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This Advent, Ignatian writers from across the Jesuit Conference are sharing 25 days of reflections on Ignatian heroes. You can receive these reflections directly in your inbox by signing up here.

Day 8: Wayne Tkel

By Jessica Murphy Moo

I met my friend and brother, the late Wayne Tkel, SJ, when we were both teaching at Xavier High School in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia. He was a novice. I was a Jesuit Volunteer, undergoing my own kind of Jesuit formation. Wayne was from Palau. He had a great sense of humor, and he was comfortable with silence — two qualities I admire.

We became good friends. I learned that some friendships bring you closer to God. We walked with one another.

Wayne moved to Boston, near where my family lived, to complete his theological studies. He became a member of my family. I saw his utter delight in his first snowfall. We’d meet for sushi whenever we could. So much sushi. He was in Boston when the clergy abuse revelations came to light. That was hard. He walked with me when my younger brother passed away. A different kind of hard. I went to Palau for his ordination and met his beautiful family. Years later, he married my husband and me.

I think of my friend Wayne as someone who died serving God. On New Year’s Day in 2019, he said Mass and had a fatal heart attack. I wasn’t able to go to his funeral in Palau; it was hard grieving alone. Perhaps I was wishing he could walk with me.

One day soon after his death, my husband texted me at work: “Come home quick. Wayne’s niece is here.” I rushed home and indeed my kiddos were sitting on the couch showing Wayne’s niece a photo album I’d made of his ordination. Her parents had noted that the return address on my condolence card was near where she lived. Turns out, she went to the university where I work. Turns out, she was in my photo album, in a photo I’d taken and always loved, of Wayne, newly ordained, embracing his toddler niece. Wayne walked with me in my grief after all.

Reflection: Who are the friends who bring you closer to God? Who are the friends that point you toward laughter and silence and beauty? Who walks with you in your grief and in your joy in equal measure? 

Jessica Murphy Moo is editor of Portland magazine, the award-winning publication of the University of Portland. Her fiction has appeared in The AtlanticImage and Memorious. Murphy Moo is also a librettist. She wrote the words for two operas — An American Dream and Earth to Kenzie — and she is currently working on a new opera, in collaboration with composer Damien Geter, about Loving v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court decision that made interracial marriage legal in all 50 states. She is an alumna of the College of the Holy Cross (B.A.) and Emerson College (M.F.A.).




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