Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Year of the Woman

Until 1999 Time Magazine put out an annual edition titled Man/Woman of the Year, although only four women ever appeared on the cover, Wallis Simpson, Queen Elizabeth, Corazon Aquino and, as half its man/woman of the year, Soong Mi-Ling. In 1999 the edition was re-titled Person of the Year.

Who knows who Time Magazine will anoint when it puts out its “Year of” edition, but I would hope it is “The Year of the Woman.” It is hard to deny that women as a whole have played an enormous role in events this past year, in politics and in finally coming out of the closet of abuse.

I am going to honor six women who will never make the cover of a magazine, but women I have known who have made an impact on me and on others. Two are living, four are recently deceased.

The first is Patrizia, seen here second from the right, who lives in the family home in Pisa, where Ernie and I had the pleasure of visiting her nineteen years ago. Since then she has visited us and we have spent time with her in our son and daughter-in-law’s house in Virginia. That’s Gody, our daughter-in-law in the middle. Patrizia met Gody in Rwanda when she was working for the United Nations in the early 1990s. Patrizia knew all of Gody’s family and recognizing what an exceptional person Gody was and how bleak the outlook was for Rwanda, she took her back to Italy to live with her and her renowned and revered husband Marco, who taught at the University of Pisa. Gody trained as a nurse and watched from afar as Patrizia’s predictions were fulfilled.

I have also had the pleasure of spending time with the other three women in the photograph. (They were all together this past summer in Pisa to celebrate Patrizia’s 70th birthday.) On the left is Beatrice, Gody’s cousin. Between her and Gody is Yvonne, Gody’s youngest sister and on the right is Apauline, Gody’s younger sister. Both Yvonne and Apauline have visited us in Michigan, and they are delightful young women.

Theirs is not my story to tell and although I have heard some of it, it is not a history I would ever feel comfortable inquiring about. I do know that without the hard work and persistence of Patrizia some of these women would not be living such fulfilling lives, or even alive at all. Patrizia was aided in her humanitarian efforts by being a politician and working with the European Court of Human rights. Born in Egypt, she has the mastery of English and French as well as Italian. She has remained close to the friends she made in Rwanda. Here she is with Gody at the wedding of Gody’s brother Jean-Baptiste in Kigali.

In spite of all her accomplishments in the political sphere, she is now content with  her life as a mother and grandmother. While Wikipedia is crammed with information of the committees she served on in the Italian and European parliaments, I honor for her selflessness and generosity and I remember her most clearly sitting on our patio at one of our outdoor movie events for our grandchildren, laughing uncontrollably at the antics of Mr. Bean.

She’s a woman to celebrate and admire.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

And For One Saint (or almost Saint) in Particular

Fr. Solanus Casey had been dead nine years before we came to Detroit, but we soon learned  his legend, not so much from the church, but from the secular press. This man of peace was written about at length during the Detroit riots, and his order, the Capuchin Order, was renowned for their soup kitchen, which served the needy back in the great depression and is doing yeoman work today.

We took him and his story for granted. We live only eight or so miles from St. Bonaventure, where he was stationed towards the end of his life. When the order erected a Fr. Solanus Center next to the church, we often took visitors there. You can see his few possessions, including his robes and the violin which he played extremely badly. He was born in Wisconsin, one of sixteen children. He held various menial jobs until he realized he had a calling. The seminary where he started to study for the priesthood politely asked him to leave. Latin was too hard for him and the German which was the secular language of the seminary did not come easily to his Irish tongue. The story was the same when he was transferred to the Capuchin Seminary. He was, however, ordained as a priest simplex, which meant he could not preach or hear confessions. He moved around the country and lived for a time in Yonkers. Eventually he came to Detroit and was given the most menial of tasks, that of porter. It fell to him to open the door of the monastery for those who visited, and it was here that he came into his own. You only need to Google his name to find the numerous stories of his kindness, humility and readiness to talk to people from all walks of life. His reputation made the monastery a magnet for people with illnesses, problems or needs. Over 8,000 people attended his funeral.

So it was no surprise that Pope John Paul II set Fr. Solanus on the road to sainthood, and the last but one step was celebrated in Detroit last Saturday. Not in a church or basilica, but in Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions football team. 60,000 people braved the horrendous weather to attend Fr. Solanus’ Beatification, the last step before Canonization.

We were among the 60,000 in the vast building. Not only did we procure tickets (and good ones thanks to the relationship between the Capuchins and our parish), but we also got to ride on a bus and to avoid the misery of parking. As we got as to the assigned parking, the heavens opened. We did not have far to walk, but there were enormous puddles on the street, and the line for security was outside and long. Thanks to the two delightful women who sheltered us under their umbrella and admiration for the Capuchin monks who came from all over the country and braved the rain in their long brown robes and sandals.

There was of course much ceremony and gorgeous singing. The huge jumbotron which usually shows images of touchdowns allowed us to follow the events and see close-ups of friends who were singing in the choir. A great day, and affirmation that saints can be the most humble of people.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

For All the Saints . . .

Yesterday was All Saints Day, and as has become a custom in our church, we commemorated those people who had been buried from the parish in the last year.  In past years we may not have been familiar with any of them, sometimes we knew one or two. This year in addition to the few whose names we recognized or whose faces we knew, there were five close friends and family members whose funerals we attended here at St. Ambrose. The families of the deceased were invited to light candles from the Easter candle and place them on the altar. We were also invited to place candles for those others who were buried in other parts of the city or country. As we added them up, we realized we had lost five other relatives and friends in the last twelve months.

I suppose this is a pattern that will only increase as we age and one of these days there will be candles placed on the altar for us. But in the meantime, farewell to our friends and relatives Dan, Bob, Barbara, Beverly, Leona, Lynne, Betty, Earl, Jim and Vickie.

"Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come."