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A priest whose light shone in the darkness

by Juliana Valdez

“You are a holy man, and you will be a holy priest, and the world will be a better place because of this day.” These are some of the words spoken to Fr Andrew Apostoli at his ordination to the priesthood by Venerable Cardinal Fulton Sheen.

After 50 years of devoted and committed service, Fr Andrew died on December 13. He was 75. At his funeral Mass, Cardinal Tim Dolan said, “His life was a light, shining through the darkness. Is it not significant then that he died on the feast of St Lucia (Lucy) which means light, and Hanukkah, also meaning light? He was a light shining in the darkness and it will never go out.”

For 20 plus years, Fr Andrew hosted the Sunday Night Prime programme on EWTN and viewers could always look forward to an interesting, informative and spirit-filled session.

In spite of the sadness I felt viewing the funeral Mass, I noted what was shared about the conduct of his ministry as priest, servant of God, member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, founder of the order of the Franciscan Sisters and as a member of the Apostoli family. Through the sharing, one could understand why he was considered a special, holy and humble individual.

At his ordination, Fr Apostoli was also told by Venerable Cardinal Sheen, “The emotional thrill of your first Mass will leave, but not the love of being a priest. That grows as the years go on….”

Another priest said: “Begin to be the beginning of a sanctified priesthood. Sanctification is like health. When we have it, it is easy to keep; lose it, it is hard to get back, doubly hard.”

A priest from the order shared, “He was a holy, humble and wonderful man. His prayerfulness, kindness and gentleness, especially to the elderly were some of the qualities which made him well loved by all.”

After he became ill, when asked, “How you doing Fr Andrew?” his response would be, “Take what God gives and give what God takes.”

His younger brother commented, “From an early age, Fr Andrew showed deep devotion to his prayers and had a special love for Our Lady, praying the rosary daily.”

Other priests shared: “It is significant that his death occurred during the centenary year of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima.”  “He cared about the Church, the people, especially the poor, and was generous with his time, his energy and his talents.”

A nun shared that the prayer on the wall of the sacristy which says, “Priest of Christ, say this Mass as though it was your first Mass, your only Mass, your last Mass,” was truly practised by Fr Andrew since his Masses were always done with deep devotion and reverence. The expressions of his personal love for Jesus was contagious.

“His love for Our Lady and his devotion to praying the Rosary was very evident. There is a worn pathway at the back of the residence where he could be seen walking to and fro as he prayed the Rosary.”

“As we gathered around celebrating his last Mass, I looked at the host on the paten then at Fr Andrew on the white sheet. I saw one who lived for Christ now complete, absorbed in Christ whom he loved.”

“When we realised that his breathing changed, signalling he was near the end, we gathered around him praying the litany of the saints. When we reached St Andrew, pray for him, he breathed his last breath.”

Rest in God’s eternal peace Fr Andrew, holy priest of Christ.