Unification News for February 2004
In Loving Memory of Thomas M. Coneally
Rev. Jenkins (2/11/2004 2:24:31 PM : 2737)
In Loving Memory of Thomas M. Coneally
November 5, 1951 - December 19, 2003
Our sister Ina Conneally was one of 40 brothers and sisters from America who made the historic offering of becoming part of the Peace Task Force last December. They risked their lives in the Holy Land to unify Christians, Muslims and Jews, and particularly to bring the reconciliation ceremony between Jesus and his family on December 22nd. Ina was outstanding in her efforts and sacrifice to bring peace in the Holy Land.
While she was in Israel she received news of her husbandís passing. That same day she wrote the letter below. Tomís testimony, printed several years ago in Todayís World, is also included.
Ina was absolutely faithful during this time of personal trial and we are grateful to the Conneally family for demonstrating such faith. Certainly the condition of their familyís participation in the Peace Task Force at this crucial time of reconciliation will be an eternal foundation upon which their family will stand. We wish to celebrate Tomís ascension into the heavenly realm. We know that True Parents were comforted by the Conneally familyís support for the Middle East providence, and we are confident that Ina and their children will carry on this way of faith and attendance.
We would like to ask your prayers, love and support for their family, while remembering all the Jewish and Palestinian families that continue to lose their loved ones. We are comforted by knowing that the historic condition that has caused this conflict has now been resolved and that the bloodshed will ultimately end.
We thank the Conneally family and want to honor them.
Rev. Michael Jenkins
By Ina Conneally
I left New York on Dec. 16, and was informed about my husbandís passing away today, on December 19th.
Thomas Conneallyís mission, as I believe, was not mainly expressed through external works, even though he was a faithful, hard-working member in the Ocean Church providence and art business. We were blessed in 1989 in Korea and participated in the subsequent mobilization for several months. His physical family was prepared in many ways to testify to True Father at the beginning of Fatherís early ministry in America in the early 1970s. As a young boy Tom received the revelation that Sun Myung Moon was the Lord of the Second Advent. He was supposed to declare this message on stage while playing the role of a shepherd boy during a Christmas play. However, he started to doubt and as a result did not testify. His mother died of cancer a couple of years later.
When Tom was in his 20s, working as a taxi driver in Manhattan, he picked up True Father and Bo Hi Pak as passengers. True Father strongly encouraged my husband to join the church, telling him that if he didnít, then seven years later he would certainly become a member. Father also said that Tomís mother was praying in the spiritual world for him. During the drive, my husband again doubted, even though True Father reminded him of the event that had occurred when he was a child. In addition, True Father told my husband that his ancestorís lineage derived from the Roman soldier who had, during the crucifixion, pierced Jesus into the heart. Tom has always felt, and was told by members, that his mission was that of John the Baptist in relation to the Catholic Church. He struggled to fulfill that responsibility, even though he was not involved in many missionary activities throughout his life of faith.
In regard to the Israel Providence, it is perhaps relevant to note that there were certain obvious incidents happening on my way to Jerusalem. At first I did not have a ticket issued and had to wait until the last moment of board the plane. Secondly, when I arrived in Tel Aviv, only my luggage, out of all the 460 others, was missing. Even though these were minor obstacles, I became very desperate, feeling that I had been deprived of my identity and my belongings. While I was crying at the airport, I felt that the Jewish people had been stripped of everything, even their lives. When I was at Gethsemane yesterday, looking at the Golden Gate through which the Jews expect the Messiah to enter, I was wondering what it would take for the Jews to receive the Lord of the Second Advent. I feel that through these experiences God has prepared me to receive this morning the news of the passing of my husband. I am realizing that it is my offering to God and the providence in Israel.
Moments of True Encounter
Tom Conneally is one of the few among us who met Father personally prior to joining the church. He is to be commended for his courage in allowing his remarkable story to be published (with the help of his wife, Ina).
It was the weeks before Christmas, in the year 1959. Our third grade was to perform The Nativity, the birth of Jesus, Savior and Messiah-a topic dear to me heart of Mrs. Moonie, our art teacher at Our Lady of Solace E1ementary School. "And when you pray, ask God if Jesus wil1 come again," she suggested. I might have fo1lowed her advice, for I clear1y remember (even though other memories have faded away over the years) that a voice told me, "Reverend Moon is the Messiah." Somehow I hew that I had to convey this message to the audience-I was a shepherd in the play, first to be on stage kneeling down and crying out for my lost sheep. Just these five words, "Reverend Moon is the Messiah," and then other things wou1d follow, the voice told me-things that I could not comprehend with the mind of an 8-year-old.
My parents were hard-working Irish immigrants. For them, a Catholic education for their three children was essentia1. On the other hand, I spent most of my afternoons on the streets of Bronx East, absorbing the multi-cultura1 mix of Irish and Italian families. On the afternoon before the play, I was out in the snow, sledding with my friends. Somewhere deep inside I felt it would be better to stay at home and get prepared, but the snow was so fresh and soft... My mother picked me up from the park.
When the curtains opened, grave anxiety came over me. I had not much confidence. The voice inside me assured me that if I just said my five words, I would receive the power to heal. Right in front of me, in the first row sat all these important grave looking Fathers, Monsignors and Nuns that I respected and feared so much. Hanging over me was a huge stage-prop moon, and now I was to kneel down, cry out for my lost sheep and say, "Rev. Moon is the Messiah." I was confused. Was it maybe me, because the moon was right above me... that whole moon thing, it did not make much sense right now. Better to just stick to Mrs. Moonie's (what a name!) instructions, not to what that strange voice inside told me. When I 1eft the stage, I had made a decision that I would regret later on, more than anything e1se in my future 1ife.
It was twelve years later-the little boy had turned into a long-haired, drinking, marijuana smoking hippie with a "don't trust anyone over 30" attitude, and a lot of liking for Che Geuvara and Mao Tse Tung. I was a taxi driver on the hectic streets of Manhattan.
One morning, two Oriental men flagged me down. Only one of them could speak English, taking the passenger seat next to me in the front. "Where do you want to go?" I asked. "Drive," the wel1-dressed man said, "just drive." Now that was kind of unusual, but maybe these guys were tourists wanting to be taken around....But it was not that at all. The man in the back turned out to be more interested me personally than any other customer had ever been before. How I felt about 1ife, its meaning... Did I believe m God's existence? What did I think about communism? I said that I liked the ideology a lot-equal rights for everyone, the brotherhood of all humankind. He told me through his interpreter in the front that he had spent time in a communist concentration camp in North Korea. I doubted that. We kept driving for a whi1e, then parked near the UN bui1ding. Now this intense, soul-searching backseat person wanted to hear a song that would somehow express my life philosophy. So, I sang, "I am a Rock," one of my Simon and Garfunkel favorites. My listener wanted to sing in response, too. "No Man Is an Island," was his choice, and he sang it in Korean. I was told that he had never had even a drop of alcohol. I turned around and stared at him, incredulously. He had said he was in his early fifties, but to me he looked like a kid, big cheeks, big smile-the picture of bursting health and innocence. There was something in me that really liked him; he was so earnest, so idealistic-not like those other tourists or business people that I usually met who were already part of the "establishment."
Then, on the other hand, he angered me. I had accused him of being responsible for the Vietnam War-he and his generation. "No," he responded, looking me straight in the eyes as I turned around, "you are responsible-God gave you a mission." Then he just talked about things that blew my mind. My mother, he said, had been praying in the spiritual world all through those years. That is why today we could meet here, in the taxi. All those years ever since I had been called by God to testify to the Messiah. Did I remember? In school playing the role of the shepherd boy? Bits and pieces of my memory appeared dimly, reluctant to be revealed, one part of me couldn't, the other part did not want me to remember.
"Master is the Messiah," the translator in action declared to me very solemnly.
I felt somewhat awed but at the same time it all sounded like a joke-and not a good one. If he is the Messiah, then I'm John the Baptist," I replied. I had intended to lighten things up a bit, but instead I was getting more and more tense.
"Come with me," the man in the back urged. "Come and meet my wife and chi1dren.°Ī He suggested I could become his driver, thus helping him in his mission. "I'm not gonna be your rickshaw boy," I told him angri1y. First you tell me I have this grand mission, and now you want me to just drive you around....And," I snapped to the other man, "why is it that you keep calling him 'Master'?" We are all the same here, with no masters and no servants around!" Fury overcame me. I stretched my right arm out and made the Nazi sign. "Heil Hitler," I shouted, "seig heil to the master race."
"You should pray," said the "Master" now. "You have evil spirits around you, a lot." I realized I had gone too far with my emotions, so I started to say those words that I had been taught, words that I sometimes used myself, without anyone knowing. "Our Father, who art in heaven..." Then the Master prayed-and it was truly a masterpiece of a prayer, for even though I cold not understand anything he said, it all sounded so deep, so much from the heart. By the time he had finished, I felt peace inside: as if I had been cleansed of all my previous anger. But no, I did not want to go with these two people whom I barely knew, even though they seemed to be very well informed about my past. A new surge of suspicion arose in me-maybe they were from the CIA and had followed me around all along?
"If you don't come with us now, you will join us in the future. But a lot of indemnity you will have to pay... Your Father will die." I was prophesized to by my messiah-passenger, shortly before I had to drop off both men. They told me to wait for them for they had to run some errands. As I had my cab parked wondering what to do next, a very attractive woman approached me and asked whether I was free to give her a ride. As if awakening from a strange dream, I rubbed my eyes. Welcome back to life, I thought, with real people and real business! As it had been when I was a child, I again was ready to give up moments of true encounter for years of regret later on, still not understanding the "real" game of life, and how I was supposed to play it.
It was five years later, September 17, 1976. I was working in Sante Fe, New Mexico for a drilling company. I had been working all day long drilling a hole into dry ground. Feeling dry myself, I went to my favorite bar for a drink or two. Unfortunately, my paycheck had not been cashed yet and I only had small change in my pocket. It was good to have the work behind me, but without money what was I supposed to do? Leaning against the bar counter, I saw a few girls come in trying to sell flowers. When I went outside after a while, there was one little Japanese "flower girl" standing at the corner, smiling at passers-by and holding out a bunch of roses.
Curious, I asked her, "Whom are you selling those for?" "Oh," she answered, extending her smile, "we are fundraising for an event. Tomorrow there will be a rally in Washington DC and the main speaker is Rev. Moon. Have you heard about him?" I shook my head. She took a closer look at me and continued smiling and extending the roses. "Well," she continued after a few minutes, "he must have heard about you. You are the one who met Rev. Moon in a taxi years ago. I was told that I would see you here tonight. Listen," she said in a low voice, "I was also told that you should come with our team tonight to Washington. It's just an hour's drive from here to Albuquerque. We'll fly from there. If you can't go, you should at least offer something. If you don't," she now spoke very distinctly, as if to add weight to every word, "your father will die."
I didn't know what to think. I was shocked and somehow impressed by this 'Rev. Moon" whom I had met, as I remembered now, in the taxi years ago. How did he know I was living here right now? But then, all that pressure with having to join some trip to Washington or giving money... It seemed so extreme, almost threatening. I only had some change in my pocket anyway, and the check. I needed it myself. On the other hand, it sounded exciting to travel across the country over the weekend and be part of an event that "could be your re-birthday."
"Since it is one hour to Albuquerque," I asked the girl, "can I smoke in the van? See, I've got to smoke..." She told me that I could not. The sensitive balance of decision-making now visibly turned in favor of me not wanting to go.
I noticed a van approaching, and the Japanese girl told me, "you have to make up your mind right now." I explained my feelings to her, much to her disappointment. As the van drove off, I got lost in thoughts about her and some other "encounters" that I had had a few weeks earlier. One had been with a girl names Josephine I that same bar. She had told me she had studied some kind of principles with a church, and that she had been told by people in the church that there was someone of Irish descent living in New Mexico who had met the founder of their movement in a taxi in New York. "Hey, Fitzpatrick," I called over to one of my bar-friends, "here is someone who know you." But it turned out it was me that she was talking about. What was so special about me anyway? Why were people that I had never seen before so eager to have me join them? For instance, these other fundraisers, whom I had met on "fiesta-day" at the end of the summer. I was sitting on a park bench when suddenly some eight people were dropped off nearby by a van. They put a decorated, long cloth over their heads, then, they lined up, one after the other like a huge caterpillar! "Cute," I thought to myself. They moved all over the place, back and forth, and to my surprise approached me in their collective costume. They asked if I wanted to join them. Later it turned out that they were selling flowers. Flowers, caterpillars and some important trip to Washington... The reality of things was that I still had not cashed my check, and a whole weekend lay ahead of me.
During the beginning of the next week, I received a call from my sister. She told me that my father was in a coma. I went home immediately. After 21 days, he passed away, on October 10. Now that I had lost both parents, feelings of deep grief and loneliness overcame me. Being back in my hometown, I went to church again, to Our Lady of Solace. I also started reading the Bible. These high-spirited activities were unfortunately overshadowed by my drinking and smoking habits. Bars I the evening, prayers during the day. I was torn inside. That ongoing contradiction within me made me crazy. During one especially intense afternoon, I remember reading a Bible verse that spoke of the devil crawling on his belly like a worm.
I went up to the rooftop of our apartment. Lying on my belly, I felt like a worm myself, crouching in the mud of guilt and shame. "Is Christ coming back?" I asked, as if talking to myself. In my mind, I heard the answer: "Christ is here-Sun Myung Moon." Sun and Moon was very easy to understand, but what was that middle name? It sounded like mung in mung bean. "Where can I find him?" I further probed. "At 4 West 43rd Street," came the immediate answer. Having been a cab driver for many years, I knew almost exactly where that was. Suddenly I felt grace; grace flowing all over me. I stood up, looking towards Manhattan. Just then, the sun broke through the clouded sky, spreading a rake of sunbeams over the city. Again I heard the voice inside me, saying: "This is the city of my Kingdom!"
Another Bible passage came to my mind: "Let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house..." but I still went back into my parents' apartment, where I took a shower. I wanted to cleanse myself, make a new beginning.
After my father's death I had become more serious about life-life here and life "over there." I felt that my father was suffering in the spiritual world and that I was the one who could help him in his pain. I now was determined to quit smoking. One day I went to the East Bronx park where I used to play and s1eigh ride in the snow as a chi1d. There was a ho11ow tree trunk, into which I crept. We were both ho1low inside, the tree trunk and I. I prayed to God, "Please help me to come back to 1ife. °Ī I left I my last pack of cigarettes there. I also started fasting--from my mothers birthday on December 4 to the date of her death (January 12) it was exactly 4O days. Though reading the Bible, the 1ife of John the Baptist had made a strong impression on me. He had lived on locusts and honey for long periods of time. Reading a pamphlet about fasting, I decided to live on honey and lemon juice only, and water of course. I also went to me Botanical Garden frequently. In the hectic and often brutal jungle of the Bronx, here was an oasis of peace. I had discovered a gazebo, close to a small forest area. Twelve pillars supported a small roof. It looked like a little temple combing the Holy Trinity with Jesus' twelve disciples. I prayed often n the stony floor, feeling connected not only with John the Baptist but also with St. Francis of Assisi. Sometimes it would even snow a little bit, since winter was approaching. Nature was so pure, especially these clean and white snowflakes, each one a crystal creation of its own.
It was two weeks later, on December 17. I had arrived at Penn Station, wanting to get more copies of my parents' death certificates. Suddenly a young woman approached me. "Do you believe in God?" was her unexpected question to me. Of course I understood that this was meant to be the overture to some longer discussion, and so we both went into a coffee shop nearby. She introduced herself as Vina Lop0ez, saying that she belonged to a Christian church which was persecuted. I was amazed. What kind of church could possibly be persecuted these days?
She invited me to visit her where she was staying at building on 4 West 43rd Street. I was impressed by the way members treated each other; the terminology "brothers and sisters" was truly filled with meaning. I especially could experience the spirit of togetherness during one of their "international nights," with lots of singing, testimonies and speeches. Meanwhile I studied what these people called "the Principle." It was supposed to help me understand the Bible better-the main reason I had gone there with Vina.
Then on Christmas Eve Vina invited me to watch a film about the founder of her movement, Rev. Moon. It was, she said, the first presentation about an event at the Washington Monument on September 18. I was very impressed and decided to go to a 3-day workshop.
The workshop site at Barrytown was a beautiful, formerly Catholic seminary. It felt like returning to my spiritual roots, surrounded by stone saints and living saints as well: the "brothers and sisters." Outdoor walks in the beauty of nature, Principle lectures, prayer...the three days passed by quickly. I was still in the middle of fasting, which made people wonder. When Vina drove back with me, she too wanted to know why. I explained to her that it was a condition to help my father in the spiritual world. "This is not the time to fast," she told me. Later, she asked me to break my fast at 43rd Street, which I did at the end of 40 days. Vina had convinced me to offer it up for a higher purpose other than just a member of my family.
After the workshop at the seminary I read the Divine Principle book all the way through. Vina invited me again, this time to hear Rev. Moon himself speak at Belvedere. The topic of the sermon was "To Whom Do I Belong?" I remember clearly how much I felt the truth of it all: Being divided between God and Satan, and the suffering that comes from that internal struggle. Until then I had had a beard, but after the speech I shaved it off. I stopped smoking also and so made a new start in my life of faith having gone beyond my own limitations and temptations.
Afterwards I went through a series of workshops. Originally starting with 7 days, it extended into a 21-day workshop. On the first Sunday I heard Rev. Moon speak again. He talked about someone whom he had met in a taxi years ago, in Manhattan. I had been a taxi driver, too, so I could relate well to that story. The Reverend concluded by saying, "I am happy to say that this young man is here with us today."
After the lecture, everyone was curious to know whom he had meant-who was the mysterious taxi driver? "Did you ever drive a cab?" was the question that went around. Theoretically it could have been me, but I didn't remember anything. During that night I prayed: "God, please restore my memory." And slowly bits and pieces of long-forgotten situations flashed back, showing me that I indeed was the one who had met Rev. Moon. I was shocked: did I have a brain of bricks? How could I have forgotten something so important?
But the crucial question remained whether Rev. Moon was really the Messiah or not. During the second Sunday of the workshop, he publicly spoke about things I had done in the past, my personal sins. He did not mention my name, but I knew everything he brought out was true-and only I could know those things.
He also talked about the John the Baptist figures and Elijas of the providence, saying that there had been someone who had lived in England, whose son was given a mission to bear witness to him-that this person was here today. As he said that he pointed in my direction. I turned around thinking may be it was someone sitting behind me. I just could not imagine myself being this John the Baptist figure. It was too much to live with, and I had just started my new life.
It took me some time to come to the conclusion that it was all true, from the beginning to end. Rev. Moon was the Messiah, my father, and I had failed to recognize him from the beginning. I looked back at my life, from childhood up to now: how I had always missed those moments of true encounter, when God had, over and over again, given me a chance to be part of his providence. I could clearly se how he had worked in my ancestry to make a foundation for the coming of Christ; and how I, as the final fruit on the tree of that lineage, had not fully ripened. I promised in one of my prayers that one day I would give testimony of my life, as a warning to whose who are shaken by external circumstances, losing sight of her own path of faith, and where it leads to.
A final word: My husband and I participated in the 1275 Couple Blessing in Yong-in, Korea in January 1989. Immediately after our matching, Tom told me his testimony, so that I could choose, as he put it, whether I wanted to be blessed with someone from so difficult a past. At first I thought he was joking or trying to impress me. As the years passed, however, I came to understand that his story was true.
There is something about miracles and revelations that make everyday life special, as if God and the spirit world were the movie-makers and we the main actors. I think we all have stories to tell, some more extraordinary than others. Yet to me what really matters in the end is not what happened to us in the past but what we ourselves make happen in the present, precisely from this moment on. --Ina Conneally
Tom and Ina Conneally recently celebrated the birth of their second child.
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