Nemo dat quod non habet.
This Latin phrase has shown up several times in the last six months. The first time occurred in a talk at our annual seminary retreat in August. I then saw it in Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s book “Priests of the Third Millennium” this fall. And I have heard it in several homilies and talks during the early part of winter.
Translated to English, the phrase means: “No one gives what he does not have.”
This can be a wake-up call for those of us who find great joy in active ministry or in fervently serving our family and friends. We must be constantly aware of not over-extending ourselves beyond our vocation or state in life and outside of our skills and responsibilities. One of the most helpful ways to be reminded of this axiom is by receiving encouragement and correction through a relationship with a mentor.
Living in seminary now for 18 months, I have further realized the importance of having a good mentor. I am thankful for recognizing this now, because it is true not just as a seminarian but perhaps even more so in the life of a priest. Over the holidays, I witnessed how significant a mentor that one priest can be for other priests when Msgr. Edward Meulemans died on Christmas Eve morning.
In the Diocese of Superior, there has not been a more impactful mentor for priests in the last 50 years than Msgr. Meulemans. Known by many as Fr. Ed, Meulemans played a vital role in the lives of many priests while serving as rector of the Cathedral (1978-98), vicar general (1982-98), and in many other parish and diocesan positions.
The influence of Meulemans’ priestly ministry will endure for many years to come. I know this personally because of his effect on the Catholic life of my own family. He married my parents, anointed my paternal grandparents, baptized my siblings and on June 16, 1991, baptized me.
I will be forever grateful that in the last year of his life, I was able to establish a relationship with this priest who I revered growing up. We spoke twice on the phone in March and November, and I was honored to serve the Mass of Christian burial for him on New Year’s Eve Day. At that liturgy, I was struck by two groups of people that sacrificed significant time and resources to bid farewell to their mentor and friend.
First, the priests who were directly mentored by Meulemans. Present in the sanctuary were many of the former associate pastors who served alongside him during his time as rector at the Cathedral, including Frs. John Anderson, John Gerritts, Kevin Gordon, Andrew Ricci, and Gerard Willger. If you are reading this article and have witnessed the love of Jesus Christ working in the lives of these priests, know that it was Meulemans who was there to guide them in those early, and often difficult, days as a newly ordained priest.
For a testament to Meulemans’ priestly mentorship, I want to highly recommend the homily that Fr. Ricci preached at the funeral Mass: https://studyprayserve.com/2018/12/31/farewell-to-fr-ed-catholic-inspiration.
The second group of people was the dozen or more Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity from Arizona that made the trip to see their beloved priest laid to rest. The juxtaposition of their authentic Christian joy and sorrowful tears at the funeral will forever be an image I remember from that day. Fr. Ed knew that God can do powerful things in the lives of those who say “yes” to priestly and religious vocations. Their presence was a witness to the love of the priesthood and their commitment to furthering the mission of Christ, which they have carried on faithfully as co-laborers alongside Fr. Ed.
As Fr. Ricci mentioned in his homily, “One of the reasons why there were so many great stories around Fr. Ed was because first and foremost he is a disciple of Jesus Christ. Anybody who had any contact with Fr. Ed for any length of time at all would know very quickly that faith would come right to the heart.” As we pray for the soul of Msgr. Meulemans and the comfort of those who grieve his death, let us ask for the grace to first and foremost be disciples of Jesus Christ. Then, perhaps, we too can be mentors to the next generation of disciples in the Church so that we can give to them what we have received.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Tracy is a seminarian for the Diocese of Superior. He can be reached at ude.s1553009618fs@yc1553009618artd1553009618.