On August 26, Jen Byers Schreck of Aurora, Ohio, died after a long and brave battle with cancer, leaving her husband, Mark, and sons, Sam (13) and CJ (11). GuluHelp founding board member, Fr. Jino Mwaka, was a good friend and confidant during her illness. Recognizing how much of an inspiration Fr. Jino was to her, the family decided to request that donations be made in Jen’s memory to the University of the Sacred Heart in Gulu through GuluHelp Foundation. Fr. Jino is the director of this fledgling University as it struggles to obtain the funds needed to open its doors. The response of donors was overwhelmingly generous!
A vivid example of her fondness for Fr. Jino was Jen’s wish that he be present at her funeral. The family does not consider it mere coincidence that Fr. Jino arrived in Cleveland from Uganda just one day before Jen’ death. He was able to be with her family at her side when she passed away and concelebrate at her funeral mass.
A very special and touching request from Mark followed a conversation I had with him and his sons during a visit to their home in October. I told them that many children in Uganda have lost a parent at a young age because of serious illness. Mark asked me if I could arrange for Sam and CJ to communicate with some of these children via letters or email, believing that this might help them through the grieving process.
I also spoke with Jen’s mom, Noreen. Tearfully, she related to me how totally dedicated Jen was to her sons and how, throughout her illness, she strived to prepare them to thrive without her. It is apparent that Sam and CJ are doing their best to live up to their mother’s hopes from them. According to Mark, they are carrying out their responsibilities at home and at school and helping each other get through this difficult time.
The Schreck family wants to stay connected to Fr. Jino and his work in Gulu with the University. I left them with copies of a prayer to the Sacred Heart that is said at Mass every Friday on the campus of the University of the Sacred Heart. They intend to say it together at home each Friday.
A big Thank You to the Schreck family for their financial and prayerful support and, as Fr. Jino concludes all of his letters, ”God Bless. God loves you more than anyone can or will ever love you.”