Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World.” Fr. Michael Della Penna, OFM, is the Director at Valley of the Angels school in Guatemala. 

I am sharing one of the most touching letters I have ever received here at Valley and perhaps in my 15 years as a priest.
I received it at the end of the year; and it came to me quite unexpectedly after all the students left. Without me knowing it, this student wrote a letter and asked our dentist to translate it. She gave instructions to deliver it to me after she left. She is one of those students I have a very special connection with and feel very close to.
Since the first day she arrived, she could always just look into my eyes and know how I am feeling. It was mutual. In the early part of August I saw that something was troubling her. I remember speaking to her and her crying a lot. We were able to get her the help she needed.
Letters like this make all the difference in the world. They not only remind us of the reason we are here but inspire and affirm everything that Valley represents as well as its impact in helping children have a better life.  Her gratitude is the greatest pay I could ever receive.

I want to let you know that you are a very special person and in this letter I want to tell you everything I didn’t tell you in person: you have been my best friend. Someone who helped me a lot and I shall never forget that. I will always remember the advice that you gave me, I will never forget that. Thank you for all your support and all your friendship. Also, thank you for your hugs that encouraged me a lot to keep on fighting. While I was in Valle I knew there was someone who always supported me and I also knew there was someone I could tell all my secrets to and all my problems. You were the first person that know all that I had gone through and all that. I suffered for a long time, but thanks to you I could forget some of that. Thanks. Thanks for listening to me when I wanted to speak with you. Thank you. Thank you very much. I will never grow tired of thanking you. I love you very much, my dear father. You are my best friend and I came to love you as my father. I felt I had know you for a long time.

I want you to know that I didn’t like to see you sad because I liked to see you happy with that smile that helped me a great deal.

I want you to know that you’ll always be in my prayers. You are my dear father and may God keep you wherever you go. Thank you. Always smile.

Signed, your daughter

Fr. Michael Della Penna

Fr. Michael Della Penna

Born in Boston, Fr. Michael Della Penna, OFM, has degrees in Psychology, Philosophy and holds a Masters of Divinity degree from Weston Jesuit School of Theology.  He was ordained a priest in 1999 as a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate Conception Province. He later completed a licentiate and a doctorate degree in Franciscan spirituality from the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome.  He has served as Associate Pastor, Retreat Director, Formation Director and Definitor for his province and is now the Moderator of Ongoing Formation. He is currently the Director of Valley of the Angels Orphanage in Guatemala and leads pilgrimages to Assisi for the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program.  Michael finds joy in helping others to come to a greater knowledge and love of Christ through education, retreats and pilgrimage.

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