HAND IT ON - Fr. Michael Collins

Hand It On: Fr. Michael Collins

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The joke at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church in Baton Rouge is that if a Mass has ended in less than an hour, you know who was presiding – "Father Mike!"

Catholic priest Father Michael Collins, technically retired from St. Jude's, has a schedule that resembles anything but a retired lifestyle. Father Mike helps many other priests in the diocese, says Mass on a regular basis at the OLOL St. Francis Chapel at Ollie Steele Burden Manor Nursing Home off Essen Lane, holds a Master's in Social Work (MSW) and maintains regular counseling sessions with clients. He is active with many charities including St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and St. Vincent de Paul.

Keith John Paul Horcasitas, a fellow social worker and guitarist at St. Jude's, was recently touched by a powerful homily given by Father Mike during a recent Mass. Father Mike was comparing God's love for us to the love of a father.

The story Father Mike told the congregation went something like this (paraphrasing):

A man's daughter was frightened about taking a walk with her daddy after she had had a bad dream; a nightmare.  So her dad, said, 'Take MY hand, dear, and everything will be alright!'  His daughter replied, 'No, daddy, let me hold YOUR hand.'  Her dad replied, 'There's no difference, sweetie!' She then replied, 'Yes, daddy, there is a BIG difference; if I hold your hand, I may let go out of fear. But if you hold MY hand, you won't let go cause you love me so much - I know that for sure.'

What a great analogy of God's love for us!

Keith reflected on this story and was reminded of all the many ways Father Mike gives many others a helping hand. This prompted Keith to nominate Father Mike for WAFB's Hand It On recognition.

So to keep Father Mike from being suspicious, we crafted a story that we were doing a special feature on what Lent means and wanted to video Father Mike saying Mass. So Keith invited us to attend Mass on Ash Wednesday where Father Mike was to be the officiant at OLOL's St. Francis Chapel at Ollie Steele. Keith attended that worship service. We did too.

When Mass was over, Father Mike and two other volunteers began the imposition of ashes. Parishioners lined up as they exited, and Father Mike along with two volunteers, made the sign of the cross on foreheads with burnt palm branch ashes, leaving a visible reminder "unto dust we shall return."

As is his modus operandi, Father Mike concluded the service in record time (under 45 minutes) and was headed to the sacristy to disrobe. After all, he was to preside over another Mass in less than an hour at another location.

So Keith had to act quick, catching Father Mike as he skated by on his way to the back.

Keith grabbed Father Mike's arm, got his attention, and began. "On behalf of WAFB Channel 9, I am handing on to you $300 in recognition for your
humble…." And then the abrupt interruption came.

Father Mike spotted me and Brandon and our camera. He quickly excused himself from Keith's presentation to address me. Father Mike wanted to make
certain I got everything I needed for my Lenten story; was his homily OK; was the Mass too long.

It was only after I explained to Father Mike the entire story had been fabricated did he begin to get it.

A very humble man who avoids the lime light at all costs. He was humbled by Keith's cash gift and public recognition. There was no question Father
Mike was genuinely touched by the gesture.

But, quick! No time to chat. Father Mike had to leave for another Mass on this Ash Wednesday.

A true Man of God. A genuine giving spirit.

If you give up anything for Lent as so many do during this time of repentance, do not give up the opportunity to meet Father Mike and hopefully be moved by one of his incredible messages. And at his speed, Father Mike will surely be 'coming to a church near you' soon!

To nominate someone for Hand IT On, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include your contact information especially your phone number.

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