The first three months were filled with the goodbyes. Kathy went home to be with the Lord at the end of January, capping three months of hospitals and care. It was difficult living a couple of hours away, but it became easier when she moved to Berkeley. Last Thanksgiving was probably the best ever, but Christmas was spent in the Hospital. It was a joy to be a priest and be able to anoint her and to give her the Apostolic pardon. Please remember to keep her and accompany her with your prayers.
At Easter dinner, the first without her, I prepared her centerpiece, using the same little stuffed animal and vase she in which she made the centerpiece the year before. I think it will become a tradition.
2019 had another transition. Three years of teaching high school sophomores was apparently enough. The Bishop asked me if I would be willing to become the Catholic Chaplain at the Newman Center at Sonoma State University. I said yes, and so that ministry began in June right after I returned from my annual trip to Italy.
Italy was fun. I took a bunch of parishioners from St. Eugene and it was wonderful to see old sites through new eyes. I even was able to take them to my favorite restaurant in all the world, Ristorante Refugio San Gaspare, a marvelous Italian Restaurant on top of a Mountain in Umbria. No Menu, it is just what they are preparing that day. They feature a special Umbrian bread, Torta, that is fixed and served directly from the fireplace. Then there was the Strangozzi with Tortuffo. This is a dish that would be very expensive in the States and it would be the main course. Here it was a primi and there was more to come.
That was not my only international trip of the year. In October I went to the Holy Land as one of many chaplains on a trip organized around Patrick Madrid. There were 320 people on this tour, seven buses, but we all went to the sites at different times, so it did not seem so large. It was a huge blessing to walk the Via Dolorosa with these pilgrims.
One of the things I am good at is grilling burgers. This new job at the Newman center has given me ample opportunity to do just that. We started off the year with an opening BBQ and then on Wednesdays I offer a free meal to Catholic students and that means grilling burgers until the meat runs out.
One of the first things I did at the Newman center was attend to the chapel. The Chapel is the former garage of this house and in many ways, it still looks and feels like a garage. So, I proposed some changes and went in search of funds. The purpose of the changes proposed for the Newman center are for safety and beauty. The unsecured presence lamp is a fire hazard, and many doors present trip hazards. The chapel appears as a garage used as a chapel, rather than a chapel designated for sacred use. There is no secure place to place chalices, tabernacle keys, or to hang vestments. Beauty is the best catechesis and supports the teaching of the truth. A well celebrated liturgy is the best catechesis according to Pope Benedict. The New Year may see a new chapel.
One thing I was able to do almost immediately was to secure a new sign for the Newman Center. This was through the generosity of a local sign maker. It takes the place of a dilapidated cloth sign that no one could see. People who have come to mass have said they hadn’t known that we were here.
The rest of the year has been a round of various liturgies. We have had greater opportunity for the Solemn High Mass with two newly ordained deacons. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated with them in new vestments from Gammarelli.
The favorite part of my life is working for the wonderful Sisters. They are very good to me and take such good care for the Liturgy that it is a great joy to celebrate with them. There is nothing in this world quite like their Amice Art.
There is no one more important in our lives than Jesus. He entered in behind enemy lines in the greatest disguise. The world still opposes this child, but He loves us with a love that cannot be described. He takes the smallest place so that His majesty does not overwhelm us and He comes to us as our food each and every day. May this Christmas be the richest experience of his presence and his gift.