Ninety posts later, it's June 2011. I've written about Vienna history, Vienna sports, Vienna real estate, Vienna entertainment, Vienna restaurants, "good deeds" that Vienna residents have done and more. Each time I write, it comes from the heart.
So today I must take this opportunity to write to you again from my heart - but this time about something much more important than dining or sledding or sports.
Last night, I attended a Mass & Prayer Service that was held at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna. In case you haven't caught the local news recently, a well loved member of our community has gone missing. And last night the community gathered to pray for his safe return.
TOM DUESTERHAUS (Photo Credit: Bishop O'Connell High School Web Site)
Tom Duesterhaus is a Vienna native. Like me, he graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School and then from The College of William & Mary. But instead of going into business, Tom went on to a life of service and youth ministry - both as a teacher at O'Connell and as a consecrated lay member of Youth Apostles. (If you're not familiar with Youth Apostles, you can read more here. I can tell you from personal experience that my family has been blessed many times over by the involvement of various Youth Apostles in our lives & community.)
The Arlington Catholic Herald profiled Tom earlier this year. If you ask Tom, he'd probably say that he's just a "regular guy doing what he's called to do". But the outpouring of pain & love that has come from his disappearance tells me otherwise. He has had a profound effect on those he loves & serves.
Tom was last heard from on Friday, June 17th. He was scheduled to start a retreat the following Monday and was spotted taking a swim in Virginia Beach on Saturday, June 18th. A bag of personal items was found abandoned on the beach. However, his car, car keys & credit card (which has not been used) have not been found. Nor has Tom. The police do not believe he drowned and say there is no evidence of foul play or criminal activity. But they are worried about Tom's safety. Tom apparently received bad news on Friday that his teaching contract at O'Connell was not being renewed and family members believe this could have led to Tom's disappearance. He's now been gone for 12 days.
As I walked into the church for last night's service - the skies were dark & threatening. Thunder rolled and raindrops began to fall. It was truly a reflection of the emotions swirling in the air. Imagine if your son, your brother, your friend, your beloved teacher just disappeared - almost into thin air. I don't know Tom personally, I went to school with his sister, but like many others in the church - I came to support this family in prayer. That's what community is all about.
As I entered the church and shook off the rain, I was immediately greeted with an embrace from a friend I had not seen in a while. No words were exchanged and no words were needed. Hearts all around were heavy.
And then I entered the sanctuary. The dark skies were replaced by light. And as the sound of thunder faded I realized that a harp was being played. It was a most incredibly peaceful and beautiful sound - somehow very comforting. And I settled into my pew and poured my heart out to God.
Mass began. And as Father Jack put it so perfectly, it was a "refuge" for all those gathered. Vienna Patch has some of the moments on video, the Arlington Catholic Herald captured it beautifully, and as Dante Gil-Alvarado commented on Facebook: "Prayer service for Tom was uplifting and reassuring. Father Jack's gentle spirit and trust in God's love gave us all peaceful hearts."
Near the end of the Mass, Tom's father, Rich Duesterhaus, got up to speak. In a gentle voice, he asked for prayers for Tom's safe return. And he thanked the community, the police & the press for their support. He pointed out that this is not a "manhunt" for Tom and that Tom may just need time away to reflect and "that's ok". His manner was gentle, loving and accepting - but with an unspoken yearning to have his son home. But he was not without trust in God or hope.
Mr. Duesterhaus concluded by saying that he would welcome a report from Tom or someone close to him that "all is well". And that is where YOU come in!
Please pass the information below* on to everyone you know - regardless of what part of the country they are in. We need YOUR eyes and ears. You may think it's a long shot, but YOU NEVER KNOW! (Up-to-date info, including a Missing Person poster that can be downloaded can be found at http://tom.duesterhaus.net/ )
As I left the church after Mass, this is the sight that greeted me. I believe it was a sign of HOPE sent especially from Our Lord to Tom & his family & friends.
After Tom's disappearance, Father Jack Peterson happened to walk by the door to Tom's room at the house and he noticed something he had not noticed before - there was a Scripture reading posted on the door. This is what it said:
Please join in prayer for the safe return of Tom Duesterhaus.
*Here is the information from the Fairfax County Missing Person poster:
On June 17, 2011, Thomas Duesterhaus voluntarily left his residence in McLean, Virginia. Mr. Duesterhaus was distraught and there is concern for his wellbeing. Mr. Duesterhaus may be operating his 1999 blue Buick LeSabre bearing Virginia registration XMT-8126. Mr. Duesterhaus may be in the Virginia Beach area. Mr. Duesterhaus has been known to frequent parks and shelters. Mr. Duesterhaus and his vehicle have been entered into NCIC. White Male, 37 years old, 6 feet 3 inches, 190 pounds, blonde hair, green eyes. Anyone with information pertaining to the whereabouts of Thomas Duesterhaus is asked to contact Detective Chris Flanagan at 703-246-7860 or the Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131 or Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.