In the past few months, friars have taken trips and summer holidays for a variety of reasons, including leisure, education, to visit friends and family, to help out at parishes or to chaperone students. HNP Today asked friars to share their experiences and thoughts on their recent travels. Below are their responses, including one about a past trip that is memorable.
My Time on the Auto Train
Martin Bednar, OFM, of St. Petersburg, Fla.
After being asked to help out for three weeks at St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md., I realized that recently, I was not looking forward to the long drive from Florida to Maryland. So I decided to try the Auto Train.
Amtrak’s Auto Train travels between Sanford, Fla., about two hours from St. Petersburg where I live, and Lorton, Va., about an hour’s drive from Silver Spring.
The Auto Train is actually two trains, each leaving from one station at 4 p.m. and arriving at the opposite station the next morning at 9:30. On one of my rides, we arrived about two hours early.
Passengers must arrive at the train station at least one hour before departure time so all automobiles can be stored in the auto rail cars and the entire train can be assembled from its many sections. Cars are handed over to a valet who slaps a number on the side and gives the owner a receipt. Then, travelers go to the waiting room until the rail car accommodation is announced.
Three kinds of accommodations are offered: coach, roomette and room. The fare is higher for a roomette or room. I chose coach fare and it cost me $480 round trip. That’s a great savings, considering what I could have spent on food, lodging and other transportation.
I found my coach seat roomy and comfortable. On the trip north, there was no one seated next to me, so I had even more room. Southbound, the train was packed, so I had a companion in the next seat.
There were two dinner times, at 5 and 7 p.m. Because the dining room is on the upper level of the dining car, I chose to eat at my seat. The food servers were excellent. The menu had four entrées to choose from, with the usual vegetables, rolls and plenty of wine or soft drinks.
Although I did not go because it was on the second level, the staff showed a movie after dinner. I rested well during the night, but as with flying, did not get a full night’s sleep.
In the morning, I had a hearty continental breakfast and watched the scenery until we reached the train station. The last part of the Auto Train trip is waiting for cars to be driven off the train.
Overall, I found both trips to be very comfortable, convenient and a good chance to meet people.
A Surprise Meeting in Colorado
William DeBiase, OFM, of Philadelphia, Pa.
From 30,000 feet, Rush, Colo., looked like a speck of green in an otherwise brown landscape. As far as I could see, the only industry was fattening cattle before they went to market. The odors of this industry permeated the air.
A few years ago, I went to Rush for a mission appeal for the Province’s Franciscan Missionary Union. The people were very nice, and the town was neat. The only drawback is having to drive 30 miles for a bottle of milk. Rush is about 100 miles from nowhere.
At Communion at the 10 a.m. Mass, a Filippina approached. There was a moment of mutual recognition. After Mass, she came to me and said that she felt sure she knew me from somewhere but could not place it. I said I had the same sense. We started to go down a checklist of possible places. Manila and our church in Tokyo were eliminated. The six degrees of separation had entered into number five. Then the lights went on; it was a mutual epiphany.
A few years earlier, while I was stationed in Tokyo, I received a telephone call from the Philippine embassy. The ambassador wanted to know if I would bless the ground for their new embassy. Of course I would.
When I arrived, I was met by Imelda Marcos of shoe fame. She gave me a holy card of the Sacred Heart and told me to please put it in the ground. Imelda always traveled with a contingent of young ladies whose sole purpose was to look pretty and cater to her needs. One of these young ladies was the lady of Rush.
As we talked, I could not help but think it is a long journey from the excitement of being around Imelda to Rush, where apparently the only big thing that happens is the wind changes directions.
A Dream Come True in Rome
Kyle Haden, OFM, of New York City
In June of 1995, I had the privilege to take a three-week course in scripture in the Holy Land. It was the summer between my second and third year at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
After three weeks in Israel, my formation director gave me permission to spend a few days in Rome before returning to Chicago. I stayed in a little village outside Rome and spent more time than I would have preferred navigating public transportation.
My overall time in Rome was limited. But from that short adventure, I developed a strong desire to return and spend more time roaming the sites of arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
This past May, I got my wish, and through the generosity of the friars at St. Isidore’s, I was able to spend nine days visiting the sites of Rome, especially the many religious houses and churches in the city. I was able to visit St. Peter’s, the Lateran, St. Paul’s outside the Wall, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Pantheon, Santa Maria della Vittoria (where one finds the famous Bernini sculpture of St. Theresa in ecstacy) and the Jewish synagogue in the old Jewish quarter.
Every street seemed to be inundated with history and tremendous beauty. Although it was a gift to be able to spend nine days in Rome, it was simply not enough time to see all that the city offers. Finally, because a group of Holy Name friars were on pilgrimage at the same time as my visit, I was able to join them in meeting with the General Minister Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, and having dinner with him just prior to the Order’s General Chapter. It was simply a wonderful experience.
As a Chaperone in Greece
Dennis Tamburello, OFM, of Loudonville, N.Y.
In December and early January, I chaperoned a student trip to Greece with my colleague Peter Zaas from the Department of Religious Studies at Siena College in Upstate New York. We visited Athens, Nauplion, Corinth, Thessalonica, Delphi, Philippi and the hanging monasteries at Meteora.
Daniel Dwyer, OFM, was also on this trip, which was part of Siena’s Biblical Study Tour. The focus of the tour was on the places associated with St. Paul, although we also saw many other sites related to ancient Greek religion and culture.
In July, I went to Madrid for two weeks to continue my study of Spanish while living with the Franciscans at San Francisco el Grande. While there, I took a weekend trip to Cordoba where I saw the famous mosque-turned-cathedral.
Six Degrees of Separation in England, Australia
James Vacco, OFM, of Allegany, N.Y.
I describe this summer in which Bill Shepherd, John Glenn and I had something in common. I may not have flown into outer space but I did literally fly around the world.
I began my summer journey on June 28 when I flew from Toronto to London to assist Basil Valente, OFM, with the John E. Kelly Program at Oxford. I was in England for three weeks, but I did not spend all my free time in Oxford. I also traveled to London and Canterbury, and the surrounding countryside.
While in Oxford, I did quite a bit of reading about the Franciscan presence there. I discovered that back in the 1300s, a Franciscan friar was the purser at what was then known as Durham College (now called Trinity College where St. Bonaventure University’s program is located), and also at Balliol College, which was next door to Trinity. A trivial piece of information, but it was just one of many pieces of trivia I discovered about the Franciscan presence in Oxford.
I then traveled from England to Brisbane, Australia, where I spent five weeks assisting at the Australian friars’ ministry at Padua College (which would be a middle school and high school in the United States). Because there is only one friar from the Australian Province involved in the school, I went there to offer additional Franciscan presence.
I was a speaker in most of the religion classes and conducted a workshop for the Padua faculty on “The Changing Face of Franciscanism,” and on the “Franciscan Approach to Education.” The Franciscan schools in Brisbane are referred to as FOTH — Franciscans on the Hill.
But it was not all work. Under the hospitality of the friars in Brisbane and Sydney, I visited a resort town called Noosa, spent a few days on Bribe Island, and at a camp owned by Padua College called Amaroo. It was here that I got within 100 feet of kangaroos grazing along the camp driveway.
But the oddest event, that shows how small the world is becoming, took place in Sydney. I met up with one of my former student-neighbors from my days at Fredonia State College in Western New York — Rob Weintraub. He had written on his Facebook wall that he and his wife were going to Australia to visit his brother.
He was going to be in Sydney the same time as I was going to be there. I responded to his Facebook comment and we arranged to meet in Sydney. When I arrived at the Provincial residence in Sydney, which is in the Edgecliff section of the city, I called him. It turned out that Weintraub’s brother lived in the condominium building behind the friary where I was staying. In fact, when he and I were on the phone trying to arrange our point of meeting, I was sitting on the porch in the backyard of the friary and he was sitting on the balcony of his brother’s condo. When we realized our locations, I looked up and he looked down, and we could not believe that in a city neither of us had ever been to before, literally halfway around the world, we would be neighbors once again.
A similar experience came on the night before I left Australia. I presided at the Brisbane parish youth Mass, where, in attendance, was a lady who used to live in New York City and came to liturgies at St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street before she moved to Australia a couple of years ago.
When I began to speak at the Mass, she recognized the Buffalo accent and when I was introduced as a friar from HNP she stood up and yelled: “I used to go all the time to 31st Street.” I laughed, and the Aussies were trying to figure out what was going on.
It was a unique summer, where the world became both bigger and smaller as I traveled around it.
Editor’s note: Descriptions of friar journeys received after this newsletter’s deadline will appear in a future issue of HNP Today.