Summer’s Passage

I often remark that summer passes more swiftly than the other seasons; but, come to think, they all pass quickly except for the season of dirty snow in February and early March. This is true in my role as athletic chaplain. The wait seems endless for a team’s season to begin; then it seems to go by in a flash. It’s also true on the academic side: September moves at a stately pace; by November, we’re forging foward at full speed. With those thoughts as context, I find myself looking back gratefully and a little wistfully at this summer we’re still in. For us on the academic calendar, it’s about over. Passport students are already on campus; the football team returns in two days. So, while the memories are still strong, a few may be of interest to readers of this blog.

At first, summer was about talks, reunions, new connections. It was my privilege to host Mark Shriver ’86 when he returned to accept an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address. In the summer of 1985, I traveled to Poland and the Soviet Union with Mark and his classmate Dick Burke; reminiscing with them about that trip was part of the fun. Graduation day was glorious, and Mark added to the occasion with a talk that captured the spirit and content of Jesuit education with inspiration and humor.

A few days later, it was my turn. Closing out nine years of membership on the board of trustees of Cheverus High School in Portland ME,  I was asked by their president (Bill Campbell, S.J. ’87) to be the speaker. It was a grand occasion, downtown in the elegant Merrill Auditorium, with the 50-year graduates recognized at the beginning of the ceremony. Shortly thereafter, at the invitation of their planning committee, I offered Mass for the 25-year reunion Class of 1985. It was great to be with those alumni and former students in prayer, socializing, and table fellowship. At the mid-point of their professional careers, they remain stalwart Crusaders and a credit to alma mater. Finally, I subbed for Fr. McFarland in giving the address at the closing of Gateways on June 22. It’s a lot of fun to forumlate the traditions and patterns of Holy Cross and to pass them along to incoming students and their parents. Their enthusiasm for the project that lies before them is contagious.

And, of course, travel. There was a weekend in June at the country home in Maine of Joe O’Donnell ’66 and his wife Jet. Highlights included some excellent meals and a trip to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. At the end of June, the senior Scouts and leaders from my old troop in Milwaukee spent two nights in Healy Hall. We had a campus tour, went for a swim at the Hart Center, and also spent the better part of a day visiting Old Ironsides and the Freedom Trail in Boston. En route to Wisconsin and a visit with my mother, I stopped in upstate New York for a few nights with old friends. Fishing was on the agenda, and the traditional concert with fireworks by the New York Philharmonic at Bethel Woods on July 3rd.

After a few days of visiting Ma and old friends in Milwaukee, it was all about fishing. We were a party of four. Tom L, who bought and still heads my dad’s business, had me as his best man just before I entered the Jesuits. Tom P, engineer at the Bradley Company, got married the Saturday after I was ordained and he and Judy had me preside at their wedding. Both their weddings, but in a different capacity…. Julio, our fourth, is another former Eagle Scout and a fantastic addition to our number. We drove through the night of July 9/10 from Milwaukee to Duluth to the border crossing at International Falls; thence it was three hours of driving in Canada along the beautiful east shores of The Lake of the Woods, to Dogtooth Lake, not far from Kenora.

For a number of years, we did fly-in weeks in that part of northwestern Ontario. That was a kick, especially taking off and landing on the water and then spending a week comparatively isolated from the modern world and its conveniences. However, it also got expensive, particularly when the US dollar lost much of its edge against the Canadian. So now we boat in to our cabin and revel in a) the modern conveniences of electricity and plumbing; and b) its relative inexpensiveness. We’d get up early to fish until nine or ten, then return to the cabin for a country breakfast of ham or sausage; blueberry pancakes or French toast with maple syrup; or Tom L’s awesome omelets. Then, back to the lake for more action. Fishing provided more than enough of a catch to dine on walleyed pike, wonderfully delicious freshwater fish that Tom P grilled with expertise. Tom L took care of the fish cleaning, for the most part. I did the vegetables and spuds; Julio took the initiative on dish detail. Add a glass of white wine with the meal, and voila! about as close as we get to paradise in this vale of tears. The cabin had a wonderful screened porch where we ate all our meals but one breakfast on a rainy day. And then there were the evenings on the water, with Canadian sunsets that provided me with computer wallpaper for the coming year. The luckiest day was Tuesday, when I was wearing the pink T-shirt from the breast cancer fundraiser of last year’s hockey team. It was a disease that took my sister’s life at a young age, and a cause close to me heart.  Anyway, the shirt brought luck, and we pulled in the walleyes between 25 and 29 inches that day. I should also mention that on my very last cast of the trip, Friday evening, I caught a walleye, ending the day with a smile on my face!

The sorrow of leaving on Saturday morning was compounded by the phone call with news that Dr. Walsh had passed away. Of him, more on another occasion. I will sorely miss his company on the football sidelines and basketball courtside, not to mention the bus rides and meals we shared for so many years.

Finally, last week, over 100 of us New England Jesuits made a common retreat at Fairfield University. It was a week of grace, great to be involved in prayer with so many of my brother Jesuits, reconnecting with them even in the midst of the silence that (mostly) characterized our atmosphere.

So the summer ends, and we turn towards preparing the new academic year. I see by the STAR system of student records that my freshman American Themes course is full; I’ll get that course ready first, then turn to the others. But I do so with warm and happy and grateful memories of a summer that passed all too quickly.

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