The April 6th letter is replete with items about spring and planting both at Guelph and in Saskatchewan. It also reflects his continued interest in what is happening at the home in the family and local communities. The May 16th letter reflects the joy of nearing the end of the school term and the plans and ordo for the summer months. It also has an undertone of concern for his sick father expresses gratitude for his sister and husband’s assistance in getting the crop sown. The May 16th letter to his sister and her husband is about the Jesuit vow of poverty. The situation that provokes their question is vague. The letter reveals his own understanding of the practice of the vow.
April 26, 1964
Dear Mum and Dad;
At last spring is here. It still gets a little chilly at night but during the day it stays around fifty to sixty degrees at least. The grass is turning greener and greener everyday and of course the robins are flopping about gathering all the bits of string etc. for their nests. Crocuses are going to the end of their season. We don’t have any here [in Ontario] but the people in town [Guelph] and around have them. I saw some that were absolutely beautiful. They were as large as tulips and their petals looks just like the material you use for ice-box flowers. All of them are domesticated of course. I haven’t seen a pretty little prairie crocus for a fews years now for they don’t seem to grow here. It is rather strange that they don’t because the climate is so much milder. Perhaps Rosemary and Mathew could press a few and send them to me.
The tulips are coming up quickly and should be blooming in about a week. The hyacinths are just about to open their little blossoms and the shrubs and trees are budding; so they should be blooming in about two or three weeks. We had pussy-willows about two weeks ago.
Last fall we had collected many of our own seeds and this spring we seeded them in the green house. What success we are having. Remember those portulaca seeds. We collected some too and now they are growing like weeds in their boxes. We also had some lovely large snapdragons last year whose seeds are just germinating now. (Practically all of the seeds germinate.) Besides those, we have three different kinds of Marigolds, Alyssum (white and purple), Lupines and corn flowers, petunia (pink), pansies and plenty of weeds.
Brother sterilized his soil a little differently this year than the past. Instead of steaming it he added formaldehyde and a wee bit of lime. The amount of chemical you need is very small for a few boxes of soil. He mixes the soil around over a period of three days and then it is ready for use. To start his seeds he sprinkles a little dried moss (which conserves moisture) on top of the soil and then covers the soil with apiece of soaked potato-bag material (the heavy brown kind which is hemp, I think). It really does work well. If the seeds are small you have to watch when you water because they have a tendency to wash into a little pile, but if you just drip the water on the bag cover you have no difficulty at all.
Exams are creeping closer and closer. Last Thursday I wrote my Zoology exam at the O.A.C. [Ontario Agricultural College] and so that is one out of the way. The rest of them begin around May the seventh, so say a little prayer around then for me. Finally I finished my term paper, so with those two things out of the way I can put more time on the rest of my work.
That was quite a Stanley Cup series wasn’t it? Too bad Detroit had to lose but Toronto played just fabulously well last night. I’ve never seen them play so well. (Not that I’ve seen them that many times but is seemed that whenever they made a pass last night it came through just like clock work.) No, I’m not that avid a hockey fan, but many people are, so it catches on.
We turned out clocks ahead one hour last night so lost some sleep. I suppose it will take a little time to change the timing device in your stomach, brain, etc. It seems silly always to be turning your clocks back and ahead, but I guess it is pleasant to have it light late in the evening.
Thanks for the news about uncle Frank. Doreen [cousin] had just written and told me a few days before. I didn’t know about his leg being amputated etc. That man must have really suffered. He is remembered in my prayers. R.I.P.
That was a surprise to hear about ....[an acquaintance’s death]. I was also sorry to hear that ....[the daughter] married outside the church, and, of course, about the conduct of .... [the son]. [Their] poor [mother] has her share of suffering if anyone has. He and they will be remembered in my prayers.
You mentioned Sylvia’s [a 2nd cousin] entrance into the Sisters of Sion. Could you please get me her address so that I can write and congratulate her?
By now Rosemary and Mathew should have their results from their Easter exams. I hope they did well. I would appreciate it if they dropped a little letter telling me how they did and what they are doing.
Things are probably very busy at home right now. How is the grain cleaning [in preparation for seeding] coming along[?] Just the thought of it starts to make me sneeze (a slight exaggeration), but really it is all the dust in the air here that does it. At Easter time I did the first barn work I’ve ever done since home. To help the brothers finish earlier on Easter Sunday two of us went down to the barn and cleaned the gutters [of cow manure] for them. Believe it or not, it was quite enjoyable.
People are starting to do their summer fallows now but I don’t think anyone is seeding yet. One of the juniors did some summer fallow work yesterday. My time is too divided to do anything of that sort. We had windows to clean yesterday and then there is bees to work on, and garden beds to prepare. Last week we did a lot of work on the garden beds. They all have to done by hand so it entails a lot of work. There is just one more bed to do
The retreat house [being built on the Guelph Ignatius College grounds] is really coming along. They are supposed to finish it for the first of May but I think they will need another two weeks to complete the whole thing. It is amazing though, that they are as far as they are now. I would have never thought that they would get this far last fall when they started pouring the foundations almost just before it started to snow.
How is the house coming at home? Is it almost complete? There are so many things to do that it will probably take a little while to finish it entirely. That was good news about the after payment on the Durham wheat. I am praying that this year will be a good one for you.
Well, I’m just about talked out and there is nothing for me to say except perhaps that I’m glad that winter is over at last, for it has been a rather hard winter in some ways. But with the warmer weather and reawakening of nature comes also a bit of ‘get up and go’ which I appreciate greatly.
I hope that everyone is well and that you are not working too hard mum. (By the way, I’m also glad you got some more chickens. Although I hate taking care of the ‘beasts’ they are a bit of security as far as eggs and meat are concerned.) Give my best to the whole family.
Please continue to remember me in your prayers.
P.S.- I will mail that film today.
May 16, 1964
Dear Mum and Dad;
It seems as though it has been a very long time since my last letter but I don’t think it is over two weeks. So much has taken place during the time that two days seem like two weeks. (Or I should have said two weeks seem like two days.) Actually all that took place during the last two weeks is seven exams, and I can assure you that things feels exceptionally well today.
Now, there are two weeks of repetitions, in which time we review all of our Greek and Latin authors that we took this term, then there are the final Latin and Greek exams. After those exams there will probably be about two weeks of what we call ‘lectio’, in which time we are to read all the English works etc. that we will be taking in the fall term. Our summer villa will start on the 22nd of June and end on the 7th of July. Our retreat will be from July 9th to the 18th. After that the summer course begins. So you see there is much to look forward to this summer.
Your parcel with the Glad-bulbs and flower seeds arrived a couple of days ago. Thank you very much for them. I think they should grow well. By the way did you try any of those seeds that you got from here last year yet? If you have, how are they coming? We are having such luck with our home made seeds. Some of Brother’s bought seeds are absolute failures, particularly his read petunias. But we have plenty of flowers, in fact, almost too many.
Just now the trees are starting to bloom and I have been busy getting some pictures of them for you. I haven’t got any of the apple orchards yet because they are only coming now, but if the sun comes out tomorrow I shall get some of them. I did take some shots of some flowering shrubs; some pink little trees, a red bush, and some of the yellow dog wood. Oh yes, I also took one of the plum tree. You’ll be able to tell the plum tree from the apple tree because it is whiter. The apple has more pink in its blossoms.
I hope that dad is feeling much better by now and that the crop is almost in. It is good that you are getting a lot of rain but it would be better if all the crop was in to benefit from it. We are having a lot of rain now too, but we have had some sunny days between. I think we are a little behind in seeding also.
I didn’t know Rosemary and Mathew were so interested in softball. I guess they play a lot at school......
Please say hello to Eddy [Eddy Weimer, a boy hood friend] when you see him. How is he doing and what is he doing?
I never did say how I appreciated the prayers of my little ones [nieces and cousins]. (What is Uncle Joe’s address?) Little Linda [1st cousin] is a dear little soul to remember me as she does. Little children are so close to God that their prayers are especially precious.
Well, I have run out of words and thoughts.
May the Holy Spirit descend upon all of you tomorrow and may He give you heavenly wisdom and peace throughout the years.
P.S.- May God bless Myrna and Charlie [sister and brother in law] for coming out to help you seed.
May 19, 1964
Dear Lillian and Bill [sister and brother-in-law];
At last most of the exams are over and the time for relaxation is near at hand. Last week we wrote about seven exams and at the present moment we are reviewing our Latin and Greek authors in preparation for those two finals.
What prompted this reply was your question about the Jesuits and poverty. Actually I cannot answer exactly in the case of those particular Jesuits [referred to in Lillian’s letter] because I don’t know the exact circumstances, however there are some general probably explanations.
To begin with, there are two kinds of vows in the Society, ‘first vows’, which you take after a successful two years novitiate, and ‘last vows’, which you take after Tertianship. (Tertianship is the last training a Jesuit receives in the Society. It is just like the novitiate except that the experiments are slightly different because all the tertians are ordained priests.) Both kinds of vows are perpetual vows but there are some slightly varying qualities. The one at hand is that concerning poverty.
A Jesuit with ‘first vows’ may own property and even have a bank acount, however he may not use this money or property in any way without approval of his superiors. (In this way through the Jesuit training the person will have something to fall back on if he happens to leave the Society [or be dismissed], which can happen for a number of reasons.) After his final training, tertianship, the person must dispose of all his property and money. His ‘last vows’ make him unable to own or inherit anything legally. So you see, if these Jesuits did not have their ‘last vows’ it was quite possible for them to have bank accounts.
Some Jesuits who do parish work [in an isolated area away from a Jesuit community] would also have occasion to have a bank account for convenience sake, just as an ordinary [diocesan] priest would have a bank account. Since he is in the position he is, he would use the money to support himself. He would even buy a car is he felt it was necessary. However when another man was assigned to that parish everything would usually remain there for the new Jesuit who would take his place.
Missionaries would be in a similar situation and there are various other occasions and exceptions where a Jesuit may seem to own ... money.
I hope that answers your question adequately.
Marlene was telling me of your latest move. I hope you enjoy your new place.
May God bless you and keep you.
Please remember me in your prayers.
All photos courtesy of Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ