Monday, August 05, 2013

The Mandate to Mission in the Middle of the Secular World

My Renewed Experience with Hank Lopez Ona Last July in CA – Disclosing His Experience with a teenager with the same cancer he had. There was another teenager with the same who also died. I need to get his story. Hank was able to speak with both in depth – mind and heart – and both returned to the sacraments. They are both in Heaven because of these contacts. Such is the unsuspected mission going on at all times. The below is Hank on Sam:

“A year and a half ago I was at a cancer clinic in Santa Monica getting chemo for my battle with cancer.  I had just finished what I hoped was my last in a long series of treatments and was high-fiving the nurses when in walks this young teenager wearing a Bellarmine sweatshirt.  Having lived in the Bay Area before moving to Los Angeles, I was familiar with St. Ignatius and Bellarmine high schools.  Why was he here?  I hoped it was to visit a patient but when he sat down next to the treatment chair I had just vacated, I felt sorry for him realizing that he was here to fight his own battle. 
I wanted to greet him and give him some encouragement but the nurses were crowded around him checking his blood pressure and other vital signs, so I left saying a prayer that God bless and help this young man from Bellarmine.  As I waited for the elevator in the lobby, a man rushed out of the clinic to tell me that I had left behind my laptop power cord.  I had never forgotten my power cord ever before and as I walked back to the clinic, the Holy Spirit knocked inside my head saying, “Hey, dum-dum, your work here is not done.  Get back in there and say ‘hi’ to the boy from Bellarmine.”
Sure enough, there he was all by himself.  As I gathered the cord I introduced myself and found out he had just finished freshman year at Bellarmine and had played on the baseball team.  I mentioned I lived nearby and, among other occupations, I worked with scholarships at UCLA.  If there was time between the end of his chemo infusion and the flight back to San Jose, he and his entourage were welcome to join me and spend some time on the UCLA campus.  I gave him my business card and left.
That night when saying my bedtime prayers, I realized that I had forgotten the boy’s name and had no contact information.  I prayed for God’s strength and blessing for the young student/athlete from Bellarmine and if the Holy Spirit was serious about this, we would re-connect.  Sure enough, the next day I received an email from Sam Callahan saying that he had enjoyed our conversation and asking if I would come by to visit with him on his next trip down.

I did come to visit the following week with a gift consisting of a media guide from the UCLA baseball team and dedicated to Sam by one of the directors from the athletic department at UCLA who is himself battling cancer and had been a graduate of Bellarmine where he had played varsity baseball many years ago.  That very day, Sam and Derek were able to visit the UCLA campus and we all had a good time together.
On my next visit up north for business reasons, Sam returned the favor and gave me a tour of the Bellarmine campus.  It was here where we had our first private talk “cancer brother” to “cancer brother”.  I brought up the subject that death was a reality for both of us and asked him how he was dealing with the prospect.  We agreed that a practicing Catholic should not be afraid of death since the purpose of life is to do good things, love God, and let Him take us to heaven.  Sam asked me if I ever got angry at God for having cancer.  I told him that it was OK to get occasionally angry.  I told him how on many mornings I would put flowers on the altar of the chapel where I went to weekday Mass.  As I placed the flowers on the altar, I would say:  Look, Jesus, I’m giving you roses and you’re giving me cancer.  What kind of deal is that?  Sam liked that.
We also spoke about the importance of staying close to God by praying every day and frequenting the sacraments, especially penance and the Eucharist.  I told Sam that I went to confession frequently and he laughed at me saying, “You sin that much?”  I explained that besides divine forgiveness for our sins and faults, confession was also a spiritual growth hormone that gives us strength for the battle to be good.  I’ll never forget how on one of our subsequent phone conversations, Sam tauntingly dared me to, “Guess what?”  I guessed wrong and he proceeded to gleefully inform me that he had gone to confession.
In subtle ways God let me know what I should tell Sam and one of those messages had to do with the mission we each have in life.  A significant part of Sam’s mission was to show others how to have courage in the face of difficult challenges.  Mission accomplished.
Now, Sam has a different mission and that is to help his family and friends be good, love God, and go to heaven. Sam promised to “save me a seat” next to his, if he got to heaven first.  It’s probably front row along the first base line.  I’m taking him up on it.  Dear Sam, I’ll see you again soon enough but you may have to wait a couple of innings before I show up.

---Hank Lopez-Oña
Bellarmine High School
January 24, 2013

Samuel Butler Callahan Butler Callahan
Oct. 25, 1995-Jan. 14, 2013
Resident of Campbell
Surrounded by his family at home, Samuel Butler Callahan was peacefully called to heaven after a three-and-a-half year battle with a rare childhood cancer. Sam was taken far too soon but that didn't diminish the impact that had on so many people's lives. Sam was an old soul, wise beyond his years, with a keen sense of humor and an intense curiosity about life.
Sam was born in Los Gatos, California and attended Sacred Heart School in Saratoga and later St. Lucy's Parish School in Campbell. Sam was a bright student as well as a gifted athlete. He was an all-star baseball player and later a competitive golfer. Early in Sam's 8th grade year, he was diagnosed with metastatic Ewing's Sarcoma, a form of cancer that typically affects young people. Sam was initially treated at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford and he kept up with his class by having his tutor Eric Hansen come to his home as the doctors didn't want Sam exposed to any infections. Sam graduated with his class in June of 2010 and gave and emotional and uplifting speech at his graduation.
Sam attacked his cancer journey with every intention of becoming cancer free. After surviving nine months of intense chemotherapy and radiation at Stanford, Sam and his family navigated the medical world to find specialists who could help him.

Sam found those specialists at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas and at the Sarcoma Oncology Center in Santa Monica, California. It was in Houston and Santa Monica that Sam participated in clinical trials that helped shrink his tumors. This allowed him to eventually undergo radical surgery to remove 75 tumors and two thirds of his right lung, a surgery that the doctors described as "life-saving." He maintained this travel schedule for two years while continuing his education at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. Sam passed all of his classes and was progressing towards graduating with his class. He loved his time at Bellarmine and he preferred to not let on to his classmates how sick he was.
Along the way, Sam experienced a lot of life. He met Kevin Frandsen, then with the San Francisco Giants, during his first stay in the hospital at Stanford. Kevin provided tremendous encouragement to Sam and later wrote a letter of reference for Sam as he applied to Bellarmine. Sam was a guest of the San Francisco 49ers where he met all the players and gave blue "Sam's Team" bracelets to Frank Gore and Moran Norris, each of whom wore them in games to honor Sam. The San Francisco Giants hosted Sam at FanFest where he met most of the 2010 team that went on to win the World Series. Later in the summer he attended the Giants vs. Red Sox (both of Sam's favorite teams), where a friend introduced Sam to Darnell Macdonald, outfielder for the Red Sox. Darnell gave Sam signed baseballs from several team members and Sam gave Darnell one of his "Sam's Team" bracelets with the idea that if he wore it he would hit a home run that day. Sure enough, Darnell hit the third pitch he saw in the first inning over the left field wall. Dan Shaughnessy, the famous Boston Globe sportswriter wrote an article about that special day that appeared on the front of the sports section a few days later. Both Dan and Darnell stayed in touch with Sam from then on, seeing him whenever they were in town to play and cover the Oakland A's. In May of 2012, Dan and Darnell hosted Sam and his mother in the trip of a lifetime to see two games at Fenway Park in Boston. Of all of Sam's incredible experiences, he held this one as his favorite. Sam often said that what he really liked wasn't being invited to games because he had cancer; he wanted to meet and talk to the players and get to know them. As much as Sam was inspired by these adventures, the people he encountered always went away inspired by Sam. There were so many other adventures with UFC, Strikeforce and MMA fighters who visited Sam in the hospital, to Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward who did a photo shoot and public service announcement with Sam, to participating in NBA player Drew Gooden's charity golf tournament to benefit The Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sam was fortunate to take a Make-A-Wish trip to Maui to play golf, surf and enjoy his favorite place on earth.
Together with his Aunt Jeanne Butler, Sam organized the Sam Butler Callahan Foundation to raise money and awareness for Ewing's Sarcoma research and to help Sam's family with the travel related expenses for his treatment. Sam hosted two "Club with Sam's Team" events and raised more than $200,000 for the cause.
For the past two months, Sam had been at home under the care of Pathways Kids, a dedicated hospice group who came to the house as needed to help care for Sam.
Sam is survived by his mother and stepfather, Suzy Callahan van Bronkhorst and Derek van Bronkhorst of Campbell; his father and stepmother, Kenn and Fati Callahan of Santa Cruz; his beloved brother Joseph Butler Callahan and grandparents Gerald and Judie Butler of Saratoga, CA and Don and Joleen Callahan of Los Gatos, CA.
Friends and family are invited to a celebration of Sam's life on Thursday, January 24th at 11:15 a.m. in the Gym at Bellarmine College Preparatory at 960 West Hedding Street San Jose, CA 95126. A reception will follow on the grounds at Bellarmine. Parking for the celebration will be available at the lot at the intersection of Emory and Stockton, please access via Stockton Street. Sam requested that everyone wear his/her "Sunday Best" to honor his memory and his style. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations be made to The Samuel Butler Callahan Scholarship Fund at Bellermine College Preparatory, 960 West Hedding Street, San Jose, CA 95126.

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