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Helping and Healing, Each in His Own Way

September 07, 2002

Wilfred L. Von der Ahe Jr. will always be "Father Bill" to me ("Town's 'Savior' Came Up Short," Aug. 31), and although my memories and experience of him are from the perspective of a child in suburban Long Beach, his influence has never left me. Growing up as a Catholic involved ritual, a language (Latin) that I didn't understand and the fear of stern priests and nuns. It is evident to me as an adult that Father Bill was a troubled soul, but I believe that sometimes troubled souls are also brilliant. He heard my first confessions, awkward and tentative, and opened my heart to the true meaning of the process, which for me was to take responsibility for hurting other people (including myself) and to make active amends--living amends--to that person. His homilies were inspired and very alive. In a time when some young Catholics were struggling with dogma (the '60s), we were packing in this little church for his "guitar Masses" and sitting in the front row. He was a trailblazer at a time when the church was struggling with the trail.

Wherever Father Bill is now, he knows the impact he had on this one human being. I am a deeper, more giving, more outspoken person because of my early experiences with him. Given the apparent struggle he had living in the world, I thought that it would only be fair that his family and his loved ones know the effect he had on those of us who are grateful for his gifts.

Erin Pohl

Oak Park

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