Support group…

For 28 years and counting, I have been meeting with a few of my brother priests for fraternal support and challenge. In the early years, we used to complain about our pastors. In our later years, we complain about our associates (or lack therein.) And we pray with one another and for one another, and challenge each other to faithfulness and holiness of life. And sometimes, we even get to play together. This week is one of those times.

There are some advantages that occur when one of the members of your support group becomes a bishop. Through the graciousness and generosity of one of the families in the diocese of Knoxville, TN, where Bishop
Stika is the ordinary, we are once again being provided with a wonderful place to get away from it all and relax. Their ‘complex’ is in the island chain of Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean, on the biggest island – Provinciales. The back of the house fronts Grace Bay, whose beaches have been consistently voted in the top three beaches in the world.

To make it even better for me, one of the best places in the Island to snorkel is 150 yards down the beach. So each morning I grab my mask and fins and a towel, and make my way down the waterfront, take a deep breath, and launch myself into the bay to do a little snorkeling in some the clearest water on the planet. It is so beautiful. Visibility is easily 45-60 feet. And God was having such a good day when he created the many varieties of salt water fish. Every color and shape imaginable I find darting in and out of the coral fronds and sea grass. I am interested to find out if the two manta rays that majestically circle that section of the reef are still around.

After about an hour, my mouth gets dry from the continual mouth breathing that a snorkel demands, so I reluctantly make my way to the shore, throw the towel over my shoulders and make my way back to the house. A light lunch, a little nap, and I am back at it mid afternoon. We celebrate evening prayer and mass together about 5:30, either cook-in or walk to one of the restaurants located nearby, have a leisurely dinner, watch some TV while solving more of the world’s problems. I walk to the edge of the beach, do my night prayer to the sound of the surf, and then call it a night. Morning dawns and I repeat the process.

The combination of time spent with my brothers and time spent with nature is such a blessing to my world. Thanks to the parish staff for picking up the slack while I am gone and to Fr. Ron Chochol for so graciously covering most of the masses. FYI – There will be a priest from “Food for the Poor” the 19th and 20th. And I’ll be back for the beginning of Catholic Schools week….