The Journey Continues: THE JUNIORATE Letters home, 1963 - 65 - Part 8

Posted by Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ in Our Daily Lives

The advent of the 2nd year novices to the Juniorate is eclipsed by the trip to Stratford to see Richard II and with the building of the swimming pool in the July 4th letter. He presents a pretty full report of the vow day and the entrance of the new novices on August 15 in the August 18th letter. The description of the French summer program including the play and soiree in the September 4th letter flows over into the next letter. The Junior apparently loves the Shakespeare performances in Stratford, Ontario and hearing Leo Ciceri, an actor at Stratford, perform for the Juniors and Fathers at Ignatius College!




Guelph, Ontario

July 9, 1964

Dear Mum + Dad.

Just a short note to beg for extra prayers during this week. Our retreat begins tonight and ends on the evening of the 17th.

Happy [Wedding] Anniversary! I know I’m late, forgive my forgetfulness please. You are remembered in my prayers.





Guelph, Ontario

July 24, 1964

Dear Mum and Dad,

At long last here I am again. Thanks very much for your prayers last week. I am certain they helped a great deal. The week went by quickly and pleasantly except for a few hot days.

You should have seen how all the grass was cut and flower gardens hoed etc. There was a general transformation in the grounds for the sake of getting some exercise if nothing else.

The gardens are coming along quite well. You should see the petunias and the portulaka that we grew from our own seed. The petunias are all shades from peach to pink and white stripes. I suppose it isn’t the ideal but it is a pleasure to come out ever day and see if there are any other different colours. The glads are coming along fine and I hpe they will be blooming byAugust fifteenth. The snaps are beginning to bloom. They make a lovely cut flower and they are those giant type. Our asters aren’t growing too well. They are getting quite tall and so spindly. I’ve tried those flower seeds that you sent me and they are growing quite well. I put the California Poppies in the rock garden. They should look lovely when they start to bloom.

A couple of days ago a group of us went to Stratford [Ontario] to see Richard II. Of course the performance was ‘top notch’ for you can’t get much better theatre any where. The grounds around the place are really beautiful. There are beautiful flower beds, lawns that are so thick that they look like carpets, and a small creek running through the grounds with swans (overtwenty swans). We are hoping to get to see King Lear later in the season because we will be taking it in our English course this year.

It has been so hot and humid here for the past two weeks. We are waiting patiently for our pool to be finished. At long last they are painting the inside so they should be able to fill it my next Tuesday. The pool is about 30' by 60' and the bottom is made in such a way that about a third of the pool will be three and one half feet deep and the other end, which looks like a hopper,slopes steeply down to about ten feet. The pool is built on the hillside on the side of the building that looks down on the football field and the bee-hives.

Last week the novices taking their vows in August moved to the Juniorate. Of course it was a great thrill for them to move out of the novitiate section to the juniorate section of the building. Most Jesuits call that move the most momentous in their lives even though it is just to the other side of the building. The lads are looking forward to their big day. Please remember them in your prayers.

We have now begun the French course and I am trying to remember all the French I learned last summer. It will mean a little work on my part but I think I can get through it. I am in the second year class and am the only one with just one year of French. Most of the others have had at least four years.

Just the other day all the new yearly appointments were handed out. I shall be busy for the next year, for during the summer I have the gardens to keep an eye on (three large beds) and a small lawn and rock garden to take care of. In the winter I am in charge of the hockey, which means I supervise the rink construction and the flooding, etc. Through the school year I am what we call class beadle who is the go-between for teachers and students. (He also has a few other little jobs to do.) So it seems I shall be busy this year, but as they say, ‘there is no rest forthe wicked.’

This seems to be a fruitful year for the gardens etc. Just the other day we picked the peas, and I mean we picked peas, about fifty bushels of them. The fruit trees are loaded and even the walnut trees are covered with nuts. I guess it should be a good year for the squirrels.

How was Ron’s wedding? I sent a congratulatory note which he probably only received this week.

I hope everything is going well at home and that camp life is agreeable to Rosemary and Matt.

Hello to the whole family.

By now I guess you are almost done haying. We are just about finished here.

Please remember me in your prayers.





Guelph, Ontario

Aug. 18, 1964

Dear Mum and Dad,

This summer is speeding by so fast that before I knew it there was a large gap between my last letter and the present moment. As usual, we are kept very busy so that is the only excuse I can offer.

Thank you very much for your letter mum, and also for the pictures. I was very pleased with them, particularly with the one of the apple trees and the lake in the distance and the one of the two flowering trees in front of the building. I sneaked in one of the pictures but I must say it would have been better if I had not for it is not exactly the best of pictures. I shall take pictures of the retreat house, pool, and flower gardens with the last of the films. Since I took a good deal of the pictures outside I still have two cartons of flash bulbs.

You had the Grotto feast [Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes at St. Peter’s Colony Church , Kronau, SK] early this year. How was the turn out and the day itself? You mentioned that your flowers were just a little late for the feast [to decorate the shrine]. Our flowers were a little late also. We were able to pick a few dozen giant snap dragons and a few other odds and ends for the fifteenth [of August, Feast of the Assumption] but we had no problems getting more flowers because sometimes people send us flowers for occasions and this is one of the occasions. So we had some glads (yellow and white, about four dozen) for the main altar and some red and white carnations for the tables and St. Stanislaus Chapel. The novice who arranged them did them justice.

As usual the fifteenth of August was a big day here at Ignatius College. Twenty-three new novices entered the day before and twelve men took their first vows on the day itself. So there were many preparations and activities here just before and on the day itself. We also had open house on the fifteenth too and we served coffee and cookies to our guest all afternoon and evening. One of the Brothers took his final vows on the morning of the fifteenth also, so that also added to the preparations and celebrations.

On that morning I served a low Mass at six o’clock, sang hymns with the choir for the first vow’s high Mass at seven, and then sang our polyphonic Mass for the Final vow’s Mass at nine. After Mass Brother and his family had breakfast. Then I had a chance to get out and meet some of the new novices. At dinner we had special celebrations for the Brother, and a larger dinner. In the afternoon the choir sang for benediction and after benediction we had to prepare the refectory for the buffet supper for the parents and vow men, and prepare the novices recreation room for a buffet supper for the rest of the community. Of course, after supper all those areas had to be cleaned up and set up for breakfast the next morning. Luckily the new novices all pitched in and we got all of that done by eight o’clock. What made everything just a little more tiring for me was that I had gone to Stratford the night before and gotten to bed at two o’clock in the morning.

I was very lucky to get to Stratford again so soon after my last trip. It happened that Fr. Provincial, Fr. Dyer (who was dean at Campion when I was there), and Fr. Kelly were going and they had an extra seat. Brother Bonic looked around for someone, after Fr. Rector told him a junior could go, and the first person he saw was me. So I dressed in a flash and was ready to take off with them right after supper on Friday night. I saw Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Father Farrell will be at Campion next week or so. He will be giving a retreat there to some of our men.

Did you know that Jack Leibel entered the novitiate this year? I met the lad for the first time that time I went to a four-H meeting with Roy Pretty [a SK dairy farm neighbour] and family. We stopped off at their [Leibel’s] place before going to the meeting. I met him again at Campion in my last year there. It was good to see him. Please remember him in your prayers. A couple of other lads entered from Campion. I didn’t know them as well of course.

Merci beaucoup pour la lettre, Rosemary. It was good to hear from you again. I’m glad to know that you enjoyed camp so much. I know I really did. It’s good you got that start in swimming for as time goes you have something to work from. Soon you will be diving etc. It takes a little courage (and prudence) at first but it’s a lot of fun once you begin.

At the moment, we are drawing to the end of our French course. That means our French Production of little French plays and songs which will take place on Sunday evening, and those dreaded exams. The exams are a week from Wednesday so say a little prayer for me then.

As usual I have a finger in the costuming for the French plays. It’s a good thing I watched you sew, mum, for now I can do some altering etc. Of course it will never look that professional but for under the lights my work doesn’t look too bad.

I suppose harvest is creeping up on you. Right now most of our oats is bindered and the majority is stooked already. I decided I would go out stooking [arranging sheaves of oats in piles] yesterday and I paid for it. I spent a miserable evening, night and morning. I guess I haven’t lost my hay fever!

Myrna [sister] wrote me a couple weeks ago and sent me a lovely snap of the kiddies. I mentioned to her that she and Charlie should get in the picture too sometime and send it to me. I decided to mention the same thing in this letter for I haven’t seen many or all of you for such a long time, especially all my brothers [in-law]. I don’t think I have two snaps of any of them.

I can’t thing of anything else to say except that it finally stopped raining and the weather is starting to get a little warmer. I hope that you are having good weather for the crops. How are our crops?

Speaking of rain reminded me of our French picnic last week. (At this picnic we are to speak only French.) About four in the afternoon we started to walk down to the old villa site. The sky had looked pretty dark in front of us but as we went along it cleared up. Suddenly we looked back and there was the biggest and darkest clouds we had seen all afternoon. Just then the wind died and it was as calm as ever. That was the sign to start to run. We did, but we didn’t get there without getting a little wet. Some of the fellows stopped under a tree and got soaked. They went home after the rain and changed clothes and we built a fire in the kiosk and started to fry our meat. Even though it rained all evening we had a wonderful time speaking French, singing French and eating supper.

Hello to the whole family and remember me in your prayers please.





Guelph, Ontario

Sept. 5, 1964

Dear Mum and Dad,

It seems to be a long time since I last wrote but actually it has only been about two weeks. There is so much to do that time passes and one doesn’t realize that it is.

Well, the French course is over and now we are busily reading preparing for the coming terms. Thanks to all of your prayers all my efforts in French were crowed with success. I am qute sure I passed the literature and made about a 67% in the French grammar. Thus I have two French credits for two summers work. Our French course ended with a French drama night. We had a number of scenes from French plays with a few French sing-songs thrown between. I will enclose one of our programs with this letter. You will probably wonder how the outside of the program was made. It is another Brother Bonic brain-wave. As you can see the main part of the program cover is just ordinary newspaper (French, of course). Over this we put some wax paper and sandwiched between the newspaper and wax paper we put polyethyline (from the laundry that was dry-cleaned). A hot iron put the finishing touches on it. (The pollyethyline glued the other two together.)

In one of the plays I played an old ‘bouffon’. Brother Sauve took some pictures that  evening. I will enclose one in this letter. The other players in the scene are Brother Bonic and Brother Sauve. (By the way Bro. Sauve wasn’t bi-locating, he had someone else take the picture.) I was going to take some pictures with your last film but the batteries must be dead for it would not flash. I will take pictures of the pool, retreat house, etc.

Besides the one part I had [to play] I flew a huge butterfly, that another brother and I had made, and it landed on a huge flower that someone else had made. It took two of us to fly the thing with a series of strings (fishing line, which was clear). The fly landed correctly at first but a couple of seconds later started to fall off the flower so we had to fly him again and land him more securely. It looked quite realistic I am told. (The butter fly was made out of wood, wire and plastic (thicker polyethylene). The body was wood with pipe cleaners for feeler and the frame for the wings was wire over which we stretched the polyethylene which in turn was painted to resemble some odd kind of butter fly.)

Guess who dropped in to see me a couple weeks ago? None other that Allen Hustak himself [Campion College class mate]. It was good to see him. He was working at Stratford for part of the summer and was just on his way to another Stratford in Cleveland. On his way he dropped in so see his old friends. He seems to be doing all right. He will be back in Saskatchewan shortly and will be going on in drama at the U. Of S. At Saskatoon where a lot of my year are at the present moment. We only had a two hour visit for he was in a hurry to be on the road. He was telling me a bit about university life and I must say what I heard doesn’t make it sound very easy, especially from a religious point of view.

Last week a distinguished man visited us and gave us reading from Shakespeare and Hopkins. He was an actor from Stratford, Leo Ciceri, who is now playing some prominent roles there. It was a tremendous evening especially the chat we had with him after the performance. He is a boyhood friend of our English teacher [Fr. John Wickham] and thus was asked if he would perform for us. He readily accepted for besides being a successful actor he is also a good Catholic. I have been told he makes a special effort to influence other people in his field. From what I have seen and heard, he is charming and wonderful person who does not act as though hethought himself better than others. Just listening and watching him was an education in rhetoric and speech.

At last we are getting some good weather again. The swimming pool is tremendous of course and we are getting a lot of exercise either through work or play. During these past two weeks harvesting has been going on in full swing. They are not done with all of the oats. I went out to stook one day but gave it up as a lost cause because not only would I spend most of the time reaching for my handkerchief but for days after it was miserable. For the past week and one-half I have been experiencing all the symptoms of a good head cold except the sore throat. All my fellow hay fever victims are suffering the same symptoms. I have never had such a bad or prolonged attack before but I found out that during these past two weeks there has been a tremendous amount of ragweed pollen floating around, more than in past years. So that accounts for it.

You should see all of the cut flowers we have on hand at the moment. All of our asters are in full bloom (red, purple, white, and light mauve). The remarkable thing about them is that they have beautifully straight stems over one foot long. We also have all those giant snaps of all colors. Because of all the cold weather we have been having, and also because the place we planted them, the glads are now in full swing. What beautiful colours you sent us mum! I have a glad in my room at present whose single blossom would practically pass for an orchid. It is the same color and has such frilly petals. We have lovely bouquets on the altars and in most of the recreation rooms.

I just received a letter from Lillian today informing me that she is acting the part of a widow for two weeks. I hope the weather clears up so you can get most of the harvesting done while Bill is there to help you. How are things going now and what do the crops look like?? How is little Blaine [little nephew] taking farm life? Lil sent me a picture of him taken earlier in the year. She said she would take some at his birthday. Tell her that she and Bill should get in on the picture too.

What is your garden like mum? From what I hear you have a good deal of rain so if grasshoppers etc. have not spoiled too much you should have had a fair success. Did you grow many flowers this year? Did you have to water the garden at all? I suppose if you did it was a little easier that it used to be [before you had running water].

Well I’ll have to get back to my reading. I have many things to read, five book reports to write and some remote preparation for a chemistry course to do in the next week, so that should keep me out of trouble. Our term starts on the fourteenth of this month. When do Rosemary and Mathew begin school? Best of luck to Rosemary in her next grade, and I will not forget my little (?) brother. By the way I haven’t heard from him in a long time. Did he like camp? What has he been doing all summer?

Please pray for me.



[hand written]

P.S.- I couldn’t find the word ‘polyethylene’ in my dictionary when I was typing my letter. I found out later (from my chemistry book) that it is misspelled. Please substitute an “e” for the “I” whenever you see it. On second though I’ll do it right now.


All photos courtesy of Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ

About The Author

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

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