I did not realize how traumatized I was until I returned to the rectory and slept for sixteen hours,