I'm not sure who left me the latest message, but I know Joyce has been ribbing me about my lack of posts since August 7th! I was hoping to encounter a little "quiet before the storm" before the beginning of the school year, but that simply has not happened -- for any number of folks associated with St. Norbert College. In fact, this past week - in particular - has been one of the most active of all times.
It began with the trip to San Francisco last weekend. As if the end result in the game was not bad enough, we then had to make the trek home on our chartered red-eye. I arrived back at the priory at 5:45 AM last Sunday. Normally on Sundays I am already up at this point doing the trail, practicing my homily over and over and over again. I realized that my best option was to stay up and then get a quick nap after the Sunday Mass.
In retrospect, I cannot remember all that much from last weekend's Mass, although I do remember the Baptism during Mass and after as well as an anointing that took place immediately after the Mass. I did have an opportunity to take a quick nap from 12 - 2 PM, and then it was off to the Abbey for our annual Mission & Heritage retreat weekend for the professional and student staff members of the SNC division. The energy of the students seemed to inspire my own as we all reconnected since being away since last May. Father Conrad and Judy Turba were our retreat directors -- they were a great hit, so much that the folks are asking for their return in January!
I had to slip out on Sunday night to return to the college campus to address the Green Knight Football team for the fourth year in a row at the request of Coach Jim Purtil. I am amazed at how disciplined these guys are; Coach certainly seems to have these guys in the palm of his hand -- and he expects the same respect from the guys when guest speakers like yours truly take the stage.
The retreat would resume on Monday and would come to a conclusion at 3 PM. So many wonderful activities in such a short period of time; it felt great to see the new year unfold.
All summer long, I had an engagement in my calendar that would require my presence in Milwaukee and Racine all day on Tuesday. While in Milwaukee I had an opportunity to visit my Uncle Ray who is an 89 year old resident in the Franciscan Villa in South Milwaukee. While Uncle Ray is slowing down physically and cognitively, his same welcoming spirit permeated the visit -- his kindness reminds me of his younger brother's similar disposition; my dad is equally kind to others, a trait I admire very much.
My meetings would take me to Racine for the next several hours. I don't think I ever realized that there was an actual "downtown" in Racine. I usually never make it far from the I 43 exits for gas and food. I have found that Racine is actually quite beautiful! The downtown is booming! There are great restaurants there and some wonderful stores and art galleries -- I'll be sure to return when I have more time to explore the area.
My tour guide was Sister Stephanie, OP, a Racine Dominican and chaplain for Catholic Athletes for Christ. I ventured out to the Sienna Center to meet her, and my experience at the convent began to remind me of earlier, happy days: I had been there on a couple of "Inter-Community Novitiate experiences" 22 years ago, my first year in the Novitiate. The place looks the same -- I do not! Boy does time fly! I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet the community president and one of the vice-presidents. It was surely a peaceable and prayerful setting.
The day would end with Sister Stephanie and me heading out to Miller Park for the Brewers /Astros game. On XM Fox News, I heard the reports that Milwaukee would be stepping back in time as Henry Winkler and friends were in town for the Bronze Fonz dedication. Fonzie was to be at the park to throw out the first pitch and Potsie was to sing the National Anthem. As Sister and I were walking to the park from the parking lot, we heard all sorts of commotion which resulted in our turning right to see a motorcade of 50's and 60's cars coming to the park carrying "Mr. & Mrs. C.," "Potsie" & "Ralph Malph," "Joanie" and "Laverne and Shirley" as well as "the Fonz" among others. "Richie" was not there but he did offer a pre-taped message at the beginning of the game.
What an unexpected surprise! Like many others my age, I grew up watching Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley each Tuesday night of my adolescent years. To see nearly all of them within arms reach was just unbelievable. Sister and I had seats right at the dugout -- which sparked many phone calls from students asking me to wave to them from row 2! At the 8th inning Sister and I would dart out of there in order for us to avoid traffic considering I'd travel back to Racine to bring Sister home, and then I'd head back to DePere, arriving precisely at 1:00 AM.
Wednesday would be a day filled with many meetings in preparation for the new academic year. One of the day's highlights was hearing new SNC President Thomas Kunkle addressing the college community at the onset of the new year *. Unfortunately, I would miss the President's dinner as I would meet up with a friend from my past who is off to Iraq. I've heard many wonderful reports about the dinner -- I'm sorry to have missed the event, but it was necessary to be elsewhere.
Thursday morning was pretty busy with meetings and then getting packed up for Denver. The flight out of Green Bay was a moment of quiet amidst a very busy week. Once we arrived at the airport, we made our way to the airport Weston Hotel. Given the majority of downtown hotels were already booked due to the Democratic National Convention, we avoided the city all together. Dinner on Friday night was one of the best experiences I've had with the Packers over these past 12 years *. The night would end early -- mountain air does have its effect!
As our Packer motorcade made its way to Invesco Field at Mile High, I looked west and noticed the threatening clouds coming over the Rockies. At this point I became a bit homesick as I recalled my days of CPE in Colorado Springs. Each early evening, ominous storm clouds would come from the mountains and create major rainfalls each day. Within the hour, it would be blue skys once again. Seeing a similar phenomenon on Friday night coupled with the highway signs for Colorado Springs prompted me to think that I should have tried to get to the Springs earlier in the day. But that would be impossible, given other game day responsibilities.
Boy, what a difference a week makes! The game was wonderful and quite exciting as the scores would go back and forth. The locker room scene was great, and the sounds of the men singing in the showers made it feel like last year all over again. I arrived at the Priory one hour early at 3 AM. Today has started a bit late, but there's much to do in anticipation of next week. Father Sal will have the 10 AM Mass at Old Saint Joe's, Father Jay will have the Mass of the Holy Spirit at 4:30, and I will have Packer Mass at 7 AM and a parish Confirmation retreat Mass for our students at the Abbey at 11 AM. So, I'll now direct my attention to cleaning out the trunk of my car while working on the homilies for tomorrow.
Perhaps that's more than Joyce or the other writers wanted to know. "TOO MUCH INFORMATION!" But through it all, I've enjoyed each and every encounter, coming to realize once again, "God's flock is in your midst. Give it a shepherd's care!"
* Tune in for next entry!