Before noon on Sept. 5, John Fox was sitting in the second row close to the center aisle of Sacred Heart School’s stifling, no-AC auditorium. With temperatures outside hitting 100 degrees, somebody inside joked this was worse than in the missions. Fox and nine other former Lay Mission-Helpers had come to Lincoln Heights for a memorial Mass for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles priest who founded that missionary group in 1955 and then the Mission Doctors Association four years later. Msgr. Anthony Brouwers would have been 101 on Sept. 5; he died in 1964 at the age of 51 of metastasizing bone cancer. He grew up in Lincoln Heights, played baseball in the streets of the mixed Irish, German and newly-arrived Italian immigrant neighborhood, and graduated from Sacred Heart. The historic red brick church his family attended on Sundays and Holy Days still stands at 2210 Sichel Street. And some 300 students are enrolled in the elementary school, with most of them packed into the auditorium on this Thursday.“I’m just considering as we’re about to celebrate this Mass,” mused Fox, who was 40 when he left for Papua New Guinea to head the maintenance crew of a mission compound with a hospital, school, lumber yard and other facilities. “If we look at all that we have done in almost 60 years — all that we have been able to accomplish as Lay Mission Helpers and Mission Doctors, all the places that we have gone to serve — it’s just an absolute miracle.”The miracle was celebrated in a sacred liturgy by Divine Word Missionary Father Anthony Madanu, who served in Bolivia himself and is now associate pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in South Los Angeles. He pointed out to the students fanning themselves that the life of a missionary is very hard even today. Things taken for granted in the United States, like electricity and running water, may not exist in Third World mission lands.“Msgr. Brouwers was inspired to be a missionary to other nations,” Father Madanu remarked. “He was not a missionary, but he wanted others to go to bring the ‘Good News,’ the love of Christ, to all people. And when the lay missioners go to be among others, they’re going to be like yeast. “What they bring is Christian values: love, justice, peace, brotherhood, being kind to others. And that’s how we become yeast and we change people to become like us. And that is still working today.”Eighth-grader Ruben Herrera didn’t know anything about the local priest except what he learned at the Mass. “I think he must have been a good person to do all that,” the 13-year-old said. “And I’m very thankful that he went to our school. That’s really cool and we’re kind of lucky. I also think it’s pretty good that, like, people in Los Angeles are helping other people. It’s an inspiration for me.”Classmate Alejandra Lopez, also 13, agreed Msgr. Brouwers was sure an inspiring individual. And she definitely appreciated the former Lay Mission-Helpers coming to Sacred Heart. “I think that’s very neat about the older people who are here today, how they could spread our church all over the world,” she said. “That’s amazing how they dedicated their lives to be [lay missioners] and how they were ‘helpers.’”The board of directors’ president of the Lay Mission Helpers had a big surprise for the students. Bill Metzdorf announced that all Catholic school pupils in the archdiocese were invited to compete in a new annual essay contest for three scholarships of $1,500, $1,000 and $500 covering their tuition. “And you can help spread his great story by writing about Msgr. Brouwers and what he did for the missions,” Metzdorf urged. “Remember, he was once a student here just like you.” For Addie Coronado, anything that would introduce Msgr. Brouwers to more people was a wonderful idea. The obstetrics nurse, a member of the second Lay Mission-Helpers class, was 29 when assigned to Tanganyika in 1957. She wound up serving in the mission fields for nine years.“‘Uncle Tony,’ as we liked to call him, understood us,” the 85-year-old woman told The Tidings after the Mass, which featured the school choir, smiling warmly at his memory. “He knew what we would go through over in the missions. You could always talk or write to him about different things and he would give you advice. Plus, he made us aware that we are the Church. And this was before the changes with Vatican II. So he was very, very encouraging.”When asked if Msgr. Anthony Brouwers deserves to be a saint, Coronado didn’t hesitate. “Well, I think he is,” she quipped with a nonplussed look. “There’s a lot of people who are saints without being officially canonized. So, oh yeah, he was a very special fellow — very spiritual and very special.”Essay contest on Msgr. Brouwers announcedThe first Msgr. Anthony Brouwers Memorial Scholarships contest is open to local Catholic elementary school students, who are invited to submit a one-page essay on Msgr. Brouwers’ life and contributions, the importance of missionary work in the life of the Church, the special role lay people play as missionaries or how Catholics at home can also be missionaries.Two research resources are the oral-history biography “For We Are God’s Helpers’ (available on Amazon as an e-book) and a lesson plan from the Lay Mission-Helpers Association. The deadline to enter the context is Oct. 4. The winning essay will be published in The Tidings. For more information, contact: Lay Mission-Helpers Association, 3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1940, Los Angeles, CA 90010;; email [email protected]; or call (213) 368-1870. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0913/brouwers/{/gallery}