January 23, 2017
Not every teenager knows how to give of themselves for others, but most are eager to try. Tony Frazier, a junior at Gonzaga Prep, is responding to a tragedy by giving of himself in a very literal way. Over the years Tony liked to keep his hair short, but you will now see him sporting increasingly long hair which he plans to donate to a “Locks of Love” program.
When Tony was in 8th grade at Cataldo Catholic School he — along with other 8th graders — was assigned a “Mass buddy.” The Mass buddy program pairs young kids with older students to help them learn how to behave at Mass and hopefully how to learn how to pray with the Mass.
Tony’s Mass buddy was a young student named Kyle. Tony got to know Kyle and his family over the course of the school year. It was in getting to know Kyle he learned about Kyle’s mother Holly, who was ill with cancer.
“When Holly was sick it was hard for her to spend time with the kids. So I became kind of like an extra brother to Kyle. Holly really liked that so she wanted to meet me. So I started babysitting for them.” Tony seemed to really value this time spent with Kyle and with the Weller family.
“She kind of treated me like one of her own kids. I was really close with Holly and I was like yeah she was sick but she is going to get better. But she didn’t, she passed away a little over a year ago.”
Tony acknowledged his own denial over Holly’s illness and his difficulty in understanding God’s will in what happened.
“We prayed a lot when Holly was really sick, like the last week, it was constant praying. I don’t know a time when I wasn’t praying. Then she died and I was like ‘Why did I waste the week praying if she was going to die anyways. Why didn’t God save her?’ That was really frustrating, I had a hard time coping with that. He could have saved her but He didn’t. But yet again I still gotta go back that next Sunday and go to Mass again because I believe and do trust, but it is frustrating.”
Tony said after he had time to reflect on the situation he had expected God to answer his prayers immediately and in exactly the way he wanted them to be answered. Instead he realized that his prayer life needed patience and trust. “I started to calm down, I shouldn’t be angry at this situation, I should be open to it.” Tony shared that “Now I am more of a calm Catholic, and now I am able to wait.”
“Instead of cutting off my hair, I wanted to give something back to a survivor.” Tony said. “When Holly was sick, it was so late in the stage she never got to grow her hair back. So she was bald all the time. Some people were shaving their heads but I wanted to give something.” This journey Tony has started on — growing out his hair — will take him through the end of his high school career.
He plans to donate his hair through a “Locks of Love” type program. He needs to have at least ten inches of hair to be able to donate. Tony thinks he should get to that length of hair during his senior year, but he plans on cutting it after graduation.
Attending Gonzaga Prep one might wonder how his long hair has been received. Those who know have been very supportive. Tony said that people will ask him why he is growing out his hair and it has even sparked conversations with students he did not know before.
Tony’s witness has been noticed by Cathedral parishioners and staff as well. He and his family are active in many ways at their parish. Father Darrin Connall, rector of the Cathedral, spoke highly of Tony saying, “Many teenagers tend to be self-conscious and even self-centered at times. I am very proud of Tony’s willingness to sacrifice for something larger than himself. He is a fine young man.”
Besides his choice to make a gift of his hair, Tony continues to be active as an altar server at his parish. For Tony, the decision to serve at Mass is all about doing his part, giving of his time. When asked why he continues to serve, Tony spoke in terms of duty.
“I’m on the schedule so I have to do it. I really enjoy sitting in the pew; though, I really feel Mass should be a family experience as well as community experience. Even though I like sitting with my family in the pews, I got to help out, to do my part.” Tony said.
Tony’s desire to give show us all how we can better embrace the role of steward of our gifts. Giving not because there is a need but because we all have that interior drive to give. It is part of who we are, and sometimes it is young people who can best show that truth to us.