King of the Christmas card
By Nicole Sweeney Etter
No other Christmas card is quite like the one from Rev. John Naus, S.J. First, it probably arrives in July. Second, it comes with a heartfelt letter and little pile of printed sayings that spill out of the envelope like buried treasure. Each piece of paper contains a prayer or inspirational quote, like “See written on the forehead of everyone you meet today ‘Make me feel important’” or “A true friend is a glimpse of God.”
Father Naus believes the tradition began when he started at Marquette 46 years ago. Since then, his mailing list has grown to about 3,000 people.
“I’ve gotten to know so many people and become close friends with them, and I want to let them know that I appreciate their friendship,” he says. “Part of it is I’m saying, here’s Marquette talking to you. It’s not John Naus. I’m letting people know that Marquette is thinking about them.”
Sending so many cards is a team effort, which is why Father Naus has traditionally sent them in the summer, when he wasn’t teaching. His dear friends Tom Nolte, Arts ’84, and Mary Nolte, Nurse ’84, convene a group of about 30 alumni and students who spend an entire day assembling the cards.
“Everyone enjoys it, and it’s something that all of our volunteers really view as an honor,” says Mary, who has been receiving Father Naus’s cards since she graduated. “I think the personal letter is the thing we all most look forward to reading — he puts so much into the letter.”
The volunteers always prepare a few extra cards, knowing that Father Naus likes to pass them out to new acquaintances he makes throughout the year — like the students he visits with in the AMU cafeteria.
The Christmas cards are part of what makes Father Naus Father Naus — like concelebrating 10 p.m. Mass at St. Joan of Arc Chapel on Tuesdays or teaching students how to make balloon animals, a skill he learned during his Tumbleweed the Clown days. Now 85, he still comes to campus every day. And at Christmas card time — even if that falls in the middle of summer — the teacher has the chance to share a few more lessons with his Marquette family.
Check out some of our favorite photos of Father Naus over the years: