Thursday, June 17, 2010

A week away - grace abounds

Last Thursday I picked up and left Honduras for seven days – purportedly to go to the fortieth anniversary of my graduation from the University of Scranton.

The reunion was fascinating. The University of Scranton has changed from about 1800 male undergraduates to 4000 plus undergraduates of both sexes. There are lots of new buildings and two new buildings in the works. The new student center is huge and, for me, over the top in terms of luxury.
About 22 alums of the class of 1970 showed up. We were the class that was somewhat transitional - the war, the draft, the changes and challenges of the late 1960s affected us.
A number of classmates I knew have died and others didn’t show up for various reasons. But there were some I remembered well, others I vaguely remembered, and others I remembered when I saw the 1970 yearbook pictures. Some are doctors, lawyers, professors, and other professionals; some are retired.

Joe Cimini (left) and Joe Castine (center) were two classmates I remembered well. (Joe was one of the activists then.)

Dinner was at "the estate," a home built by the Scranton family but which was the Jesuit residence when I was at Scranton. Now it's the admissions office.

Here’s the photo of the larger before dinner on Saturday night. Note that I’m the only one without a sport coat.

But there were other joys of my visit – meeting several University of Scranton professors interested in Latin America, meeting retiring professors Steve and Ellen Casey, and having dinner with some old friends who had been active with the Scranton Fellowship of Reconciliation. I'm hoping to get back to Scranton in October when I make my visit to family near Philadelphia and to St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa.

Monday was a real highlight for me. I decided to visit Brother Joe Trunk, OFM, a brother who worked at the farm in Callicoon, NY, during my high school and two years of college in the seminary there.

He’s 90 years old and is only slowing down a little bit. Until two years ago he was the vicar of the community at the retirement home and infirmary of the Holy Name Province Franciscans in Ringwood, NJ. Now he is in a wheel chair but is on the internet with a sprightly mind and a great spirit. We talked of many things, including reminiscing about John Hickey, a seminary classmate of mine who died last year. Brother Joe has been a real blessing to so many people. It was a blessing to talk with him.

I also saw two of my high school teachers there but didn’t have a chance to talk with them.

After that I spent time with a good friend of mine whom I met at Don Bosco camp in the summer after fifth grade, I think. Msgr. Tim Shugrue is in a parish in Cranford, NJ, and so he treated me to a great Italian meal and was an incredible host, getting up at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am yesterday to take me to the Newark airport.

But on Tuesday I took a quick trip into New York City, a place I love (but I don’t think I could live there again,)

I visited another seminary classmate, now a lawyer. I also visited Sebastian Yacklin, a former Iowa State University student, whom I got to know at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa, where he was involved in the Service team.

He’s volunteering at Covenant House and had the day off. We ended up walking around, mostly in the East village area, as he endured me showing him some of my haunts when I was in the City between 1970and 1974.

I wanted to show him McSorley’s Old Ale House on Seventh Street. We entered had a beer and talked a bit. As we left I suddenly remembered a time I had come to McSorley’s after classes in the fall of 1972, I think. A new guy had begun classes and he and I sat and talked at length.

At that time I as a bit estranged from the Church, mostly because of the church’s failure to be forthright on the Vietnam War. Joe and I talked and sometime afterwards we talked more. He led me back to the practice of my faith – partly through attending Masses with the Little Brothers of the Gospel, then in the Lower East Side, and through a retreat at the Benedictine Monastery of Mount Saviour.

As we left I identified what I thought was the table we philosophers sat around that night and remembered the grace of God that brought me back.

And so, thanks be to God!

1 comment:

Mike said...

It was great to meet you last week. I'm glad to read that you enjoyed your trip. Hopefully, we'll have you back later in the year.