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Inspiration



My Uncle Charlie (Brother Frederick) and Uncle Leo were a great inspiration to me as I was growing up.  I have a feeling my parents had targeted me to be the one in the family to become clergy. After all, my given name is Frederick Leo and it was not uncommon in Roman Catholic families to do such a thing.  I often tell people that I was named after my Uncle Charlie and Uncle Leo.  Uncle Leo they get because my middle name is Leo but they always scratch their heads at Charlie.  When Uncle Charlie became a Maryknoll brother he changed his name to Frederick.

Uncle Charlie regularly stayed with us over Christmas and we always looked forward to his two week visit.  He had a lot of stories and an opinion on everything.  Steinbachs are like that.  He was a man of ritual.  You could set your clock by when he would be reading his daily office to when he would take a walk.  I dearly loved him.  I only regret waiting till he was on his death bed to tell him.

Uncle Leo was the stuff of legend in our family.  Uncle Leo was a Maryknoll missionary priest whose first assignment was in Korea in the 30's.  He became a prisoner of the Japanese when they invaded that country during World War II.  He nearly died as a prisoner.  When he was finally rescued by the Red Cross, he was severely malnourished and suffering from tuberculosis.  After his recuperation back in the U.S., he chose to work in the relocation camps our government set up for the Japanese here. 

That to me was astonishing and yet quite logical.  Uncle Leo, who was unfairly held captive in Korea by the Japanese chose to work in the relocation camps that the United States unfairly used to hold the Japanese.  Many of whom were U.S. citizens.

After the war Uncle Leo went to Japan and spent the rest of his life working among the people.  There was a documentary done on his work in Japan which was narrated by Bing Crosby.  It was a favorite showing at family gatherings when I was young.

Uncle Leo came back to the states when I was in my teens.  His tuberculosis had returned and he stayed at Aunt Mary's to rest.  I had the good fortune to spend time with him then.

I have framed the picture of my two uncles and placed it on my office desk at the church.  It will be a reminder to me of Christian lives well lived.

Peace,
Fr. Fred



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