Suffering. A strong, young man lay silent on an operating table, while several surgeons ran through the routine checklists. Pain racked his body, and a hole in his neck exposed the tumor in his throat. A surgeon began to brief him.
“If the pain gets too great,” he said, “you just push this button here for an injection of morphine.”
“I want it removed,” replied the young man.
The doctor’s eyes widened. “What?” he said.
“I said I want it removed. Take it away.”
“No, you see, you don’t understand,” replied the surgeon, “you are about to experience more pain than you have ever felt in your entire life. We’ll leave it there… just in case.”
The young man turned his head. “No, doctor, you see, you don’t understand: in my condition, I can no longer work for boys the way I used to; this is all I have to offer up for them, and you’re not going to take it away from me! I want it removed.”
He was 20 years old, and he was a hero. His name was Brian Bisgrove.
Brian grew up in Auburn, NY on his father’s farm. Ever since he was 17, he knew he had to do something to help boys get to heaven — and he did. Though only a kid out of high school, Brian helped a priest build up a Catholic boys’ club in his hometown. He worked non-stop: recruiting co-workers, asking for funds, and running the activities.
Brian was magnetic. His captivating smile and outstanding athletic ability enabled him to win over many boys and to lead them to Christ. He never lost an opportunity to tell them about his best Friend.
Soon, the club had a few dozen members and three other clubs were growing rapidly. Brian also enlisted the aid of local businessmen to provide stability and continuity to the clubs. Though it was always a battle, everything seemed perfect… until Brian got cancer.
He was only 19 years old. It seemed like a tragedy. Countless friends and family members began to pray for healing. Brian just asked that God’s will to be done.
“I had prayed for suffering,” laughed Brian as he spoke with a local radio host, “and when this came, there was no way I could turn it down.”
Despite chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Brian continued working for the boys. Though no longer the robust athlete he had been, the warm smile on his face and the gruesome tumor in his neck spoke more eloquently than he ever had before.
Amidst incalculable pain, no one ever heard a complaint. Brian saw his suffering as God’s way for him to bring people to Christ. His answer to the standard question, “What is your present occupation?” was, “to save souls.”
It became apparent to Brian that in order to reach as many boys as possible, a club starter program was needed that would give youth a Christian formation in a father-son environment. Brian voiced this idea to his coworkers and soon work began on a large-scale program. It would be his last project.
On the night of February 10, 1998, a 21-year-old Brian Bisgrove received the last sacraments and smiled for the last time. As his eyes kissed his family goodbye, his face sent its last tremors of pain through his young and tortured body…and Brian passed away.
Brian’s funeral was the best attended event of the parish that year. Family, friends, relatives, and old schoolmates were present. People came from all over to say, “Thank you,” and in every pew there was a member of the club.
Brian never lived to see the fruit of his labor. Nevertheless, those that he inspired would develop a national leadership program for boys called CONQUEST, and another for girls called CHALLENGE, which currently run hundreds of clubs and camps across North America (see www.cywn.net
Today, thousands of young people owe a great deal of their success in life to a young man whom they never knew; a young man who didn’t stop fighting until death, even death on a cross.
His life is best summed up in the quote he chose for his funeral card:To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge,
To find the will of God is the greatest discovery,
And to do the will of God is the greatest achievement.
And he did.