By: Father Joe Bragotti, mccj

Remember the days when gas was only 20 cents a gallon and they even gave you a free glass if you “filled her up?” With an oil change you could get a free glazed water pitcher. Those were my traveling days and, after a couple of years we didn’t know to whom to give them anymore – we had so many.

Then there were the green stamps. You brought them home from A&P, licked to fit in the stamp booklet, then you could start dreaming of what you could get. There was a catalog to help you dream. You could get a baseball mitt, a toaster, some other gadget you always wanted to have. These were rather simple dreams, easy to satisfy, if you bought enough groceries every week.

But there were also a few people in our United States of America who had bigger dreams – much, much bigger dreams. One of them was a transplanted Canadian by the name of Jerry Charbonneau, a Comboni Brother, stationed at the Native American mission of San Antonio de Pala, Diocese of San Diego, California.

The Comboni Missionaries had inherited a shapeless pile of mud that used to be an outstation of San Luis Rey Mission and had restored it to its original splendor. Then they had opened a school and had given it to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to run. Things looked good and tourists were again coming to visit the renovated old mission.

There was just one little problem. Some of the school kids had to walk a long way to get to school and others, yet lived too far to even think of going. They needed a school bus.

That’s when Bro. Jerry came up with the preposterous idea that he would buy a school bus with green stamps. He advertised, he begged, he wrote, he made phone calls and he also put up with a lot of ribbing. It was a tough go.

As it turned out, though, the idea struck a lot of people as being very original. It made the news. Bro. Jerry was a celebrity. And people from all over the country started sending him their green stamps booklets. By Christmas, San Antonio de Pala Mission School had a brand new yellow school bus with all the bells and whistles such conveyances need to have.

Moral of the story? Aim high and never look down. Thanks Bro. Jerry!

Joseph Bragotti, mccj