1 March 2021

Lest We Forget

Picture of Majellan Media

Majellan Media

Most years there are large crowds in St Peter’s Square at midday on Sundays when the Pope comes to a window to lead the Angelus. For the past year, though, the square has been almost empty. Because of the Covid pandemic, people have not been gathering. This was the case on December 27. Apart from a few security guards, there was no one in the square. Yet this did not stop Pope Francis from leading the Angelus and offering a reflection.

Majellan received a lovely email from Tricia O’Keeffe from Grovedale in Victoria with news about her father, Jim, who fought in Tobruk, North Africa during World War 11. The email contained an image of a commemorative plaque from The Rats of Tobruk Association dedicated to Jim’s passing in 1986, plus a copy of a letter he sent as a 22-year-old to his mother from the desert.

In the letter dated August 3, 1942, Jim wrote of receiving communion during a Mass that was performed in less than ideal conditions.

Jim said, “Yesterday was Sunday and the Catholic chaplain said Mass for RCSs in our unused gun hut. It was indeed a strange sight. Just a small hole in the ground on a desolate waste with the altar set up on some empty shell 

cases, and there with shell bursting a few hundred yards in front. About thirty of us heard and received Communion. It is not very often that the priest can get around. He has a big job here.”

Jim also mentioned his health and wrote of his optimism about the end of the war. “Well Ma, I guess I haven’t told you very much news but the main thing is that I’m well and I do think of you and the good things we used to have pretty often and we will have them again, even if I don’t get home till the war is over and finished. With lots of love, I remain yours as ever, Jim.”

Tricia says her father eventually returned to Australia where he married and had eight children. Jim passed away in 1986 while his wife died in 1976.

On April 25 we remember people like Jim O’Keeffe who served out country with great honour and distinction.

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