Today's post comes from our formation house in Chicago, where we just finished a wonderful fiesta celebrating the ordination to the diaconate of Rev. Mr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry, M.M. by Bishop Gustavo Garcia, MSpS, auxiliary of Chicago.
All the food for the 175+ guests was prepared by Sem. Tony Lopez and Brother candidate Glen D'Angelo, with help from the others. (The pulled pork and potato salad were exceptional!)
I am happy to report the spirit at the house is upbeat (albeit pleasantly chaotic) with so many Maryknoll guests: Frs. José Aramburo and Ed McGovern representing the General Council, Rev. Mr. Steve DeMartino and Fr. Dennis Moorman from our vocations office, Fr. Jim Noonan, Fr. Pete Chabot, Fr. Gerry Persha, Fr. Dave LaBuda and yours truly.
Rodrigo's parents were also in from Virginia. Mrs. U-C gave a wonderful greeting to all the Maryknollers before Mass where she tearfully shared how initially she feared she'd be "losing" her son when he first told them he wanted to become a priest. Now, she said, her heart is overflowing with happiness and pride. Mr. Ulloa spoke in Spanish on how happy he was and filled with gratitude for Maryknoll.
This was all a warm-up for the liturgy at St. Clare of Montefalco (Cappuchin) church where Rodrigo had taught religious ed prior to his OTP. His former students were all there! The litany of the saints during the prostration is always a tear-jerker for me, but at the end of the ceremony when Rodrigo went and knelt in thanksgiving before an image of Our Lady of Guadelupe, I lost it.
I wasn't alone. Apparently Jim Noonan also lost it in the sacristy, but in this case "it" refers to his stole which mysteriously disappeared between the time he put it down and the time he took off his alb. (See section on security and surveillance cameras in my previous post!)
All the Maryknollers here were impressed not only with Rodrigo, but with all our candidates. We have a fine bunch of guys willing to throw in their lot with us in mission.
Last week back at the Knoll, several of us discussed whether the candidates should spend more time at the Center. No doubt they add life to the place and I must confess I was among those who like having them around. After all, they say they enjoy hearing our mission stories and meeting our "living" history. I didn't at all like hearing from guys on the other side of the question, who contend that a short visit of a few weeks or maybe even a month is OK, but anything longer runs the risk the prolonged exposure to too many toxic personalities and the negative vibes just below the surface at the Knoll could in fact be detrimental to our candidates.
Having just spent three days with them in Chicago, I have to say I must now agree with this position. There are enough challenges and personal conflicts with ten candidates living in the same house without adding our own neuroses to the mix. The saving grace is that, for whatever difficulties are inherent in formation, the candidates feel their formators, Fr. John Eybel (rector) and Br. Joe Bruenner, sincerely care about them. The men said as much to me. A good sign! Maryknoll's future is in good hands.
So, many thanks to John and Joe for their hospitality! To Deacon Rodrigo for his inspiration and witness today. To Shawn Crumb, Chace Olinger, Angel Garcia, Jonathan Hill, Tony Lopez, and Glen D'Angelo for their many kindnesses and friendship. Thanks to Philip Yang for inviting me to a Chusok (Korean Harvest Moon Festival) at the Columbans last night, and special thanks to Daniel Kim and Peter LaToef for taking me to Midway airport today.
John and Joe invite Maryknollers to visit the formation house when in Chicago and to talk with the men. It will rekindle your zeal for mission!