Sunday, July 10, 2016

Coming to Champaign

Coming to Champaign

Greetings from the Heartland, ye faithful few stalwart readers of From the Eastern Front!  Having been reassigned by the provincial, I arrived at Holy Cross Parish in Champaign, Ill., about 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, and have been receiving a warm welcome ever since.

About the parish, see  Fr. Dave Sajdak, the pastor and my younger confrere, told me there were lots of pictures there, but I couldn’t find any. There are probably a lot on the Facebook page, which I can’t access. When we got a couple of nice, sunny days late last week, I shot several dozen and put them up at Shutterfly.

I’ve still got a lot of settling in to do—not just trying to figure out where to put my books and camping gear, but also finding doctors; signing up for Medicaid; changing my driver’s license; registering to vote; and learning the SDB community administration, the workings of the parish, the names of the people, the local geography, etc.

They said it was flat out here, and it is.  They said there was a lot of corn out here, and there is (there was across most of Ohio and Indiana too), with a little bit of soybeans on the side.

Champaign itself is a small city, pop. about 84,000, with a small but lively downtown—it is a college town after all, and UI is a very large school, with about 44,000 students.  The streets are laid out mostly in a grid, are well shaded, have sidewalks, and are lined with many stately old homes, at least in our part of the city—which is just a couple of blocks west of downtown.  Two interstates pass thru (74 and 57), and 72 starts here, running west toward Springfield (the state capital, home of Abraham Lincoln).  There are big shopping malls on the north side of 74, and Fr. Dave and I were already out there to shop for bookcases for the assistant pastor’s office. I’m looking forward to their delivery this Tuesday.

Getting here was an adventure, shall we say?  I was supposed to leave N.R. on Tuesday morning, June 28, but wasn’t nearly ready. In my rush to clean out my room, apparently I overlooked my clock-radio and have been without Morning Edition as my day starts ever since. Copying my computer files (documents and esp. photos) to my laptop took much longer than I’d imagined it would, and I didn’t finish doing all that—besides the packing and loading the rental truck—till 10:15 p.m.  The truck was a Penske 12-footer, which I didn’t quite fill up with clothes (esp. lots of winter clothing), books, camping gear, CDs, and various files.
In the rectory driveway at Holy Cross before unloading.
7 of the cartons of books are for the community library
and one that's potentially for the parish.
My brother-in-law David was extremely gracious in leaving the door open and porch light on for my eventual arrival in Columbia, Md.  I left New Rochelle at 10:30 p.m., drove in rain all the way thru New Jersey, with a gazillion semis keeping me company all the way down to Maryland.  I made a couple of stops to catnap and one for coffee, and got to Columbia at 4:00 a.m.  Rita and David were dog-sitting, and as soon as I stepped out of the truck (still out on the street), the dog began barking.  So much for a quiet entrance!  David calmed her down and went back to bed (of course), and I went right to bed (of course), having been up 23 hours straight.

I got up at 9:00, and after Mass and breakfast David and I visited a little bit.  Rita had gone to work, so I didn’t see her at all, unfortunately.  I left on the next leg of my trip at 11:00, driving across the length of Maryland and into West Virginia, then north toward Pittsburgh and west again across the W.V. panhandle.  How many people get to drive thru “Almost Heaven” (the motto on W.V.’s license plates) twice in one day?  The mountains and occasional rivers were pretty, and it was a fine day for travel.  Again, I had lots and lots of trucks keeping me company, most of them traveling faster than I.
At a rest stop on the Ohio-Indiana border.
After 8 hours of driving and short stops, I reached Columbus, where I overnited with an old friend from my 4 years of theological studies and pastoral ministry there.

From Columbus it took 6 more hours to drive across the rest of Ohio and all of Indiana (I took a long lunch stop, tho), and 40 miles into Illinois.  I guess Central Time started at the Illinois border; I didn’t notice any sign.  The 1st town in Illinois is Danville, which, as a former New Rochellean, I’ve been reminded numerous times is the REAL home of Dick Van Dyke (who is now 90 years old).

I was introduced at the Friday and Saturday a.m. Masses, the Saturday vigil Mass, and 3 Sunday Masses, the last of which I celebrated (having concelebrated at the others).  Apparently I got a passing grade as celebrant and homilist.

On Saturday evening, July 2, I began to meet the local clergy.  Every Saturday the priests of the vicariate gather for dinner at one of the parishes.  There were about a dozen of us at this one, including us 3 SDBs.  There are 3 of us here right now:  Fr. Dave, Fr. Joe Santa Bibiana my predecessor (who will leave on the 14th), and me.  Fr. Bill Bucciferro, one of the Newman Center chaplains, left on Friday for his vacation.  The area priests seem to be a friendly bunch; those from out of town are looking after 2 churches in separate little farm towns.  (Our gathering last nite, July 9, took place in Tolono, one of those small towns out in the corn fields, about a dozen miles south on U.S. 45—the last parish in the Peoria Diocese, geographically.

We had a quiet 4th here after declining an invite from a parishioner to a family cookout; not really sure why we didn’t go.  There were a lot of firecrackers, etc., in the neighborhood, and somewhere or other there were some official fireworks that we didn’t see.

My last full week in N.R. involved 2 day-long trips to Orange, one to pack up the research library, and one to load it and its bookcases onto a rented truck and transport it all back to N.R., where it originated in the Don Bosco Multimedia Center in the 1980s.  Now it’s reposing at Salesian Missions.  That, in part, is why it took me so long to get my personal stuff packed up.  There were also several more farewell dinners:  two with my godson’s family and other old friends from Connecticut; one with the community; and one with some of the Troop 40 Scouters and parents.  As Shakespeare said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”  Unlike Romeo and Juliet, I have no prospect of seeing these old friends again “on the morrow,” tho—God willing—eventually.

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