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His hands shake as he breaks the bread. They shake as he lifts the gold chalice to his lips.

This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Priests say those words aloud at Mass. But this priest doesn't. He can't.

All Monsignor Leonard Kalin can do this Tuesday at 6 a.m. Mass, which he's celebrating before an altar in his front closet, is mumble.

He has Parkinson's disease. Now he's coughing. Hard. Seems he's choking on the wine.

A crucifix swings from the end of Rosary beads, wrapped around the arm of his motorized wheelchair.

None of the parishioners gathered in the priest's little townhouse at Legacy Terrace retirement community does anything to help him.

Not the old man, praying silently in a chair in the living room, a walker at his side. He lives in the main building and comes here often for daily Mass.

Not the middle-aged man kneeling at the priest's side, who's been lifting the priest from his motorized wheelchair, propping him up with strong hands to stand, stooping, over the altar.

Not Mother Teresa, watching from a photo on the wall.

Not the two angels on the altar.

No. They've all seen this before. They wait a few minutes.

He stops coughing.

Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen.

His back used to be straight. His body lean and strong. He was an athlete who ran every day, often at the old "Mushroom Gardens" track beneath Memorial Stadium at the university.

His voice used to boom.

For three decades, it bounced off the walls of Newman Student Center, the Catholic Church near the campus. He challenged his flock of young people to be holy. He told them about hell. He told them — some hungover from partying — that life was not just about pleasure.

It was about sacrifice, too.

Some young people went to hear him because their parents told them they had to. Some went because they wanted to. Some were inspired.

He helped many young men to enter the priesthood, maybe more than any other priest in the diocese. He helped many young women to become nuns.

Some couldn't hear him, no matter how loudly he spoke.

He prays for them now before his little altar.

"Body of Christ," he whispers, breathing hard.

"Amen," says the old man.

"Amen," says the middle-aged man.

His hands shake as he slowly distributes the bread.

Mass is over. The monsignor backs his wheelchair away from the altar, parks it at the kitchen table.

The old man heads to the door.

"Thank you, monsignor. Lord willing, I'll see you tomorrow."

The middle-aged man lifts off the priest's vestments, folds them, goes to the kitchen to make breakfast. The smells of toast and coffee fill the condo.

There's a line of four orange medicine bottles awaiting the priest on the kitchen table. There's a bottle of Culligan water, for when he starts choking again.

There's a photocopied booklet from Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center: "Parkinson's Disease and Exercise." It instructs the priest to pinch his shoulder blades together, stretch his sides, stand beside a chair and lift his legs.

It lists the major symptoms of Parkinson's: tremors. Stiffness.

Slowness of movement. Impaired balance.

"So many symptoms," he whispers.

He smiles now. His eyes twinkle.

"I said in second grade I wanted to be pope."

Suffering is difficult, he says, but everyone suffers. If it's united with Christ's suffering on the cross, he says, it has purpose. It's redemptive. So he offers up his suffering "for the sins of the whole world."

Whenever his brother Bill, a priest in Oregon, calls to check on him, he always tells him: Leonard, you're doing more for God now than you ever did.

The middle-aged man sets a plate of toast on the table. The priest scoops his spoon into red jelly, dropping some on the table near his medicine bottles.

His hands shake as he slowly brings the bread to his lips.

Reach Colleen Kenney at 473-2655 or

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