Monday, June 13, 2005

Back in the Bend.

I'm writing this post from a computer at Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library, which hasn't changed much since I was a student here little more than a year ago. I can't say the same about the Notre Dame campus as a whole, which is going through one of its periodic construction spurts: a couple buildings have been torn down and a couple new ones have gone up; one road through campus is being redirected and another is in the course of being widened. I never thought I'd be able to say this, but South Bend is showing signs of yuppification. When I was a student here, the only Starbucks in the area was in the LaFortune Student Center at ND, but now the coffee retailer has several locations in South Bend and neighboring Mishawaka. Coffee-drinkers of a more independent bent have the option of going to a hip new coffee lounge which recently opened near campus in a building that used to house a fairly dinky Indian restaurant. The new DeBartolo Performing Arts Center has, I'm told, substantially raised the cultural horizons of the area, meaning aspiring sophisticates now longer have to drive to Chicago (or, failing that, Three Oaks) in search of a good time. Like all people, yuppies need housing as well as nourishment and entertainment, and to satisfy that need a number of promising new condo developments are planned or under construction. In short, South Bend is starting to become an exciting place to live - a bit late for me, perhaps, but good news for the people of Michiana.

As an incidental side note to the above, one of the more interesting things about returning to South Bend after a year away has been observing the fate of some local restaurants. As in many other cities, there are a number of locations in South Bend where restaurants open and close within a few months, such that the a single space can house a surprising variety of different eateries over a fairly brief period. I'm sure many readers can think of examples of this phenomenon in their own locality; I've found a couple good examples in South Bend. On S.R. 23 near campus, there's a building that in my time living here was successively home to a generically Eastern Mediterranean gyro place and a Jewish delicatessen (called, creatively enough, the Irish Kosher Deli). Now, the same place is home to a Mexican restaurant. Up the street from the house I used to live in on Leland Avenue is a place that started out as a soul food restaurant and then became a taqueria - the Taqueria El Gordo, to be precise. From the looks of things, the Taqueria El Gordo is a thing of the past, as the building is now boarded up. If restaurant buildings could talk - oh, the stories they'd tell (stories, probably, that would make one never want to eat out anywhere again).

Anyhow, readers may be wondering about the purpose of my trip in South Bend. I'm currently in the middle of what is called the novitiate "home visit," where novices get a few days off to visit their families. I saw my family last weekend, however, so instead I'm making my home visit in the city I most recently called home before entering the novitiate. My agenda for the trip is nothing more than seeing old friends and returning to familiar places. Wednesday I'll be heading back to Chicago, then on Friday it's off to Denver. These few days are thus a peaceful interlude amid periods of intense travel, and so far I'm enjoying them.

In my last post, I promised an update on province days, so here goes. On Thursday night, Chi Prov socius (i.e., assistant to the provincial) Father Mike Class took the novices out for dinner at Tapas Barcelona, a fine new Spanish restaurant in Evanston. For dessert we went to Ethel's Chocolate Lounge, a neat place where we enjoyed delicious if pricey bonbons in swanky surroundings. Over the next couple days we provided miscellaneous assistance at a spate of province events, most notably Friday evening's Jubilarian Mass at historic Holy Family Church and Saturday's ordination liturgy at St. Ignatius Church in Rogers Park. The ordination was appropriately moving and went off quite well despite minor glitches; as ordaining prelate, Francis Cardinal George gave a very thoughtful homily and did a particularly good job locating the significance of the event in a specifically Jesuit context. Saturday night saw the annual province banquet, an occasion offering both fine food and excellent fellowship. On Sunday morning, newly ordained priests Jim Collins and Dave De Marco celebrated their first Masses in the presence of their families, friends and assorted Jesuits. As part of the last-mentioned group I attended De Marco's first Mass at Loyola University Chicago before leaving for South Bend. So that's the weekend in a nutshell - Partners magazine will offer a fuller account in its next issue, which I'll provide a link to when it becomes available. AMDG.


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