Monday, September 27, 2004

Back from Midland.

This past weekend, the first-year novices visited the Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario. It was an awesome trip, not only spiritually enrichening but fun-filled as well. In view of our numbers, we were divided among three vehicles - two vans plus a Dodge Stratus piloted by Detroit Province vocation director Br. Jim Boynton, who led the trip. Ben, Jake, Kevin, Tony and I were in the teal Grand Caravan, known to us as Bobadilla Fett (named in dual honor of this guy and this one). I like to drive, especially in Canada, so I volunteered to pilot 'Dilla Fett all the way to Midland and back. My major impressions are two: 1. For a minivan, it has a lot of zoom. 2.) Gas mileage is okay but not great, and filling the tank costs a fortune. The drive up was really enjoyable, especially as it involved not one but two Tim Hortons stops, one of them being in Strathroy, a friendly little town where I involuntarily though happily spent three days last August on account of a massive blackout. Our group of fifteen also enjoyed a sumptuous dinner and generous hospitality at the home of some friends of Ryan in Brampton, right outside Toronto. We didn't get to Midland until close to midnight, and we were all so exhausted we turned in pretty much immediately.

On Saturday morning we toured the Martyrs' Shrine as well as the nearby recreation of the 17th century Jesuit mission known as Sainte-Marie-among-the-Hurons. The church and grounds at the Shrine are beautiful, impressive and highly conducive to prayer. Sainte-Marie is a faithful, detailed recreation in the mold of Plimoth Plantation, right down to reenactors in vintage garb and omnipresent smells of wood smoke and dead and/or living animals. The small wooden church at Sainte-Marie also includes the twin grave of SS. Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, the only two of the eight North American Martyrs whose final resting places are known with certainty. The grave was moving in its great simplicity; Brebeuf and Lalemant rest under a dirt mound marked only by a single candle, a tiny cross and a crude wooden plaque. Perhaps needless to say, visiting Sainte-Marie as a Jesuit novice was a unique experience. We all got our picture taken under the "IHS" plaque at the entrance to the compound, and we toured the recreated Jesuit residence with great fascination (the rooms were a lot smaller back then). The staff at Sainte-Marie were delighted to see us, though speaking with a reenactor playing a 17th century Jesuit Black Robe was a tad surreal.

Saturday afternoon we had a big Mass in the shrine church to commemorate the Feast of the Martyrs (which really isn't until October 19th). The provincial of the Upper Canada Jesuits presided, with Toronto auxiliary bishop Daniel Bohan giving the homily and numerous Jesuits and diocesan priests concelebrating. Afterward we enjoyed a very nice dinner followed by entertainment from the highly esteemed Jimmy and the Novices - with a special guest appearance by Bishop Bohan, who gamely sung along with the band.

Sunday we visited St. Ignace, where Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant were martyred. The place looks much as it probably did in 1649, and visiting it was an appropriately powerful experience. After other opportunities for Mass dried up, we ended up going to the massive open-air Mass held in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Toronto's Rosary Sunday, an event which had absolutely no connection to the previous day's commemoration of the Martyrs beyond the fact that both were held at the same shrine. Thousands turned out for the Rosary Mass, which was held under blazing sunlight and without any kind of amplification; despite moments of chaos (the distribution of communion, for example, was woefully disorganized) the Mass went off fairly well. The ride back to Berkley was a blast; we of Bobadilla Fett made a quick stop in intriguingly named Tiny, Ontario, as Kevin can attest. On the way back we also spent several hours in Toronto, which most of us (myself included) had never seen. Numerous people had told me that Toronto was a lot like Chicago, and my admittedly brief visit confirmed that impression. Though we drove around the attractive University of Toronto campus, efforts to locate Jesuit Regis College were unsuccessful. We did, however, enjoy a delicious dinner of take-out pizza at happening Yonge-Dundas Square downtown, where the entertainment included the self-proclaimed "Mr. Peru," an elderly man in a gold cape and cardboard top hat who would take on any comers at chess for $2 a game. An obligatory late night Tim Hortons stop followed in border town Sarnia, and we made it back to Loyola House around midnight. Yet again, "a fun a time was had by all."

Sometime this week I hope to blog on the myriad '80's and '90's pop culture references that came up in the course of the trip, if only for my own edification and, perhaps, that of Jonathan as well. AMDG.


At October 04, 2004 12:31 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Joe --

Glad you had a good visit to Canada. Shame you couldn't stumble on Regis . . . the inimitable James Sears, S.J. is there for the semester.


At October 04, 2004 9:15 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Kate -
Great to hear from you, and glad you found my humble blog. (Feel free to link me if you so wish, as I'd welcome the boost in readership that would be result.) 'Tis pity Regis remained evasive, but hopefully I'll have other opportunities to see the place. AMDG,


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