Christmas travels bring SCJ in touch with province’s past

One of the international Nativity sets on display during Fr. Tim's visit to the Montréal community.

One of the international Nativity sets on display during Fr. Tim’s visit to the Montréal community. This crèche is from Africa.

Fr. Tim Gray, SCJ, is a member of the formation team at the Dehon Formation Community in Chicago. Recently he reflected on his holiday travels, travels that took him from a former SCJ seminary in Pennsylvania, to visits with fellow SCJs in Canada, where he once ministered. He writes:

I began a two-week swing through the Northeast this Christmas. I stopped to visit family, friends, and also SCJ confreres. Three visits of note were in Honesdale, Pa., Toronto, and Montréal, Quebec.

While in Honesdale I visited the Hnatko family, who are well known to many SCJs. They lived at the building at Kilroe for over a year as caretakers before it was sold. It was so good to see Marge and much of the family; they send their greeting to all the SCJs. [Editor’s note: the building to which Fr. Tim refers was at one time the location of one of the province’s seminaries.]

The former Kilroe Seminary now houses the Himalayan Institute

The former Kilroe Seminary now houses the Himalayan Institute

Of interest to even more SCJs is the status of the building at Kilroe. It continues to serve as the headquarters of the Himalayan Institute, a center for growth and healing, which has used the building since 1979. It is absolutely fascinating to me how familiar it still looks! Very little has changed – the person giving me the tour pointed out how durable both the building and the furnishings have been.  Almost all the original equipment in the kitchen and laundries is still in service. There are still chairs from the visiting rooms, in colors that have since come back into style!

Fascinating is that the building continues to be filled with people dedicated to a spiritual life, who spend months or years living in the same conditions as we seminarians did – simple rooms, common baths and toilets, common meals, sharing in housework and other chores. Almost all the work is done by volunteers – there are only a handful of paid employees. The irony, of course, is that they abandoned their center in the Chicago area to move to Honesdale just as we SCJs were doing the opposite. It surely brings a strange mix of feelings to see such familiar surroundings in the service of God, much different than the one we lived in the 1950s and 60s, and yet so perennial.

After spending Christmas with my father and my sister’s family in Maine, I drove to Montréal to enjoy the great hospitality of the SCJs there. Fr. Claude Bédard looks and sounds great [Fr. Claude recently underwent treatment for cancer.]. He expects reconstructive surgery, but it will not prevent him from singing in two operas this spring. All others are fine. I was totally amazed by the collection of Nativity sets from around the world they have collected over the years! I took as pictures of as many of them as I could – I lost track at around 55. It outdoes the Christmas display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. I’ll share the pictures with anyone who is interested.

Fr. Tim Gray

Fr. Tim Gray

I continued through icy conditions to Toronto, which was devastated by the storms. Our parish lost power for one day; many people were out for a week! The house on High Park feels very different with only three regular residents: Fr. Peter McKenna, Fr. George Coppens, and new arrival Fr. Antonius Purwono, from Indonesia. Fr. Jim Casper, Fr. Willyans Prado Reposo, and Fr. Aegi Warsito are in residence at St. Thomas More parish and return only for the weekly meal. I’m sorry I missed the chance to visit the parish; Fr. Aegi assured me that they would have found a Mass for me to celebrate in Spanish! The parish is massive: 7,000 families, very multicultural. A wonderful SCJ ministry.

So Happy New Year to all, from all, and back to work.

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