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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It Is Sept. 3, 2017,

     There has been a lot of water over the dam since I last entered anything in the blog. When I checked my Blog Site, I discovered that my last entry was July 11th.

During July, things were pretty normal. Mass at the hospital every morning, Mon thru Fri, ; hearing confessions of retreatants; a second baptism of a couple whom I married two years ago; talks with the guys who are repairing my vehicle (how long, O Lord, how Long), but I can’t complain because they are doing this much more cheaply than anyone else could do it; the usual Sunday masses at Savannah Park ( a nice but small Zulu community, with a few others for whom English is their preferred language, so I say part of the Mass in Zulu and part in English to give everyone recognition.

One of the doctors who started at St. Marys hospital in the early 50’s, passed away. She was 92 (Dr. Gearing) A marvellous woman. A Gynecologist, a Jungian Psychologist, A harpist, a painter, and a raiser of 8 or 9 children, and the wife of Dr. John Brouckaert, who passed away some years back. The funeral was on the 27th of July and the kids came from Germany, England, and the States, to be here. It was an all family choir supported by an all family orchestra (two guitars, two violins, a cello, a trumpet, a flute, a keyboard, and I probably forgot something. I was asked to be the main celebrant since I watched the kids grow up since 1967 when I was chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital. Their home was my salvation. I said often that when one went under the arch, entering the monastery property, at that time, you went 300 yrs. Backward in time. Their family was my much needed therapy as I was the only American when all the rest were German speaking (including the Dutch who also spoke German). But that is another story.

      The funeral was beautiful, as was fitting, and I managed to re-connect with the kids who are now grown ups with their own kids.

     On the 29th I joined the celebration of the CPS sisters jubilarians. Between the three of them they worked for 250 yrs. In service of the people of God. Wow.

    I visited three families for supper the first week of August, just to keep in touch. I also had masses on the 1st. of August and the 3d, with 10th graders from a local Catholic school, where probably 90% are non-catholic, but are willing to put up with us because of the education they get and the discipline, usually, in the religious schools which is not always present in the government schools.

    ON the 4th of August, we had some visitors from Boston College, their Interfaith Program , 15 students and some staff. They are preparing to be change agents in their various religious communities. About half of them were Catholics so we had to take some time to explain what a monastery is and the difference between those members of the community here at Mariannhill who are more monk and others who are more missionary (since we actually started as Trappists who read the signs of the times and got involved more actively in the day to day lives of the neighboring people, teaching them trades , agriculture, and plan old book learning === we have a primary school, an inbetween school and a high school here). In between some visits to hospitals since many parishes are so busy they don’t have time to visit their sick.

    But now comes the trip to the States for a wedding. (Lauren McCarthy and Patrick Noone—an all Irish affair as you can see. I married the parents of Lauren ---Lou and Ed---40 yrs. Ago so we celebrated their 40th while the kids took their first marriage vows. Patrick’s parents celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary a few weeks earlier.) There is no doubt that the mentoring that this couple got from their parents paid a great part in preparing them for their own marriage. Of course, I wore my red socks as they are celebratory accoutrement and used my flamboyant African vestments. It was truly a beautiful celebration. I also was prompted by the Holy Spirit to sing my homily for the couple whose beginning words are “ Love one another as I have loved you…”. It just came out because it is what I really wanted to say, the words of the song, that is. The wedding was on Friday the 11th

We got together at the practice on the10th and had a meal together to get to know each other a bit, especially Patrick’s family. We had another chance to get together after the wedding service (Mass), where I had a chance to shake my bones a bit on the dance floor and even to get a chance to dance with the bride. A great evening.

( I must have pressed the wrong button because it deleted a couple of lines and I don’t know how to get them back so I will have to do it over again.)

Let’s backtrack a bit. I left Durban in the evening of the 6th of August and arrived at O’Hare in Chicago at 3:30 in the afternoon on Tues. the 7th. The family had booked a rent-a-car for me so I picked it up and drove to my cousin’s house not far from the airport. (they live, conveniently, about equidistant from both Midway airport and O’Hare).

I forgot to mention that our travel agent, Rajes, had booked a wheelchair for me. Thank God. The airport in Dubai is huuuuge. In fact most airports these days are overgrown and you have to be as fit as an athlete to tackle them.

     I put aside my pride and went for the ride. I am trying to favour my left knee a bit when I can because the cartilage is gone there and I don’t want to wear out my bones too soon.

     That first night I drove to Midway to fetch my grand niece Katrina. I waited and waited and no Katrina. A strange thing also that there were no suitcases on the carousel that came from her plane from Atlanta. Is it possible that not even one person had checkin luggage???When the carousel stopped and no more evidence of anyone else coming from that plane, and no luggage at all,  I gave up and went home to my cousin’s. Ha. I had picked the wrong date. It was supposed to be Wed. Dummy.

On Wed.(9th) I went to AT&T and got a sim card for my phone so that I could use it in the States. $2,00 for unlimited calls per day. I got it for the week that I would be there. I think that AT&T lost some money on that deal.

Thurs.(10th) a quick visit to my aunt Rose (99yrs. Old) and then the wedding practice. Fri. prepare for the wedding at St. Jane de Chantal parish, Fr.Cronin the pastor. A very nice and welcoming guy. Patrick Noone is one of his parishioners along with the parents and the rest of the family so we both had special interests in the couple getting married.

    On Saturday (12th) I met with my nieces and grand niece (Ann, my brother John’s and his wife Donna’s daughter and Katrina’s mom (they flew up from Atlanta); Karla, another of my brother’s daughters and my niece (who flew up from SanDiego); and Jenna (who is a third niece and who is in the States for a while from Cairo, Egypt where she teaches). WE had lunch together and caught up on each other’s lives and then they took me on an outing to a distillery. New in Chicago since 2008. Interesting. Why would they want to take me, a Catholic priest on an outing to a distillery, Hmmm.  This was the 12th of August

      On Sunday the 13th, we had a family mass at my Aunt Rose where the 4 nieces, from afar, and more nieces and nephews from the Chicago area and two cousins and their wives were also present. We took a family photo. My cousin Bob’s wife, Cathy, has been bed-ridden for a number of years and it was like a miracle to see her with us, sitting in a chair and part of the celebration. That made me very happy.

Hey, it is now my bedtime so I will leave this and come back to continue tomorrow. Lots more interesting and sad things too to report. Good night.

Here it is Sept. 11th, and I am in JOburg and just trying to catch up on my Blog. Let me pick up where I left off.

On Mon. the 14th, I had a whole day before leaving on Tuesday evening, so I decided to invite my 99yr. old aunt, and her caretaker, Lita, and my second cousing, Leah, to all go to visit my uncle Cas (Roses younger brother. It was his birthday, 91 yrs. Old). So off we went to Milwaukee, about an hour and a half drive from Chicago. At first my Uncle Casey and his wife, Rose, wanted to invite us out to a restaurant, but we brought so many left overs from the home mass at Aunt Rose, that we had more than enough eat for all of us. It was a bit hilarious because both Aunt Rose (99yrs.) and Casey’ Rose and Casey, are all pretty deaf, so we had a kind of shouting match so that everyone could hear and be heard. I wondered what it would have been like in a restaurant. Ha. We left in mid afternoon and just chilled out for the rest of the day, and I went back to my cousin’s (Jerry and Barb) for the last night before departure back to South Africa.

Tues. morning, (15th) I went back to say goodbye to my aunt Rose and on the way back to Jerry and Barb’s house, I hit a humungous pothole and actually blew out a tire. Wow. I didn’t know if I could change the tire myself so I phone my second cousin Leah and she came and then her dad, Jerry, also came . I was making some headway in getting the car jacked up with the help of Leah when a black guy cruising by on the other side of the street saw our plight and asked if he could help. Well he wound up putting the doughnut (small spare tire) on for us. I told him that he wouldn’t believe it but I was from Africa and wanted to keep in touch with him to be able to say thanks and maybe send some kind of remembrance from Africa once I got home. I have his wife’s email.

When I got back to Jerry and Barb’s I phone Alamo to ask if I had to buy them a new tire or what. She just laughed and said, just bring the car in and don’t worry. But I worried. There will definitely be extra charges, I thought. Katrina came over and after saying goodbye to Jerry and Barb, we headed back to the airport to turn in our cars at our respective rentals. That was the last I saw of Katrina because she was leaving from a domestic terminal, and I from the international terminal. When I got to Alamo, there was someone directing me to park next to her. I was preparing what I am going to say about the blown tire. I explained that this is what happened but she didn’t pay attention. She just had her machine,  and gave me a receipt for the car and told me to put my luggage on the shuttle which had just pulled up next to us. NO muss, no fuss. I was relieved.

So, I had plenty of time, even with a wheelchair (I am getting spoiled now). The plane left just after 7pm for Dubai. And got into Dubai (would you believe this now) also at just after 7pm. Ha. Going against the Sun. Rajes had organized for me, at her expense, an overnight stay at a hotel in Dubai so that I could avoid and extra flight to Joburg and from there to Durban. IN this way, I had a good sleep and caught the plane from Dubai to Durban, leaving just after 10 am and supposed to arrive at about 2:30 in the afternoon. However, a passenger got sick just as we were getting ready for take off and they had to find a doctor who said she was too sick to travel so we were delayed during this time and they also had to off load the luggage to find hers . So we wound up being two hours late. We got in about 5pm. Again, I was wheechaired around and had kind of given up on being fetched as we came so late and I didn’t have the phone number of Fr. Kevin, the novice master who promised to pick me up, but he was there, having patiently waited all that while. We got back to Mater Dolorosa around 7pm. Back home. That was Thursday the 17th.

Well, I was booked for the 6am Mass at St. Mary’s hospital on Friday, the 18th, plus being part of a service from 10 to 12 or so for some retirees. So I hit the ground running.

Saturday I had an evening Mass at an Indian parish and Sunday, a Zulu Mass at my usual Savannah Park. So now I am back home and the usual routine begins. On Mon. Tues. And Wed I visited a few people and shared with them my adventure in Chicago. Then on Thursday, Aug. 24, I had an appointment at the American consulate to fill in the forms for a renewal of my passport which expires in October. Friday I went to get passport photos and had them couriered to the consulate. Wow. Very expensive. It was a mistake, but I hadn’t thought it would be so expensive so I was just caught. Too late. Anyway, the photos got there.

Sunday, Aug. 27, the usual Zulu Mass at Savannah Park, together with Fr. Macarius who likes to get out of the house and who has a gift in working with the young guys  and encouraging them. After Mass we went, as usual, to Mike and Net Pillay’s for an early lunch together with their three kids. Always refreshing. Then back to MD, home.

Our rooms are on the second floor (that is, here considered the 1st floor---there are only two floors.) and when I got to my room, I found the door open, which is unusual as I was sure that I had closed it. And when I walked in, I discovered that the cupboard (where I keep my socks and underwear and shirts, etc. ) was also open, and only then, I went back to my office and saw that my computer, I-Pad, and BLU cell phones were gone. ( The original BLU phone that Katrina had gotten for me in 2016 when I was on home leave and fallen out of my pocket and the screen was cracked. When I was in Chicago, she had picked up another one with a screen protector and an overall protector so that even if it was run over by a Mack truck, it wouldn’t get damaged. I was taking the information for the old one to put in the new one but wasn’t quite finished. Now, both were gone. What a disaster. Very expensive things but also precious information, gone, gone, gone. Ow! The question was, how did he or they get in. The house was empty of priests as all were out on Sunday and the ladies who look after the house were downstairs in the kitchen (this was about 11:15 in the morning.) We also discovered that thief had also stolen some shorts (pants) from Fr. Macarius as well as his torch (flashlight) and cheap cell phone and his rucksack. He had also visited Bishop Lobinger’s room but was seemingly disturbed and left behind some things he intended to take. The possibility of his getting in through a mistakenly left open security gate at the main door was eventually rejected by some of us because, on closer observation, we saw that there is a pipe that goes right up to Macarius’ room and Macarius found that his window was unhooked and swaying in the breeze. It would make sense that this was the easiest way to get in and out without being noticed. Then a quick get-away into the neighboring townships. Disappeared. Sad.

On Monday morning I went to make a report to the police so that we could get a case number and claim from the insurance. Also, Bishop Lobinger kindly offered to put some money in my account so that I could get another computer and cell phone so that my ministry could continue, almost uninterrupted. So, That’s what happened. I got a new computer and cell phone, but not a BLU because they are no available here.

Then came the need for a sim card for the new phone and the need for a proof of residence and ID to do that. Yuk. But that was done, and the rest of the time, practically all day and night was learning, with the help of our IT man, Br. Tendai, how to use this new Windows 10 version. I began to hate it. Some programs just didn’t work well and others I couldn’t (and still can’t) understand, but at least we are functioning. Skype in particular, in the new Windows 10 (Microsoft) version was giving me lots of headaches and was Excel. I have manage to find alternative ways around them both, but I am not happy. I am grateful for the instant help that Bishop Lobinger offered as well as the explanations by Br. Tendai to help me to learn how to use some of these programs.

I continued saying Mass at the hospital every morning and doing home and other visits during the day and sitting for hours trying to figure out how to use some of these programs. Sunday was the usual Savannah Park community.

Monday, Sept. 4, back to Incredible connections to get some more help with regard to the programs and to get some protection for the cell phone.

Wednesday, Sept. 6, I flew off to JOburg (where I am writing this from ). A couple whose wedding I had a few years ago had offered to pay for a flight up here and offered to let m borrow on of their cars to catch up on visits to people I haven’t seen for many years. So, Wed. night we spent time together catching up.

Thurs,(Sept. 7) I reluctantly, borrowed Phola’s car to visit someone in Pretoria. I was afraid to drive such a beautiful car lest I scratch it or hurt it in some way. I went out and back safely. Thank God.

Friday, Nhlanhla took me to meet one of the comrades whom I helped many years back in exile, who later became a top admiral in the navy.  Then, after lunch together, I was taken off by and to another comrade’s home. They were preparing a get-together (party) for me with some of those whom I had helped when I was also in exile in Zimbabwe and Zambia. They were trying to make a saint out of me and told me that I had done this and that for them, and most of these things I couldn’t remember. After the party, which was at Kanyo Gqulu’s home, I was taken to Edwin Smith’s home with his partner Desiree. I knew both of them from the Transkei and helped them, especially Edwin, to get across the border before the police got him. By the way, the party, for me, ended when It turned 1:30 in the morning. Way beyond my bedtime, but nice reminiscing about those days with the friends and partners who also came around to see who this creature, Fr. Cas, is, that they are always talking about.

Needless to say, I definitely didn’t get up at my usual 4am on Saturday, Sept. 9. After a late breakfast and some time to recall those old day, Edwin took me to another family, The Gilders, whose marriage I had in exile in Bulawayo in about 1990. Unfortunately, the husband left his wife and went off with another young woman, so that marriage came to an end and I was only talking to the wife and hearing how she has been coping since about the yr. 2000.

After having a chance to catch up on each other’s lives, she took me to Phola and Nhlanhla’s place where I spent the night again. She and Phola know each other so they could also be happy to see on another again.

Sunday, Sept. 17th, we went to the hospital to visit and pray for a friend from Tanzania, who had caught Meningitis a few weeks ago, but, after getting rid of the Meningitis, she had some other brain problems and had to have a shunt put in to drain the brain. We prayed long and hard for her, asking God, to bring his healing power to bear on her (Ellie is her name). It seems that she followed but not much indication aside for a blink of an eye or something like that.

Then we came back to Phola and Nhlanhal’s for a Mass (supposed to be at 1pm but wound up closer to 2:30pm since her husband, Dumisani was delayed in getting her with their two boys, one of whom, Simpiwe, was celebrating his 10th birthday, and they were really missing their mom. I was expecting about 15 to 20 people but it turned out to be closer to 50. Holy Moses. WE had a good celebration of Mass and shared what the readings said to us and what God expects of us, via those readings, to be and to do this week. Afterwards there was food and drink and finally about 7pm or so everyone started to head for home. ( One gentleman who is the patriarch of the family had studied at Mariannhill---St. Francis College---in the 40’s, and he couldn’t stop singing the praises of those German missionaries who really sacrificed everything to give them a chance to have a better life. He knew Fr. Bernard Hus, one of Mariannhill’s best known priests. A prophet ahead of his time. I had to smile as I thought that we should hire him to market Marianhill. Ha.

Today,  go to visit another family from the Zambia-Zimbabwe days. But I will wait till after that to let you know what happened. So, this is it for now. I am finally caught up and I hope I haven’t bored you.
As I learned from the younger generation, LOL (Lots of Love).  Cas

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