Reflections from 37,000 feet

I begin this some where south of Iceland with just under five hours left in my flight from Rome. It came as a surprise to find a fair number of empty seats on this flight. I am blest with two seats next to the window on our 767. Today’s flying time from Rome to Newark will take just over nine hours. That is more or less normal for this flight as we tend to fly against the wind when headed west. I also notice our flight path is back to normal now that the volcano, about 600 miles north of us, is belching less ash and not disrupting flights to, from and around Europe.

Our Vatican visits ended yesterday with one to the Congregation for the Clergy at 09:00 and a joint meeting with LCWR at 11:00 to Oriental Churches. Both meetings were very interesting and gave us much food for thought.

The Congregation for the Clergy has greater dealings with diocesan clergy, but since so many men religious are also ordained, there is much overlapping interest. Thanks to our dialogue and the perceptive questions of His Eminence Cláudio Cardinal Hummes, OFM, we will have some areas to look at when we begin the next revision of our Instruments of Hope and Healing.

The same can be said about our visit with the new secretary at Oriental Churches. It was interesting to hear about religious life coming out of the Oriental traditions. Since many of the Eastern Churches were under Communist rule, religious life suffered greatly, and is still recovering from this difficult period. This is an area the monastic communities of CMSM may better understand as religious life in the East certainly comes out of the monastic tradition.

Since we had the afternoon free I took the opportunity to visit our generalate one more time. I arrived just in time for pranzo (the main meal of the day). I was joined by Fr. David Szatkowski, scj, who is finishing up his doctoral program in Canon Law at The Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas. David will return to the States in June and begin teaching at Sacred Heart School of Theology this fall.  David will also become our official province canonical expert. Actually, he has proven helpful numerous times since first earning his license (STL) around the time I became provincial.

Fr. Francis Vu Tran, scj, missed pranzo due to his language school lessons, but joined us shortly after we had finished eating. Francis will begin studying Biblical Theology this fall at The Pontifical Gregorian University. He arrived in Rome about a week ago and will use this time to continue his Italian lessons that he began last summer at Perugia to be ready for the fall semester.

There are a number of SCJs in house getting ready for the formation program the congregation will run during the 2010-2011 academic year. Since the course will be taught in Italian it is necessary for some to come now to pick up the language. I met about four or five SCJs from Asia who left this week for Perugia where many (including myself) first begin their language studies. To this day I have fond memories of my time in this ancient city in the heart of Umbria — still my favorite part of Italy.

After taking advantage of the house washing machines to wash a week’s worth of dirty laundry I headed back to Domus Carmelitana. Our last evening in Rome was in search for that elusive best pizza al forgo (pizza made in a wood burning oven). Although the service left something to be desired the consensus was pretty good pizza, and so the search will  go on the next visit to la Bella Citta.

Now that would be a great way to end this blog, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention Monday evening’s reception sponsored by CMSM and LCWR. Thanks to the Conventual Franciscans of Rome we were inside Vatican City at the College of Confessors at St. Peter’s Basilica where Friars who serve as confessors at St. Peter’s live. This photo of their community house does little justice to the beauty of the roof top and it’s view of St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as the Vatican gardens, that helped form the back drop on a warm pleasant late April Roman evening.

So now I fly back just in time to preside tomorrow at Sacred Heart School of Theology graduation ceremony. It is always a bittersweet moment. On the one hand you are proud and pleased to watch men receive their degrees while at the same time you say good-bye to men you’ve come to know so well. I know some came four years ago filled with doubt if they could really make the grade. And now we say good-bye as many prepare for their ordinations and the dream of serving as a minister of the Gospel. We wish them Godspeed and realize that in a few months the cycle will begin again!

Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ, from 37,000 feet

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