Choosing from the Wish List becomes a gift in itself
Studies show that when people have extra money in their pockets, they’re happier when they spend it on others instead of themselves. Anne Morgan and her husband, Frank, understood this better than most. Every year, since Catholic Extension’s Christmas Wish List began, they relished the opportunity to sit down with it and ponder how they could make a difference in other people’s lives. It gave them great joy.
“It was such a fun thing,” said Anne, who lives in Troy, New York, and is now retired from her work as a biology professor at Hudson Valley Community College. “If I got home first and the Wish List issue of the magazine was in the mail, I would greet my husband at the door and say with a smile, ‘Guess what came today?’”
The couple developed their own tradition with the Wish List. “On the day it came, we would sit at the dining room table after dinner, and we would each pick wishes and make lists,” said Anne. “Then we would swap our lists and rank our choices. We had to pare them down because we wanted to do so much.”
While the list making and giving was a fun tradition, Anne said it also was tinged with sadness because the parishes on the Wish List needed such basic things. “We would look at the list and think it was so sad that a priest needed vestments,” she said. “Or they’d be asking for things like cruets or a cross.”
In those moments, Anne said she would pause with a realization of how blessed she was. Her parish, St. Michael the Archangel in Troy, has a beautiful church and chapel. And there are three other Catholic churches nearby. “I can go to Mass whenever I want,” she said. “Yet, here I’d be reading about churches that were tents or storefronts.”
She added, “When you live in an area like ours, you don’t think about the need that exists in other places. People always think of Africa or Asia, but we have so many poor areas right here in the U.S. – places where there isn’t much of a Catholic population, places that need the Church.”
Anne and Frank also gave to Catholic Extension at other times during the year – and they gave special attention to seminarian education because they worried about the cost for young men. They had a “soft spot” for needs in Alaska, too. But they always found special joy in picking and choosing from the Wish List. “It was like looking at a child’s Christmas list and knowing you could make someone else happy,” Anne said.
Frank, who was a dean at Hudson Valley Community College and also a lawyer, died in 2000. Even though he is gone, Anne still enjoys giving to the Wish List. “My mother always said you have to be thankful for your blessings,” she said. “Frank and I had 42 years together. Some people don’t have that.”
Anne reflected on those years and the joy she and Frank found in giving – to the students they taught, to their community and to the Church. “I had a student come up to me once, many years later, and tell me that I had changed his life,” said Anne. “It’s so rewarding to know you’re making a difference. I guess it’s the same with the Wish List; you can have an impact on other people’s lives.”