Wishing You A Merry Christmas

Reporter Mike Sullivan provides a Merry Christmas message based upon the wonderful spirit of Brother Leo Richard, whose booming voice can still be heard by many years after his passing ...

The response over the past decade has been tremendous every time we do publish this story around Christmas.

I want to thank everyone for their support over the past two decades. It's something I won't forget as time soon pushes many of us into other adventures.

Thanks again also to the many people who have sent us kind notes and beautiful memories of Brother Leo Richard, who founded the SMILE program at Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, New York. And please, during this holiday season, keep Brother Leo Richard's and Lou Carnesecca's kindness in your own hearts.

It was only a year ago that Brother Leo Richard joined Carnesecca in the Archbishop Molloy High School Hall of Fame.

Below is the story:

Brother Leo Richard spent most of 65-plus years on this earth inside a darkened room called "The Cave" at Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood, N.Y., listening to men and women, young and old, black and white, the hopeful or depressed, especially around this time of the year.

This can be an especially tough time of the year for those who aren't as fortunate. But Leo would never accept the word "no." He would reach out to the needy and involve other good people in his life to help those he had encountered.

Leo did so one holiday season after discovering a young man had no money to pay his rent after getting laid off for the sixth time in the last seven years. Leo took the young man on a walk as he usually did. They circled the majestic building in Briarwood, discussing life and the misfortunes that sometimes overwhelm even the strongest of individuals.

The young man talked and talked. Leo listened and listened.

It's what made Brother Leo so special. And when Leo talked, only positive words would echo from his big chamber. They sometimes sounded like they were coming from above.

"Walk with me," Leo shouted. "Keep walking."

Leo loved to walk. And he also loved to talk. He could move rather quickly from subject to subject -- from the Red Sox to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame -- to Molloy's chances of winning a City title.

Leo would talk about the Red Sox's chances for the following year. He would explode with joy when talking about such great Molloy players from the past like Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson. Leo never really got any sympathy especially from the young man who happened to be a Yankee fan. But Leo received some support for his love for Notre Dame football and much more for Molloy since many Stanners were among Leo's walking partners. And this young man happen to be a graduate of Molloy from 1978.

Leo always kept the walks vibrant and positive. But as Leo moved along Union Turnpike with the distraught youngster, he could see the fear in the man's eyes. The young man had a good reason to have fear.

It was only five years earlier, after suffering a layoff, he had spent three weeks, moving on and off the "E" train to grab some sleep and shelter.

"I don't want to go back on the train," the youngster said to Leo. "I don't know what to do."

"Keep walking with me," Leo shouted in his friendly voice. They continued. In their sights was the campus of St. John's University, a place that is located only a few miles away from Molloy High School.

Leo led the young man inside the athletic office at Alumni Hall. He stopped outside the basketball office. "Stay here," Leo said.

The young man, puzzled, stood still while Leo walked into then St.John's coach Lou Carnesecca's office. The young man waited outside for about 20 minutes. Leo's voice, normally booming and audible from about 100 yards away, was silent and could not be heard out in the hall by the young man.

Then Leo came outside and in his hands were several dollars. He quickly gave it to the young man. "Take this," Leo said. "This should help out."

"Where did you get this?" the young man asked. "I can't say," Leo said. "Maybe another time I will tell you. But he didn't want you to know. Just take it and take care of yourself."

It was several years later when Leo told the young man who helped him. So at this time of the year, it's important to remember those little gestures that are bigger than life and so very symbolic during the holiday.

So as I look skyward today, still misty-eyed from missing the big booming voice of Brother Leo, I wish I could hear that booming voice one more time in the Cave.

And a special shout out to Coach Lou Carnesecca. Thanks so much for keeping compassion in your heart that tough day!

*I want to thank Anthony Ziccardi (former Stanner and St. John's University graduate) and Simon & Schuster for publishing my story, "Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness." It was written with Brother Leo Richard in mind. I've dedicated the book in memory of Leo.

May compassion run deep in your heart his holiday season.

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