By 1:30 I was able to hit the road and make my trek to the Twin Cities via Highways 29 & 94. I had so much work to get done, nonetheless, so I was able to do so with the assistance on my cell phone even though I lost the majority of my contacts several weeks ago in a phone mishap! Further, have you ever tried to maintain a cell phone conversation in Western Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley? Come to think of it, I've never seen in those parts that creepy Verizon guy with all his friends following him! I suppose that's a good thing! My phone call conversations were pretty frustrating and pretty short lived given the weak reception -- perhaps that would be a reminder to keep my eyes on the road and my hands on the wheel. After one last very important call, that would be the case.
While headed west, I really was not certain where I'd end up with the friends who were in need. I had suggested to them that I'd meet in a mall, in a park, in a restaurant -- anywhere where we could have a decent conversation with limited distractions. Now if I were meeting in Chicago, I'd have any number of suggestions for specific meeting places. But because I am not all that familiar with the Twin Cities, I would need to rely on the creativity of the two friends to come up with the perfect spot to meet.
One of the two friends suggested Guardian Angels Catholic Church. Ironically, this is a place with which I have complete familiarity! Years ago during the Lourdes building project, I would venture out to see other church building projects to open my mind a bit about contemporary church architecture. Guardian Angels was adding new to old just as we were, so I've been there several times before. Not only is Guardian Angels quite a massive church structure, but it also celebrates a very impressive liturgy and a great variety of parish offerings. Given it is immediately adjacent to I 94, it would be an "easy off -- easy on" choice to make. Given the church shares a parking lot with a Best Buy, I couldn't think of any better setting!
I called "411" and the operator immediately connected me to Cindy, the parish secretary. I'm sure my plea must have sounded pretty bizarre, but I simply introduced myself, told her where I was from, and asked her if she had any space where I could meet with a couple of friends who could benefit from a little pastoral care. I was surprised by her immediate response; she said, "No problem whatsoever, Father. Our church is your church." Given she'd be away upon the time of my estimated arrival, she told me she would connect me with Denny, the parish administrator.
In all honesty, I did not want to talk with Denny! I had such a decent conversation with Cindy and given I was just offered a green light, I did not want to complicate the issue or compromise the offering! Denny was now connected, so I began my mantra all over again. Denny was every bit as much hospitable as was Cindy. He stated, "Father, we understand these issues. That's why we're here. We have any number of places where you can meet with a couple of friends." Denny offered the entire place for me with the exception of the places where the parish finance council was meeting and where a small wedding rehearsal would take place in the old church, which now serves as the parish's Daily Mass Chapel. I thanked Denny for the offer and I told him I'd look him up when I arrived on the scene.
Thirty minutes later, I would meet both Cindy and Denny. Denny was quite the host while Cindy was rapping up the work of the day, ready to head home. It was with a true sense of pride that Denny gave me a first class tour of the entire church building including the sanctuaries -- old and new -- the quilting supplied by some of the parish "angels," and he showed me his pet project: a newly developing prayer garden at the west end of the church. Once the friends appeared, Denny would quietly disappear. I would not see him again.
The friends and I would then spend the next three hours talking and talking and talking with almost zero distractions. The only distraction was that of the wedding party making their way to and from the Daily Mass Chapel -- it was a welcomed distraction as we noticed the happiness and anticipation on their young faces. As we would begin to wrap up our discussion for the night which would allow me time to get back to DePere in just four more hours, I mentioned how wonderful it was that we were welcomed into the church for our meeting. Everything seemed to work out so well with the space. I couldn't help but think that it was the work of the Holy Spirit that directed us there this past Thursday. In retrospect, perhaps it was our Guardian Angels!
We mentioned how cool it was that being Catholic, we simply had to make a call and the doors were completely opened to us -- open doors, open minds, open hearts. While neither of us were members of this particular parish, Guardian Angels was our church. As Catholics, wouldn't we expect such a welcome from a church like this? Yes! But it does not always happen, as I've encountered many times before. I now began to realize why Guardian Angel's present moment would be as blessed as is its 152 year heritage. Cindy and Denny represented not only the best of Guardian Angels, but the best of the Church as well.
Once we exited the church and made our way to the parking lot, I noticed a large piece of paper flapping in the wind which was pinned under my windshield wipers. I wondered if it was a note from Cindy or Denny. One of the friends wondered if it was hate mail from a Vikings fan considering my car not only sports Wisconsin Packer license plates, but a "G" Packer Personnel Parking Pass which dangles below my rear view mirror. I was not as pessimistic as my friend. I did not think a Vikings fan would take the time to find a pen and paper to write me a nasty note telling me to hit the state line and pass quickly beyond the Cheddar Curtain. No, they'd simply "key" my car, or so I osuggested!
As I approached the car, I noticed no damage, just a note which read the following:
Just wanted to say hi to good old 'JB;'
didn't want to interrupt your meeting in church.
Great to see you if only for a wave hello.
Hope all is well!
Say hi to SNC for me!
I'll see you in the Fall.
Class of 2010