These letters all tend to be brief. Even the account of his 20th birthday joy is brief in the March 27th letter, but even so, there is a thoroughness in covering all the major activities of his life during this time. The surprise letterhead of the Easter letter telescopes the new ‘trial’ in the city of Toronto at the Catholic Rehabilitation Service. There is a reference in the May 24th letter to the ‘status’ which at that time in the Society of Jesus was published usually once a year assigning each Jesuit in the Province to their ministry.
March 27, 1963
Dear Mum and Dad;
....[T]hank all my dear sisters and brothers for their kind greetings on my birthday. It was a great hauling in the mail and having my desk covered with birthday cards and letters. And all the greetings reached me before or on the day itself...Even that splendid parcel of goodies arrived on my birthday.... We ate all those lovely cookies and squares, the cake...on the feast of St. Joseph. I was commissioned to thank you and tell you that many a prayer was offered for you on that day...
You can imagine how relieved I was to get that sermon off my chest on the nineteenth. I learned a great deal by giving that sermon. One thing I learned in particular is the power of St. Joseph for the many fervent prayer offered to God through him produced a successful sermon and not to bad a delivery.
I was going to write this letter this past week-end but two people came for a retreat and I was chosen to give it. Imagine me giving a retreat to two people. This is the second retreat I have given and still it seems funny to me that I should be giving a retreat... It is on a week-end like that I get much practice typing for there are about five points or conferences a day and I typeout an outline for the retreatants, so that means about two or three hours of typing a day.....
Well, spring seems to be here. We had some rain a couple nights ago which melted practically all the snow. There are birds flying around; robins, kildeers, crows, and as ever, sparrows. The Speed river, our little creek, has broken up and the water is as high as ever. Practically every day there is a warm wind blowing. The handball season is about to commence and I am looking forward to playing....
On Tuesday we left after dinner for catechism but we got to Our Lady’s, the big cathedral in Guelph, and it began to rain. I called Fr. Fischer [Father Master] from the rectory. He picked us up by car and drove us home. It was too bad really because there are not too many more weeks left to teach and there is so much we want to teach. But such is life...
Again, thank you mum and dad and all for everything, and don’t forget to pray for me. Just to show you why, I will tell you that out of the twenty that entered with me there are only thirteen of us left. So you can see it is only the grace of God that keeps us here and give us a vocation.
My next letter will be at Easter.
Easter 1963 [April 14th]
Dear mum, dad and all the family;
I began a letter last week but never did get it done. As you can see from the letter head I am now working in Toronto on the social trial. This is my first morning at the office and what a time it has been. Father McDougal was speaking on T.V. this morning for the C.B.C. I came back to my office to type this letter and low and behold I was asked to use my hand on television. (They had me motion to a picture of Moses indicating his long hair. The girl drew a cross on my thumb to represent a tatoo.) What do I do at the office? I interview unfortunate people who come here for help and do my best for them. (It is extremely interesting work.)
....And how were things at Guelph? Just before I left it was the most beautiful time of the year: the sun was shining; the birds [were] singing; the wind [was] warm...; the snow [was] gone; the grass [was] growing greener and greener by day....
All of this brings to mind the feast of Easter, so aptly placed at this time of year....
I was going to say that enclosed is my Easter gift for the whole family, all of our relatives, friends and neighbours, but I am sorry to say I lost the card I had made from a piece of parchment in the confusion of coming to Toronto. If I find it I will forward it later. (It consists of twenty Masses, communions and fifty rosaries.)
May God bless all of you! Please remember me in your prayers.
May 24, 1963
Dear mum, dad and all;
....On the sixteenth of this month all the primi and four ‘secundi’ went to shrine. That left nine of us at home to keep the fires burning. We have been rather busy but it is so quiet that the break is enjoyable. Just before they left we had our Greek exam. Unfortunately I don’t feel the results will be very good, but not everyone is a Greek scholar.
For the past week we have been having the strangest spring weather. It has been so cool, in fact yesterday it was near freezing. But today it seems to be warming up at last. The cold weather has slowed up the tree blossoms. The lilacs, pear, apple and other flowering shrubs and trees are blooming now and they smell and look lovely. It is especially enjoyable to see the whole orchard blooming....
Yesterday was the Feast of the Ascension. We had a solemn High Mass and solemn benediction. It was great fun for me. (I am now a sacristan again). We used gold vestments, and shined up all the candlesticks and vessels a few days before. Everything turned out well. (One of the brothers arranged a couple of bouquets of apple-blossoms for the altar.)
....Just last Tuesday the yearly status (information sheet telling people or I should say Fathers and brothers where they will be working in the future.) came out.
One of my fellow novices, Brother Doucet, a Winnipeg man, and a novice of last year, Brother Parent from Montreal, will be going to India. There is a large group going to Spokane this year including Joe Schuck and a couple of novices of my year. In about two months all the ‘secundi’ will be going to the Juniorate for the annual French course and by September there will be only fifteen of us in the Juniorate.
It hardly seems possible that almost two years have passed since that big train trip east! And I suppose the next two years will travel even more quickly....
Please say hello to all our friends and relatives for me and please remember me in your
Source for photos: Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ