So, You Wanna Be A Priest
"You know why I wanted to go to the seminary?"
We were all ears.
"Because they had a good baseball team. Not the purest of motives, you say? Well, as the Bible tells us, God calls us in mysterious ways. Sometimes, like St. Paul, it takes a bolt of lightning. Other times, he calls us quietly. With me, it was baseball. That was 38 years ago and here I am preaching this retreat to you ladies and gentlemen of high school."
He was right. There were different calls to the priesthood but, in retrospect, I wasn’t called or invited. Rather, I tried to crash the party.
Early in my senior year, I applied to Eymard Seminary, a monastery in Hyde Park, NY, for admission. Eymard stood for Peter Julian Eymard, the founder from France of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers. Pete was an ascetic and mystic who had an obsession with Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Rome would declare him a saint during my first year there. Pure coincidence.
Quite frankly, I chose to go there on a whim (sure beats baseball!). One of my classmates at St. Jean-Baptiste had gone a couple of years to high school there. Several alumni were also members of my parish. Father Leo Bourque and Brother Francis both originally from St. Jean’s were members of the order.
I didn’t bother to apply to any colleges because I didn’t have enough confidence and, more importantly, didn’t have the money. Eymard, however, was an accredited 2-year college under the Regents System of New York so I could at least have transferable college credits if I didn’t decide to stay. The best part? Tuition was only $300. per year and included room and board. I could make tuition during the summer working at home. What a deal!
So, in September of 1962, the day following the Miss America Pageant, my stepfather Roy Taylor and my mother drove me to Hyde Park. Eymard Seminary, formerly the Rogers Estate, was located on Route 9 in Hyde Park between FDR’s home and the Vanderbilt Estate. Eymard’s grounds were extensive and went right down to the Hudson River.
We got there early and were met by Father Maurice Rouleau. This was his first year as dean of college students. He had been the librarian and replaced Father Markey as head of the college. Father Markey was a professor of English, built like a heavyweight contender, had a Welsh accent, and, during his reign of terror as Dean, ran the college like a Spartan army camp. He almost succeeded where the devil had failed to rid the seminary of all vocations. Father Maurice Rouleau (MO for short) was average height, skinny, and had a face like a mouse. He was the antithesis of Markey. He stuttered and began most sentences with ‘That’.
"Hi Tom. That you’re the first to arrive. I’ll sh sh show you around then you can wait for the others in the r r r rec room."
Having heard stories of torture, bondage, and inquisition during the Markey era, how bad could this be? The highlight of the tour for my parents was the chapel that contained out in the open on the altar a monstrance made from the finest gold and encrusted with diamonds, rubies, and other precious gems. I later learned that it was insured for 300K – a fortune at the time.
"Aren’t you afraid of theft?" My mother asked.
"Th th th the lord will take care of it." Said Mo.
Mother of God, were those naïve times!
My parents didn’t stay long as they would make the 4-hour trip back the same day. Mo suggested I wait in the rec hall for the others to arrive. The rec hall consisted of a two alley semi-automatic set up bowling alley in one room, a TV room, and a room with a stereo, pool table and ping pong table. We could use the rec hall during free periods but the TV room was always off limits. The only one who ever used the TV room was Father Dorais who snuck in most nights to watch the evening news with Huntley and Brinkley.
There were three types of students who would be arriving: second year college men, first year students who had attended high school here in the seminary, and those like myself who hadn’t. The first one through the door was Ray Cote. He introduced himself with a southern drawl and it took just a few minutes to realize he was a religious fanatic complete with chapter and verse. I gave him a wide berth. Pat McGrath and Ron Lewis came in next, introduced themselves, and started playing pool. They had gone to high school here and couldn’t wait to use the college rec facility. Pat lived a few miles down the road in Poughkeepsie while Ron came from Waterbury, CT. Pat had a sturdy athletic build while Ron at 6’3" was all arms and gangly. They were both guys you’d like to call friends. The remaining students then poured in like the pack in the middle of a marathon. The most notable arrival was a huge mother of a late model gray Cadillac 4-door out of which stepped Gerard Huot, Gerard not Gerry. His last name was pronounced YOU-OTT. We called him ‘what’. He turned out to be an OK guy once you got past his nervous manner and a pronounced head tic when he was upset. Huot loved to organize things.
Alcide Lamoureux, better known as ‘El Cid’ was a second year college man from Adams, MA. Once when I mentioned in passing at supper one night that my sister was a member of a Drum & Bugle Corp., I inadvertently made a new friend. To say that Drum Corps were a hobby of El Cid’s was an understatement. He was obsessed. He specialized in Marching & Maneuvering and had countless sheets and diagrams of various moves.
By the end of 3 days, I would have given my manhood for a cigarette. El Cid and I were walking the grounds one night talking drum corp. – or rather he was talking drum corp. – when out of the blue he asked if I’d like a cigarette. I almost deified him on the spot, and for the next few weeks, we’d sneak out a couple times a day for a butt. Concealing it took some ingenuity. Mouth wash and Right Guard applied subtly rendered us smokeless albeit smelling like French whores. Also, many of the priests and brothers were smokers, so the smell of smoke permeated everything anyway.
Then it happened. El Cid answered another calling and left the seminary. I was distraught and shaken. What to do? I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to leave. So, I did what I’ve never done before; I prayed for guidance. My prayers were answered with stomach pains, probably nerves and nicotine withdrawal. After a couple days of these pains, I was sent to the seminary’s doctor in town. I explained my addiction and my desire to stay in the seminary. He made the mistake of asking what I would suggest. I recommended an Rx for a couple packs a week. I wasn’t sure how this would fly but I asked him to write the prescription anyway – legibly. As usual in situations like this, I thought I’d wing it. When I got back, Mo invited me into his office.
"So Tom, what’s the diagnosis and p p p prognosis?"
"Well, he thinks the problem is nicotine withdrawal and suggested a gradual tapering off."
There was silence as he chewed this over. Mo himself was a non-smoker but others did. After a two year program here and a one year novitiate at Barre, MA, if you survived, then from there on, you could smoke – weird rules just begging to be broken.
"That the doctor suggested cigarettes?" By the tone of his voice I knew I had a big ‘Gotcha’. I had him. We just had to work out the details. His main worry was the others finding out. I assured him I was the soul of discretion and would only smoke on the periphery of the grounds.
So, with nicotine no longer a problem, I could devote my time to studies and other noble pursuits like how to get out of here on weekends.
A typical day at the seminary began at 5:30 AM, a hitherto undiscovered hour in my life. You had a half hour to make your bed, shower, shave, and dress then grope your way a quarter mile away to a room in the big house where Father Brouillard, the college chaplain and guidance counselor would offer a meditation before Mass.
Father Brouillard was about 5’10" and built a bit like Father Markey but the similarity ended there. Where Markey was a militaristic, pompous, egomaniacal son-of-a-bitch (actually, I liked the guy even though he thought me a leper – "Mr. Carmody, that hair cut is reminiscent of a convict’s"), Father Brouillard was soft spoken and gentle. He could have been a stand-in for Francis of Assisi. And, like the rest of us, his body resented the intrusion of early morning upon his sleep. His eyes were always half shut while he led us through meditation before Mass.
Then Mass and meditation after Mass went from 6:15 to about 7. Having never been fully awake, I can’t remember a thing about it. 7-7:30 was breakfast. All meals were in silence except on days of national holidays or first class feasts like St. Peter, etc. I had no clue about first class or any class so it was always a surprise when Mo said "Deo Gratias" after the prayer before the meal and it meant we could talk beginning at breakfast as we were served cereal, bread and peanut butter, powdered milk (Ugh!). Breakfast lasted about 20 minutes then back to prepare for classes that started at 8:30.
Classes lasted until 11:30, then off to chapel and lunch followed by one hour of forced recreation. I say forced recreation because we went into it kicking and screaming. Our studies were so intense and we were so into it that none of us would do anything else unless we were forced to do it. Can you believe that? Pretty heavy stuff. Whatever. Forced recreation consisted of out-of-doors work around the grounds or walking during the noon hour after lunch. There was a second forced recreation in the evening with a team sport like soft ball, basketball, or volley ball depending upon the season. At noon, I decided that I’d become an expert with every piece of heavy machinery on the grounds since I abhorred team sports. First was the tractor that had four lawn mowers attached. It was mindless work and I enjoyed the time to think. The other machine was a Travel All, a van with a standard shift that carried about 10 people. I’d make short trips into town if something was needed in a hurry.
We had classes the rest of the afternoon followed by benediction and supper. Evenings were spent in class or studying. Lights out was at 10:30 PM.
I was enjoying classes except Latin. Brother Columbo, a red headed, freckle-faced scholar in his late twenties, taught Latin and Homeric Greek. To say he was brilliant would understate the case. But I learned after two weeks in his class that I had wasted 3 out of 4 years of high school Latin. So, I had to get out of that class. But how? Well, there was another Latin class for people like John Kenny who never had any Latin. It was taught by one of the strangest priests I ever met and 1 of 3 of the best teachers I ever had, Father Dubois. I turned again to Father Rouleau, the dean.
"That you’re having problems in Brother Columbo’s class?"
"It’s not Columbo but…."
"You mean Brother Columbo." He interrupted.
"Right. Unfortunately, I had used the Latin periods in high school for other pursuits so my background is poor."
What I didn’t say was these pursuits included smoking in the boy’s room, etc.
"That what are you suggesting?"
"Could I switch to Father Dubois’ Latin class?"
"I’ll speak with Columbo."
His face turned red.
Father Dubois stood ramrod straight at 6’1" and was runner thin. He was also prematurely bald (whatever that means), and was either a marvelous actor or a straight ballet star in a previous life. He glided across the floor gesticulating wildly to make a point. Dooby (we called him affectionately) conducted his classes in Latin and insisted we do the same. We ended up talking Latin even out of classes for awhile. He guided us (all 5 of us) through 2 years of Latin in three months. For the rest of the year, he sliced through Cicero and gave us tools that would allow us to float through anything that Columbo could later throw at us. An added benefit would be that these tools could also be used to get us through Homeric Greek. We not only looked forward to Dooby’s class, we hungered for it. Dooby’s motto was "we will learn Latin, not about Latin". I still remember one of his puns, actually a double pun of sorts because it required knowledge of both languages to get it.
Semper ubi, sub ubi. Always wear underwear.
And, he taught us a song in the form of a round.
Ego sum pauper (I am poor)
Nihil habeo (I have nothing)
Et nihil dabo (and I can give nothing)
When Dooby taught class, he never sat. His hands moved like a sculptor, his robes flowed effortlessly as he made a point. His eyes were always wide as he filled a black board with phrases. We were sponges to his water. And, consequently, I aced his course, B’d Columbo’s Greek class, and later aced his Latin class. Thank you Father Dubois. However, (notice, there’s always a however) he was strange in the sense that he lived upstairs in our building and not in the main house with the other priests and brothers – I think he was for all his outgoing nature a loner. I think he was a genuine ascetic, a holy man, and possessed of a great gift for teaching. You could only get so close to him before a wall went up. We respected that wall.
Brother Francis was from my hometown parish in Lynn. He was the monastery cook. Considering what he had to work with, Francis was pretty good. His soup was legendary and a religion unto itself. It was made in the tradition of a Chinese ‘LU’. Lu is a flavoring that started in a given family many generations ago. Let’s say you had a sauce. You would save some of it or whatever was left over as the basis for the next sauce and so on and so on down the line. At some point, it’s conceivable that a family LU could be 2000 or 3000 years old. Thus was Brother Francis’ soup, the monastery LU. He had professed vows about twenty years before I arrived as a student there and made his first soup then. Whatever was left over formed the basis for the next soup, and so on until I arrived on the scene twenty years later. We had soup 4 or 5 times a week as a prelude to supper and I never got tired trying to identify all the subtle flavors. While eating the soup, I once thought of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts character Pigpen who said that the dirt that surrounded him was the dirt of history and who knows what biblical or other historical figure may have trod on it. Thus was Brother Francis’ soup.
As a contrast, there was Brother Andre. His face was a testament to a pimply puberty. He was also legally blind with glasses whose lenses were about two feet thick. Andre was the monastery launderer. He performed atrocities on clothes like Stalin performed on the Russian people. Several of his masterpieces will doubtless find their way into B monster movies. Just to give you an example, I had a pair of jeans that came back in such a way that it took me awhile to figure where was the waist and where the legs. I’m sure the sadistic idea was that if ever we were found outside the monastery grounds, unconscious, we could be easily identified by the condition of our clothing. After Brother Andre got a hold of your clothes, they could be handed down no longer. For this reason, I saved several changes of clothes to be laundered in town to avoid detection in future adventures that begin next paragraph.
One Saturday PM around 6:00, I was walking the perimeter of the grounds when I spotted Theriault near the entrance to the monastery. He appeared to be hiding near some bushes and he had a clipboard in his hands.
"What the hell are you doing?" I asked as he jumped two feet.
"Jesus, you scared the shit out of me."
"I repeat, what are you doing?"
He looked at me for a moment, considering. Then he said, "I know you’ve been smoking. I followed you a couple times." I laughed inside thinking here’s a potential blackmailer trying to blackmail another potential blackmailer.
"You should have joined me."
"I don’t smoke."
A car drove by. Theriault recorded who was in the car, the make and color of the car, and the time it went out. Theriault came from upstate New York near Lake Placid and was an avid skier. His hair, like mine, was crew cut but his complexion was dark. His face had simian qualities and he had the build of a well trained athlete.
"So, what’s the scam?" I inquired.
"Well, every Saturday night, most of the priests drive out to hear confessions at some of the rural churches. On average, I discovered, they’re all out by 6:45 and come back between 11 and 11:30. About a half mile down route 9, there’s a small bar set off the road. I heard that the girls from Vassar College hang out there. Next Saturday, I’m breaking out. Are you in?"
"I’m in." Spoken without hesitation.
Theriault had this down to a fine art. I dressed and as I was heading out, I ran into Sammy Vella.
"Where are you going, Tom?"
"It’s Saturday night, Sammy, and I’m off to get a prime young piece."
"Yeah, right." Sammy exclaimed. I swear nobody ever believes me when I tell the truth.
I met Theriault at the entrance at 7:00 PM sharp and we headed down the road. It was a cool, cloud free April night on the Hudson. The bar was small and could probably hold 60 people thigh to thigh, which was just what I wanted. When we opened the door, smoke billowed out. You couldn’t see much, just bodies in shadow. The juke box was blaring ‘Louie, Louie’ by the King’s Men. The gender ratio was about 16 to 1. The bar was a sea of writhing breasts punctuated and intermixed here and there with Testosterone. Theriault and I found an inconspicuous corner table. He went to the bar and ordered us a couple beers. My heart was beating.
"You’re new here?" Said a dream approaching the table with a friend in tow.
"Hi, we just got here a few days ago. Tom and I are both artists. We’re here to paint." Not bad, Theriault, I thought. "And you?"
"We’re students at Vassar." They were both brunettes dressed in the college attire du jour, knee length skirts and tight sweaters. "This is Jean and I’m Linda."
"Please join us." I blurted out. "This is Theriault and I’m Tom."
"Theriault?" Linda asked.
"Yeah, just Theriault." He responded. We paired off at the table, Linda and Theriault, Jean and I. We had a few drinks and many laughs until I noticed it was around 11.
"Theriault, let’s go, it’s almost 11." The girls were surprised.
"Wassamater, you’ll turn into pumpkins?"
"That’s pretty close to the truth...shit’s more like it." Offered Theriault at their puzzlement.
"Will we see you again?" Asked Linda.
"Sure, next Saturday night." Said Theriault. We kissed the ladies and took off. Luckily, everyone was asleep when we got back to the dorm. We stunk of beer and smoke.
We continued in this vein for the next several weeks until Theriault got too daring. One Saturday fell on a feast day and we were given the day off for study or leisure. Theriault and I opted for leisure and 1:00 PM found us at the bar drinking beers while the juke played music to an empty house. We didn’t have to return until Benediction at 4:00 PM. Plenty of time for Theriault to get shit faced. By quarter past three, we started walking back – no, make that, me walking and Theriault staggering. We got back while everyone was off to chapel. I threw him in the shower, cleaned myself up, changed, and went to join the others.
In chapel, the priest and acolyte came in and the organ hit the opening strains of some hymn. We sang and then paused for a moment of meditation. Suddenly, the chapel door banged opened and Theriault, all disheveled, staggered down the main aisle, laughed insanely, and fell flat on his face. Pat Mc’Grath and Jim Barbieri ran down the aisle, picked him up and dragged him out – singing – the wrong hymn needless to say.
"Louie, Louie, OHHH, OHHH……."
I never saw Theriault again. For all I know, they may have walled him up somewhere in the bowels of the main house a la ‘Cask of Amontillado’. And, he never ratted on me. Mo had his suspicions that Theriault had not acted alone. He mentioned his suspicions the next night during the Sunday evening Chapter of Faults where he usually reviewed the week’s transgressions.
"That, I don’t think Theriault acted alone in this and I expect the guilty p-p-party in my office some time this week."
Yeah, right, it would be a cold day in hell when he’d see me in there. I may be nuts but I’m not crazy.
Aside from the contemplative portion of life, I was getting one heck of an education. Besides Columbo and Dooby, there were others. Bob Hohman and Lenny Bajakas were our evening teachers of Rhetoric and Sociology respectively. They were lay teachers who worked for IBM when IBM was in its heyday. Hohman was their head technical writer. He had a long, horse like face and huge bags under his eyes. His 6’2" height contrasted with a lean, stooped appearance that seemed to indicate he carried the world on his shoulders. But, when he opened his mouth, a deep mellifluous baritone and rich unpedantic vocabulary kept us all mesmerized. He was probably the second best teacher I had – anywhere. Hohman’s stated purpose was to force us to write with brevity, clarity, and logical progression. We all flunked our first exercise.
Wow, did that get our attention!
By the end of the course, I had struggled to a B+ (A- if you can figure the difference, was the highest mark he ever gave out).
Bajakas or Bah Jackass, as we called him, in contrast was an utter bore. I sat in the back row and used his class as a study period.
The only other visiting teacher was Father Mahlmeister, a Jesuit who attempted to teach us college math. The only thing I remember about his class was a concept called modular math. For example, in a hypothetical system where only one number exists, then 1+1=1.
Now, that I could understand. Everything else in his class was alien, which, I’m convinced, most math teachers are.
The rest of my teachers were all Blessed Sacrament Fathers to which I aspired.
Father Ruane had a whining voice but taught a hell of a course called Cultural Anthropology. Father Markey, the former dean who had run the college like boot camp was of Welsh extraction complete with accent. He taught English Literature and thought us all bumpkins. Father Charest, the treasurer of the order spent half of his time shutting off light bulbs and the other half teaching Public Speaking. He really cracked us up. One semester, he taught us how to use a microphone effectively but the way he did it was highly suggestive. He referred to the microphone as Mike.
"Now, class, to make a point, grab Mike with both hands, bring him close to your mouth, and whisper…." He held the Mike phalically and, at that point, I lost it together with half of my classmates.
Father Dorais by contrast was a brilliant physicist who had a mysterious association with NASA. How? I don’t know. He was the monastery gardener as well and kept beautiful gardens. He also had his own greenhouse. He stood about 6’3", weighed about 275 and had bird feet and bird hands. He didn’t walk, he waddled. He called us all ‘Fellas’.
"Now Fellas, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand jet propulsion. It’s the same principle as a fart only exponentially greater."
I saved talking about Brother Alphonse for last. He was the monastery mechanic, carpenter, plumber, electrician. There was nothing he couldn’t fix. And, he had balls that reach the floor for allowing me and teaching me to use all the machinery and vehicles on the grounds. The man had more patience than Job. I once inadvertently drove a back hoe down a 50’ embankment. It tipped over and threw me about ten yards in the process. Alphonse never screamed or yelled. He first ascertained that I was physically OK, then he called a tow company in town to right the situation. The next day, he gave me the keys to the tractor and asked me to mow the north lawn. I loved the guy. I understand that 10 years later, he was trying to repair the ancient boiler in the main house for the thousandth time when it exploded.
It took 3 days to find enough of Alphonse to bury.
I only encountered death once in the 2 years I was there. An old timer from their monastery in Suffern, NY died. It was tradition that he be buried in the small cemetery plot next to our chapel. There were only 4 others buried there. The back hoe was out of commission so John Kenny volunteered and Brother Alphonse volunteered me to dig the grave. The graveyard was very small. Alphonse told us to dig a hole just big enough for the casket liner. He gave us the dimensions and told us to dig it close to Father Bertram’s grave. It took us the better part of the day and it was thirsty work. To quench, I snuck into the refectory’s walk-in refrigerator and purloined a bottle, gallon size, of altar wine, Chateau de Gallo or something like that. We dug and we talked, and we drank and we dug, and we drank and we talked, and we drank. You get the picture. All of a sudden, Father Bertram’s casket caved into the hole we were digging. There was no casket liner. The top of the casket sprang open and bones poured forth. Talk about a quick sober up. It took us the better part of 4 hours to get most of Father Bertram back in place and the liner put in for the new occupant.
John Kenny, or Kenny-San as we called him, had spent 4 years in the Air Force during the late Fifties and early Sixties. He was stationed most of that time in Japan. John was a simple uncomplicated guy, who, from listening to him talk, had screwed his way through his tour of duty, lived a life of debauchery, and then found God. We were telling jokes one night at supper on a feast day. You know, typical dumb, clean jokes like those of the knock, knock variety. John Kenny who rarely ever said ‘Boo’ piped up.
"I have a joke." That got the attention of Mo and the rest of the table.
"Why was Eve the first carpenter?"
"Why?" We all said in unison.
"Because she made Adam’s banana stand."
We almost fell out of our chairs howling and watching Mo turn 10 shades of red.
"What’s the matter? It’s just a joke." Said John.
"I’ll tell you later." I said.
Now, we come to the dark part of this narrative in the guise of Raymond Cote. I was warned about him by a couple of upperclassmen. He was described as pure evil disguised as a cherub. However, I made a series of stupid mistakes in my relationship with this Bible thumper. What resulted was my fault alone.
I met Ray as I mentioned my first day there in the rec room. We were the first to arrive. Ray was 5’7", blond hair on top of an angelic face and a great disarming smile. He had a slight build. Although he came from Baltimore, MD, his southern drawl was more reminiscent of Alabama. I said a few words of introduction in Bostonian. He answered in Southern and I realized in a flash that we had nothing in common to start a conversation. So, I walked away to do something else.
I didn’t give the matter any more thought until about 6 months later.
"Yeah?" I turned. We had just finished supper and I was headed back to the college building.
"Mind if I join you?"
"It’s a free seminary." And join me he did. For the next two months, we were joined together at the hip while he complicated my life. He paid me more attention than my last girlfriend. He was attentive, he flattered, asked probing questions then hung on my every response. He acted (accent the word ‘acted’) as my best friend.
Then it happened.
He had finally figured me out (whatever that meant). He spit me out like a watermelon seed and avoided me like a leper. After playing on my ego and emotions for about 2 months (yeah, I know, my own damned fault), I was disconsolate. I told our spiritual advisor, Father Brouillard, the whole story and he counseled patience. I’m an Irishman; I have none.
I arranged it that we were together outside the dorm, and, in front of all our classmates, I sent a straight jab into his face so hard it drew blood.
Was it a stupid thing to do? Yes. But it sure felt good!
Cote then proceeded to do the same thing with Kenny-San (lasted one month) and Terry Gilbert (lasted 5 weeks). I learned many years later that Cote ended up in an insane asylum. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi: Thus passes the glory of the world.
And now, a quick profile of some of my more interesting classmates. The aforementioned Terry Gilbert hailed from Waterville, Maine. Waterville’s somewhere near the center of civilized Maine. He stood 6’3" (the tallest of us all), medium build, and was one of 6 sisters. That’s right, he could be confused with his sisters. He was a flamer with a Maine accent and a great storyteller. He could imitate stereotyped Down- Mainers perfectly and he came complete with homey aphorisms.
"If it snows like powda, it snows for an hour, but when it snows like oatmeal, it snows a great deal."
Bob O’donnell was a born again financial expert from NYC. He found Jesus for about a month, then after, spent all of his time on the phone with his broker.
Salvinu ‘Sammy’ Vella came from Malta. His hands were disfigured from countless surgeries for some birth defect. Sammy was a gentle guy with a lot of common sense that most of us lacked.
Bill Barr was a hayseed from Sims, Illinois. I looked it up once and it was nowhere. Every class I ever took had a Bill Barr. He would ask questions, stupid questions, embarrassing questions that would make myself and the rest of the class cringe. And, funny, but the professor always got suckered into attempting to provide an answer. Most of the guys couldn’t stand being anywhere near him; I felt sorry for him. He was overweight, had an insipid smile, and could have been cast as an ax murderer in a horror movie. I was also a bit scared of him. Then, the day before we were to leave for Xmas vacation, he surprised me, alone in the creepy attic of the college building where I was retrieving my suitcases.
"Whoa, Bill, you startled me."
He smiled stupidly and said "Tom, I’m leavin the seminary, goin back home. Don’t care about th’others, they all hate me but I wanted to say goodbye to you. Yer th’only one ever didn’t make fun on me."
I came damned close to tears.
Don Pelotte was the one who flew into the Cuckoo’s nest. He became a priest, and ended up as Provincial (the boss) of the order in the US and then, a bishop. He also presided over its wake. As the Sixties and Seventies were poison to religious orders, The Blessed Sacrament Fathers, under the direction of Don Pelotte, closed down the seminary together with a few other churches and retired to New Mexico somewhere with the priests and brothers who held out.
One day, during a testosterone seizure, I decided that I belonged elsewhere. I called my mom and step dad to come get me. I left unceremoniously.
"That you’re leaving?" asked Mo with an obvious sigh of relief.
"That I’m leaving." I responded.
POST SCRIPT (OR EPILOGUE) --- Some time in the late 70s or early 80s, Father Leo Bourque, a Blessed Sacrament Father who originally came from my parish, passed away in his early forties. He had been a missionary for the order in Africa and contracted one of their equatorial diseases. Father Leo loved Beethoven and once told me he could identify any Beethoven piece by the first three notes. What was left of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers in the USA (about 20 of them) showed up at St. Jean’s for the funeral. I thought, as I watched them filing into church, about dinosaurs.