St Louis, Missouri, (Monday, 04-13-2015, Gaudium Press) Brett Haubrich, 11 years old, was diagnosed with cancer but his only wish is “I want to be a priest”. On Holy Thursday Archbishop Carlson of St Louis invited him to be at the altar. We can read this story, by Dave Luecking, form the Archdiocese of St Louis web page.
Make-A-Wish requests often involve meeting athletes, attending sporting events or traveling to amusement parks or beaches.
When it came time for 11-year-old Brett Haubrich of south St. Louis County to make his wish, he not only listed none of those things but had no request at all.
“He didn’t want anything,” explained his mother, Eileen. “They had to keep asking him, ‘What would you like to do? Do you want to meet anybody? What do you want to be when you grow up?'”
The answer to the last question became part of his wish – what Make-A-Wish calls “wish enhancement” to complement the main wish. The sixth-grader at St. Mark School wants to be a priest, a doctor or an engineer, in that order.
Priest was No. 1
“I said, ‘I really want to be a priest,'” he said.
So, on Holy Thursday, at the invitation of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Brett took his place beside the altar at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis as “Priest For a Day.”
Brett served not one but two Masses – the Chrism Mass and the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper – and held the book for Archbishop Carlson for prayers after the homilies. At the evening Mass, he was with 11 seminarians having their feet washed by Archbishop Carlson, and his parents brought up the gifts of bread and wine.
He also joined Archbishop Carlson for two meals; a luncheon with archdiocesan priests and deacons after the Chrism Mass and a dinner with seminarians at the archbishop’s residence before the evening Mass.
Best of all, he wore a collar provided by a seminarian from Kenrick-Glennon.
As for his favorite part of the entire day, Brett was unequivocal in his answer.
“The whole thing,” he said as he waited for his dad, Conrad, near the Cathedral Basilica sanctuary with his mom and older sister Olivia after the Chrism Mass. “It was really neat for them to let me do this stuff.”
And cool, too – a term he used often in describing the day.
“Just a really cool experience,” he said.
His actual wish is cool, too.
“Eating mangoes on a beach,” his mother said.
That trip will come later. His interim “priest-for-a-day” request didn’t surprise his family.
“For years, he has loved the Mass and been religious,” said Eileen Haubrich, a graduate of Notre Dame High School. “He has such a good heart. He’s a very caring boy.”
The second of Eileen and Conrad’s four children and oldest of two sons, Brett has served at his school church and at his parish, St. Martin of Tours, which is visible from the back door of his house only a short walk away.
He digs the smell of incense burning in the thurible, enjoys confession and likes “communion, and the songs, too.”
Communion – the Eucharist, the living presence of Jesus Christ – stands out.
“I like receiving the Body and the Blood,” he said, simply
Brett and his family told several priests about his request, and they offered several options – like shadowing one, spending the night at a rectory with his dad or serving a Saturday morning Mass at the New Cathedral.
The latter request was made of Father Nick Smith, the Master of Ceremonies at the Cathedral Basilica. His initial response was “no way,” followed quickly by “we can do way better than that.”
Sure enough, they did.
“I said, ‘Why don’t we have him come down for Holy Thursday? He can serve the Chrism Mass – it’s a Mass for priests – and that night mass is always about the Eucharist,'” Father Smith said, repeating the two main aspects of the Masses that fit Brett. “Priests and Eucharist.”
Archbishop Carlson also played a big role. During the initial phone call about Brett’s request, he actually was with Father Smith in the Cathedral sacristy getting ready for his Lenten reflection “It just so happened he was standing right next to me,” said Father Smith, who described Archbishop Carlson as “very excited. He was throwing out ideas right and left, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that.'”
Archbishop Carlson came up with ideas of the seminarians dinner and of the foot washing.
“He said, ‘Put him in there; we’ll wash his foot,'” Father Smith said, with a laugh. “Before you knew it, it turned into a whole day.”
Father Smith prepared an itinerary and delivered it in person along with a letter signed by Archbishop Carlson asking for Brett’s help at the Masses.
“I handed it to him, and when he got to the first line, ‘I’m making you a priest for a day,’ his eyes got as big as half-dollars,” Father Smith said.
Brett admitted to being a little nervous heading into Holy Thursday, but the events went off like clockwork. Wearing the collar, Brett processed down the center aisle at the New Cathedral with priests, deacons and seminarians at the Chrism Mass – at which Archbishop Carlson blessed the oils to be used throughout the archdiocese for sacraments for the next year – and took his spot near the altar.
He performed flawlessly.
“He did pretty well,” Archbishop Carlson said.