WASHINGTON, D.C. — Friars from throughout the Province, especially around the nation’s capital, watched in hope and excitement the inauguration of President Obama last month.
Whether they turned out on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., or watched on TV, many shared the sentiment of this historic moment and the promise of a hopeful tomorrow.
Several friars went to Washington for the ceremony, and several sent their comments and observations to HNP Today.
Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md., submitted to the Communications Office several photographs that he took on the morning of inauguration day.
“It is my prayer that all people embrace each other as brothers and sisters for a better world,” said Michael Thang’wah, a friar in formation from Kenya who lives at Holy Name College in Silver Spring. He woke up at 4 a.m. on Jan. 20 to take the train to the National Mall.
“As President Obama said, ‘We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribes shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.’ ”
Live At the Inauguration
Br. Michael Thang’wah braved the early crowds filtering through Washington’s Union Station to get to the inauguration. Two hours after boarding the 5 a.m. train to Washington, Br. Michael arrived, along with an estimated 1.5 million others. “I had secured myself a place on the National Mall; unfortunately, I did not have a ticket. In short, I remained standing for seven hours until the ceremony was over.”
Nonetheless, he said, the trip was worth it. “I am proud that I was part of that historic moment. As a Kenyan, I felt that I represented my fellow country men and women who could not make it.”
Br. Michael said in an essay submitted to HNP’s Communications Office, he felt special pride in being Kenyan, the same heritage as President Obama’s father.
He said: “Kenya declared the day after the election a national holiday in his honor. During the inauguration, the Kenyans were glued to their TV sets. Others listened to the radio.”
The View from WTU
From his office at Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C., where classes were canceled for the day,Gregory Jakubowitz, OFM, chief operating officer, watched the swearing in ceremonies on TV. He, too, is hopeful about the new leadership.
“President Obama appears to be very capable, sensible and committed to repairing not only our troubled economy, but also repairing our nation’s damaged moral standing in the world,” said Greg.
At Clare House in D.C.
Joseph Nangle, OFM, was about 6 miles away from the White House at his ministry at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Arlington, Va. While he did not fight the crowds, he witnessed the swell of people right from the church, and describes the masses like nothing he had ever seen before.
Joe recalled the inauguration as more of a week-long celebration, rather than a day event, coming on the heels of the Martin Luther King Day holiday the day before.
The celebration for the Our Lady community included an ecumenical service for Dr. King at a Unitarian Universalist Church in nearby Arlington, Va., and a Mass in the community. In addition, said Joe, the inauguration signaled the end of a 10-day fast by people atoning for the sins of the United States and to end torture, in conjunction with thePax Christi organization.
“Personally, I was taken with the connection to the King celebration,” said Joe, who, in the days before the inauguration, gave a talk on Dr. King. “It was a nice coming together,” he said, “celebrating the African-American prophet and the African-American politician.”
From the Classroom
Robert Frazzetta, OFM, teaches theology at DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne, N.J., and found the inauguration a special teaching moment.
“I have mostly seniors for spirituality and social action classes. Needless to say, the recent presidential campaign, election, and inauguration have been at the top of our curriculum agenda, especially these past four months. Making this topic even more exciting for the students is that a good number of them were voting for the first time in their lives and taking it ever so seriously.”
Robert wrote to HNP Today: “Because it is an ethics class, the seniors had to struggle to shake off their preconceived ideas about politics and political parties, and try to develop a keen sense of how all this political jargon fares with Catholic social teaching. One of the Church’s best kept secrets, Catholic social teaching was presented to them, and they had to look at important and passionate issues through the lens of Gospel values. Then we had to decide how relevant and practical this was. I don’t have to tell you that our discussions were lively debates with the kind of animation that only teenagers can perform.”
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.