Good neighbors: Priest and Sister followed in footsteps of the Good Samaritan Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Jul. 18, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading featured the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, the kind man who stopped to help a fellow traveler beaten by robbers alongside a road.

The parable of the Good Samaritan actually grew out of a question asked of Jesus by a “scholar of the law.”  This man asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Who is our neighbor?

The man then asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, pointing out that a priest and a Levite did not stop to help the victim of the robbers. It was a Samaritan who was “moved with compassion” and came to his aid.

Jesus asked, “Which of these three . . . was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” The man answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus then said, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus encourages his followers to be good neighbors, to show love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to those around them. The lives of a priest and a Sister in the Diocese of Madison who died recently exemplify the qualities of the Good Samaritan.

Fr. Larry Kieffer’s active priesthood

Fr. Larry Kieffer died on July 4 at All Saints Assisted Living Center in Madison. Ordained in 1950, Father Larry served in a number of parishes in the diocese. However, I remember him most for his many years of chaplaincy at hospitals and correctional institutions.

I once followed Father Larry as he made his “rounds” at University Hospitals and Clinics in Madison to write a story for the Catholic Herald. I still remember how Father Larry treated all the patients — Catholics and others — with compassion and his characteristic sense of humor. He brought smiles to many faces, even those in the burn unit.

He demonstrated his own medical knowledge, developed from years of working at University Hospitals as well as at St. Mary’s Hospital and Meriter Hospital in Madison. He also provided support to the doctors and other medical professionals with whom he worked.

Even after his retirement in the year 2000, he continued to minister to people, such as those in the Hispanic community and to the homeless and poor people served by Pro Labore Dei.

I know that if Father Larry passed by that injured traveler, he would have stopped to help him — and found others to assist him in the rescue.

Sr. John Rose Acker’s ministry

Another example of a good neighbor was Sr. John Rose Acker, the pastoral minister at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains for the past 23 years, who died on July 6. In June she celebrated 62 years as a School Sister of St. Francis.

The Catholic Herald published a story on how Sister John Rose continued her ministry to the sick and elderly even after she herself was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer this spring. She told writer Cathy Lins, “In my ministry with the sick and elderly, I cheer them up and cheer them on to finish the race of life.” Sister John Rose said she herself had her “bag packed” for her trip home to the Lord.

She was filled with the love of Christ and shared it with others. I’m sure she, too, would have stopped to help the man along the road — and cheered him up in the process.

Let us pray for the repose of the souls of both Father Larry and Sister John Rose. We will miss them, but they certainly leave behind a legacy of being good neighbors for us to follow in our own lives.