Tribute to Tommy Longo at his Funeral Mass
February 2, 2011
St. Clare of Assisi Church, Woodbridge
Dear Members of the Longo Family,
Carissimi Amici tutti,
It is a privilege for me to offer these few words of gratitude and tribute to Tommy Longo for all he and his family have done for me, personally, and for us at the Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation, Canada's first national Catholic television network. I speak to you on behalf of our staff and the hundreds of thousands of viewers across Canada who are beneficiaries of the Longo Foundation's generosity and Tommy's belief in us.
Today's funeral Mass is taking place on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple of Jerusalem. It is a great feast in the Church, bringing together the East and the West, and it is the formal culmination of the Christmas season. Forty days after the birth of Jesus at Christmas, his parents, Mary and Joseph, a poor, humble couple bring their child to Jerusalem's temple to fulfill the Jewish Law. Because they are poor, they do not offer the customary gift of a lamb, but rather bring two turtle doves as their offering to the Temple. On the outside, the scene is very normal and without fanfare - it was the story of another poor, simple, humble, faithful Jewish family doing their duty. But we know that there was something much more happening than met the eye. It was a Presentation but it was something much greater. It was the Lord Jesus entering his Temple, foreshadowing what was to come. It was Mary and Joseph, poor humble parents who were bringing the Messiah and Lord into the centre of Jewish life. What appeared to be an ordinary moment in the life of this family was something extraordinary.
When Tommy Longo emigrated from Italy to Canada, he and his brothers were among tens of thousands of others who were seeking a new life, stability, a bright future, something more than what was happening in their beloved Italy. When Tommy and his brothers established their first fruit and vegetable market, they were like many others who were trying to make a go of things, trying to build a new life and provide for their families. On the outside, it all seemed normal, commonplace, ordinary. But it was much more at stake than simply opening up a food market. Tommy Longo was not only a successful business man, founder, dreamer, visionary, success story. He was a man of great decency, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, humanity, goodness and uprightness. He not only built up a family chain of highly successful supermarkets, but he built up and transmitted a culture of decency and goodness to all those around him. That is why so many of you came to the funeral home this past week and shared the sorrow and grief of the Longo family. That is why so many of you have filled this Church this morning in the midst of a major winter storm. We have come here to give thanks to God for a wonderful man who sold us fine foods, but more than that he fed us with the food and drink of goodness and kindness, honesty and integrity. And we all know of the great famine out there in the world for these priceless gifts.
Zina, thank you for sharing this great blessing with all of us. You have lost a wonderful husband and partner. We have lost a father, uncle, nonno and friend. To the Longo children, your love for your father speaks for itself. The scenes I witnessed in the hospital over the past weeks, and especially over the past weekend, moved me deeply and touched the doctors, nurses and hospital staff in no small way. On Saturday morning as we accompanied Tommy on his final journey to God, we all witnessed love in action, sorrow, and shared profound gratitude for having been touched by Tommy in so many ways.
And a final word to the Longo grandchildren. One of the great sadnesses of the present generation of young people is that they don't know their grandparents any more. That wasn't and isn't the case for each of you here. The thirteen of you present in this Church today knew and loved nonno. He loved you. I invite you to put that love into practice. The greatest tribute you can pay to your grandfather is to spread his culture to all those you meet. Be honest, sincere, generous, young people of integrity who are unafraid to practice your Catholic faith in season and out of season. That is the greatest witness you can give to the Longo tradition as it continues to impact Toronto and Canada. You are heirs of a wonderful tradition. Nonno marked you, touched you and loved you. Now tell the world about him by imitating what he did in his lifetime.
May the angels lead him into paradise, the martyrs welcome him and lead him home.
Tommy, rest in peace.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB,
CEO of Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation