Fr. Victor Mosele, S.X.: Running For His Life No Longer
A few days ago I learned that a dear friend of mine, Fr. Victor Mosele, S.X. passed away. In 2010 he had been diagnosed with ALS, and as time passed his health deteriorated. Many of you can read about his exciting story as a missionary in Sierra Leone in his book Running for My Life, about his capture not just once, but twice by the RUF forces and his dramatic escape both times. Many people already are talking about his amazing life, his courage, and his bold missionary heart to share the gospel with everyone and that they probably never could measure up to a life like his. But the thing is, sanctity does not suddenly appear overnight. In the day-to-day, Fr. Victor lived a holy life, one that all of us can strive to imitate. This allowed him to be the missionary he was, and the more we surrender to God, the more God can do great things with our own lives.
1. Father Victor noticed the little things in life
I first met Fr. Victor as a sophomore at a public university’s Newman Center, and to be honest, I didn’t really take much notice of him at first. But he noticed me. And he noticed the thoughtful little things I would do for other people or for him, things I often thought nothing of or forgot. In times that I found myself struggling with something, Fr. Victor would remind me of what I had done in order to encourage me to persevere through my trials. On another day that I had been particularly distraught, he noticed, found out from me what was wrong, gave me a hug, and the next thing I knew he had everyone in the building praying for a particular intention of mine!
2. Father Victor didn’t have time to love people. He made time.
Priests are incredibly busy with just one assignment in a regular parish. I know several who live by their planner. Imagine being an assistant chaplain to a Newman Center that actually serviced two universities. This was Fr. Victor. In confession, he was the type of priest whom, if you knew he was hearing confessions an hour before Mass, you’d want to make sure you were first in line. If you were fourth. . .you might not get in before Mass. He was that intentional with you, even if your sins weren’t too bad.
There would be many times he would be in the middle of something – paperwork, writing an email, etc. and I would drop by sometimes and ask him, “Father, will you have time later today or sometime this week to talk?” And he would stop what he was doing and say, “Come. Sit down, my friend. What would you like to talk about?” Never failed. I’m not saying that all of us have to drop everything all the time when people need help, but I am saying that as busy as we think we are, are we too busy to put others first from time to time? Are we too busy to make time as he did? Sometimes the opportunity to build up Christ’s body by encouraging one another or the opportunity to evangelize comes unexpectedly. How do we respond to those situations?
3. Fr. Victor shared himself with us.
This seems like a big “duh!” for a man who wrote a book about his time in Sierra Leone, but he shared more than simply that. He loved wine and stinky cheese, and this was well-known to all of us! He would tell us stories about growing up in Italy or other stories about Sierra Leone that weren’t published in his book. He once exhibited his singing abilities when he serenaded the ladies of the Newman Center at a candlelit ladies’ appreciation dinner night while another male student accompanied him on guitar. Some priests are very difficult to know on a personal level for various reasons, and although it isn’t always a direct fault of theirs, it makes it more difficult for people to relate to them. Although Fr. Victor was in his 60s when he was at my university, the students loved him because they knew him as a person, and they respected his wisdom so much that they fondly referred to him as “The Master.”
4. Fr. Victor let the truth rule his life.
He spoke from the heart the truth about the gospel in Mass and outside of it, yet he was honest and spoke his mind in everything else. If a person asked him how he was doing, he would never answer with the automatic “fine” that seems to be the customary way of saying “hello” in the United States. I found it refreshing that if I asked him this question and he wasn’t well, he’d tell me, “Terrible! I am in so much pain today!” One time, I was dressed very bizarrely with a dark green men’s winter coat and an infamous fleece penguin hat that I own. “Hello, Fr. Victor!” I said under all my winter gear. “What is this outfit?” he said in his Italian accent. “You look like you are from Mars!” I couldn’t help but laugh at his candor. I’m sure he would have been more pastorally sensitive if I had been a stranger, but the fact that I wasn’t one and that he could say this to me made me believe that I could trust him – that if I wanted an honest answer, he wouldn’t sugarcoat it. I know that in my own friendships I want my friends to see me this way – no, not as a Martian – but one whom they can count on for an honest answer even if the truth will hurt. I also know that having this kind of skill will also help me build up courage when I proclaim the gospel to others and find opposition.
5. Fr. Victor embraced suffering and allowed it to transform him.
He didn’t always, and I know I can relate to him on that note. I’m still in the process of figuring out how to embrace suffering well. But towards the end of his life there were a few occasions where I visited him and spoke to him on the phone. He would still tell me in complete honesty what was going on in his life and the pain he was in, but it was no longer in the form of complaining. When he talked he stated it matter-of-factly and he would tell me that he was ready to go whenever the Lord willed. The last time I spoke to him on the phone it was difficult for him to speak. Difficult to breathe. Yet there was so much peace in his voice. He was ready to go. I think Fr. Victor kept his eye on the prize, and that’s what made his suffering bearable. Purgatorial in some ways. Even though my daily sufferings couldn’t possibly compare to his, slowly I’m starting to realize that if I keep my eyes on Heaven, my life has more hope. Or if I offer my sufferings up for a particular intention that it can have an effect while simultaneously transforming me for the better, suffering becomes more bearable.
In the end, Fr. Victor gave 110% of himself to those around him all of the time, and this allowed him to be the missionary he was. Whether he was in Africa or the United States, he helped to build up the kingdom of Heaven by living a holy life, a life of service to another and a life of love. He has fought the good fight, he has finished the race, he has kept the faith. May the Lord crown him with righteousness!
For a more general sketch of Fr. Victor’s life and his mission to Sierra Leone, you can read about him here.
Fr. Victor Mosele, S.X.: Running For His Life No Longer
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