Describing such an important figure as Monsignor Walsh in a few lines is not an easy task. However, I would like to write about how I met him and the impact that meeting had in my life. This will be my way of honoring him on the tenth anniversary of his death.
The late Elly Vilano Chovel introduced us. She had great admiration for him and always talked about him. I had no idea of what he had done for the Cuban children, his generosity or his work. I had heard a lot about him but at the time Operation Pedro Pan was going on I was still in Cuba and I wasn’t able to leave Cuba until 1980.
My first impression of him was that he was a very humble man and very easy to talk to. You couldn’t miss his 6’4” stature and his strong Irish accent. All this piqued my interest and I decided to find out more about his apostolate, not only with the Cuban children but with many other persons and projects as well.
After that first introduction, I met him in two or three more occasions. The last time I saw him I was very lucky. It was very early and he still didn’t have as many people around him as he always had. I had the opportunity to talk to him for a few minutes in a more intimate way.
He was a very intelligent man with a deep and intense look in his eyes that could see inside you. He gave me a practical lesson in religion then and there. I am usually a very reserved person but I felt that he was a person that I could trust to hear my confession. I told him: “I am not a practicing Catholic but I graduated from the Maristas School in la Vibora, Havana. I have always kept my faith and my hope alive. Today, while talking to you, I feel that though I was not one of your Pedro Pan kids, I also suffered the separation from my loved ones whom I did not see in so many years that it seemed centuries. I feel that everything that I suffered was not in vain, it was for our children and grandchildren that are here. By living such an exemplary life, you have given me a great lesson about life and about faith.”
He gave me his blessing and we shook hands. That was the last time I saw him. For me, that day was a great lesson in life. That is why Msgr. Walsh will always live in my thoughts and in my life.