Seminarian provides faithful help to archbishop’s mother
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — There’s one question that Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, occupied with all kinds of weighty responsibilities, doesn’t have to worry about:
How’s mom doing?
Louise Naumann is doing just fine, and part of the reason is seminarian and transitional Deacon Oswaldo Sandoval. It’s almost like having another son in the seminary.
Deacon Sandoval, who will be ordained a priest on May 26 at St. Peter Cathedral in Kansas City, Kan., has proved to be a handy man to have around for the archbishop’s mother while he attends Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
Currently, Louise Naumann, 89, resides in the St. Joseph Apartments, a senior living facility on land that used to be seminary property, operated by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. About two years ago, she had her wings clipped.
“It was two years ago in September that I stopped driving,” said the archbishop’s mother. “And it’s the worst thing I ever did, because I lost my independence. They have a van here I can use to go shopping, but I have difficulty getting up the steps. I don’t feel safe doing that.”
Louise Naumann needed a way to get around. But the archbishop couldn’t help because he was more than four hours away, and his brother Fred Naumann couldn’t help due to surgery on his foot.
“When it became obvious that she couldn’t drive anymore, I asked if any of the seminarians would be willing to help out and look in on her,” said Archbishop Naumann.
Deacon Oswaldo Sandoval’s hand shot up — figuratively, of course. Sandoval was born in El Salvador and moved to Emporia to be with family.
“My mother got to know Oswaldo at the funeral of Msgr. [Heliodore] Mejak in 2008,” said Archbishop Naumann. “Oswaldo helped her then, so when I asked for help, he was the first to volunteer. She has great admiration for him.”
Deacon Sandoval, who comes from a large and close farm family, sees his assistance to Louise Naumann as simply another role he plays in his larger family — the church.
“I see the archbishop as my spiritual father,” said Deacon Sandoval. “In a way, she is my spiritual grandmother. And what I did for her, I would do for my [natural] grandmother.”
Since his recruitment, Deacon Sandoval has called her every week and taken her to doctor and dentist appointments. And he’s proved to have the kind of shopping skills you just can’t pick up in seminary.
“His mother trained him well,” said Louise Naumann. “He’s really great. He can pick out vegetables for me while I’m shopping in another department.
“And when we get home, he carries all the stuff up for me,” she continued. “We have an elevator, but I’m at the end of the hall and it’s a long way.
“He’s been so kind and I just can’t say how much I appreciate all that he’s done,” she said. “He’s so cheerful and a delight to be with all the time.”
Deacon Sandoval also drives her to and from Kansas City on occasion.
They’ve enjoyed many a long and wide-ranging conversation on these road trips.
“We settle all the affairs of the world, the church and the seminary” on these drives, said Louise Naumann with a chuckle.
Deacon Sandoval appreciates many things about his spiritual grandmother. But, appropriately enough, he especially admires her spirituality.
“She is very devout,” said Deacon Sandoval. “She prays a lot for me and all our seminarians. She prays for the archdiocese and her son.”
For his part, Archbishop Naumann is very relieved his mother has someone in addition to his brother (now recovered from surgery) to assist her.
“It was a huge comfort for me to know if my mom needed to get to the store or a doctor’s appointment that there was someone to call upon,” he said.
“Like all of us, we’re not always comfortable asking for help,” he continued. “We have to have a lot of confidence in people before we ask them for help.”
And while she is being helped by Deacon Sandoval and occasionally other seminarians, Louise Naumann can help her son.
“I told her, ‘Mom, you can help me evaluate the seminarians,’” suggested Archbishop Naumann.
Since Deacon Sandoval is leaving the seminary to be ordained, he will now pass his mantle on to another seminarian.
But he will be missed.
“He’s just been so wonderful,” said Louise Naumann. “I’m happy for him to be ordained, but I’m going to miss him.”