With less than two months left of novitiate there is an undertone of anticipation in the June 19th letter. The excitement builds about the impending visit of his parents and the new life in the Juniorate in the July 24th letter, to be followed by the note of disappointment in the August 9th letter.
June 19, 1963
Dear mum and dad;
As usual time passes more quickly than one wishes it to and here it is almost one month since my last letter....
At the present moment the Juniors are enjoying their two weeks of holidays at the ‘villa on the speed’... Their first few days down there were pretty miserable because just at the time we had rain and cold weather. However, right now it is beautiful and so they should be having quite a time.
All the novices are at home now. They came back from the shrine about two weeks ago much to the joy of the small number at home. I must say there was quite abit of work to do. When there are many it is not so noticeable but when just a few have to do the work of many then you learn to appreciate the work of your fellow brothers. But it was also great to see them allcome back, all sun-tanned and smiling. They had a wonderful time.
Some novices from the United States came to the shrine for a few days so that added to the enjoyment considerably. They stopped at the novitiate on their way back to the states and so we also had a chance to meet them and show them around our novitiate. It was a lot of fun comparing novitiates and they are a ‘great bunch of fellows’. I guess novices all over the world are the same.
Well there is very little of the novitiate left for about twelve novices. On the twenty-sixth of this month we go to the ‘villa on the speed’ for our holidays (We can hardly wait for them to begin.) Right after we get back we will make our annual eight day retreat......... Then,, into the Juniorate for the French summer course, which will prove very interesting for me considering I have never taken any French in high-school. Mr. Dodge, the French teacher at Campion who was our dorm master, always kidded me that I would be sorry one day for not taking French. Well the day has come I guess.......however I am happy I took Latin or it would be a sorrier day yet.
Well I must say it is about time that a new house went up [on the home farm in SK]. Was I surprised even though Marlene had mentioned during the winter that you were thinking about building. As you said mum, it will not be an easy summer, but it is all worth it. I hope you are still not thinking about coming east this summer [to visit me]. That would be taking on too much I think. Just get that house built and you will have had a busy enough time.
I should tell you about vow day in any case. The mass is an ordinary low mass and only the community attends. At communion time all the people who are taking vows gather around the altar and one after another recite the vow formula.... So you see it is a very simple ceremony.....
There has been quite a change in the novitiate recently. When we are amongst ourselves we may call each other just by our first names. So now Brother Bonic is Tom, Brother Sauve is Bob and I am Frank etc. It seems strange calling someone you have been calling Brother so and so by his first name, but time will change that.
At present some of the flower beds have been shoved under my wing. I just have to take care of them while the Juniors are at villa. Anyway it is very easy to take care of them. Any time I start feeling sorry for myself all I have to do is to think of you hauling water up from the well [in barrels] just to water the cucumbers. Then I can attach the hose to the tap and water happily, thankful for little blessings....
When you told me about the skunk it brought to mind an event last year. One of the brothers got into a tangle with a skunk. I guess he was not too familiar with skunk’s habits. In any case he killed the thing but it was very close to the house and you could smell skunk all over.... The funny part about it was that that particular brother had no sense of smell what soever....
Best wishes to grandparents and relatives (and friends).
Please remember me in your prayers.
July 24, 1963
Dear Mum and dad:
Time has gone by so quickly.... I shall get right down to answer your letter. First of all, the name of that motel [near the novitiate] is ‘Wayfare Motel’ and the address is ‘ 19 Woodlawn W., Guelph, Ontario’....
The regulations are about the same as last year. Make sure you come on the fifteenth though because on that day I can show all of you through the entire building. You see once a year we have one day that the cloister is lifted and people can come and see the house they helped pay for.....
I only found out about Grandmother’s death on the twenty-first. You see we were on retreat for the week before and so your letter didn’t get to me until the retreat was over. I wrote a letter to Grandfather early this week....
The big move has taken place and now I am in the other section of the building which is called the ‘juniorate’. What a day the moving day was! We started our French Course on the same day and so we are plunging (I should say I am plunging) deeply into a new culture and language. All our classes are given entirely in French; we are taking French literature; even some of our recreation is spent talking French. So you see what I mean.
Fr. Rector named me a ‘bee man’ and so yesterday Brother Sauve, who is in charge of the bees, had me put on all the necessary garb and took me down to check the hives. What an experience! Bees flying here and there all around you. I was frightened silly at first but got a little braver as we worked.....
....I promised to tell you more about the villa. Was that ever a happy time! Even though I found in my bed every night some kind of frog, toad, or other creature, we had a wonderful time.... The weather stayed fair the whole time and the speed river had enough water (I should say the river was deep enough) for swimming...
....before I close, another favor. Please let me know your plans, when they are very definite before the eleventh of next month. You see I will be on a sort of three day retreat just before the fifteenth and will no be able to receive mail during that time.... I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to your visit.
Hello to all the family and please remember me in your prayers.
August 9, 1963
Dear Mum, Dad and all:
I received your letter a couple of days ago but didn’t get a chance to answer it at once. It was really packed with news.
It is too bad that things worked out the way they did but we must reap when the time is ripe. Let me know how the grain runs. Really it is better this way because the summer has been and will be busy enough for you as it is. And as far as I can see it will be even more pleasant if you come in the fall because then there well be fewer people visiting here. Only it is too bad that you could not see the building. Maybe if you brought a flash camera [brother-in-law] Bill could take pictures of parts of the inside [of the building] for you to see. As far as visiting days are concerned you can come on any week-end because Saturday and Sunday are holidays in the Juniorate, and perhaps there is a week-end that has a holiday on Friday or Monday. I’ll check into it and let you know.....
That is good news about the house [being built on the farm in SK]. I will be happy when it is done and probably you will be even happier. That will be great [for you] to have running water. Once you have it you [will] wonder how you ever got along without it.....
It hardly seems possible but at this time next week I will be able to write S.J. after my name instead of N.S.J. The past two years have slipped by so quickly. There is little I can say except thank you for all the prayers and suffering. During the first few days of next week I will offer up all my prayers in thanksgiving for all the tremendous blessings God has showered on all of us. I will thank Him especially for giving me such a wonderful mother and father, then for my dear sisters, brothers, relatives and friends.
Please pray that I will be a good religious.