The Journey Continues: Letters Home from Philosophy Studies, 1965 – 67- Part 2

The concern about family is at the top of the first letter, both about their health (a continued concern, especially in the second letter), but also their livelihood on the farm. The harvest determined how the family would fare economically for the year. The arrival of the guitar is third billing! Curiously, Christmas begins to figure already because of the ambitious choir activities planned. Perhaps the stress of the new‘academic’ life is best reflected in the permission the philosopher obtained to pick up ‘an old habit’, smoking.

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Mount Saint Michael, Spokane, Washington 99207

October 9, 1965

Dear mum and dad;

As usual I am late with this letter. I meant to start it in the beginning of the week, but as always, it has to be done on the weekend. Thank you very much for your letter mum. It was good to hear from you and to find out how things stand there. I hope the weather got better. I began a novena (and have kept it up for almost two [weeks] for that intention. I’m glad that Rosemary and Mathew are finally well, and hope that dad is much better now. Let me know when you go to the hospital mum. Just drop me a note if [you] go of a sudden.

The guitar arrived yesterday, but I only got the parcel today. It is really beautiful, just perfect. Instead of sending thank you notes, I thought I would send a small letter to each doner. That will mean about twenty-five letters and will take a little time, but it will be more personal and probably more appreciated. I won’t be able to do them all at once because I’m bombarded with work these days, but over a period of time. Thanks for the money for the cards. If things get too hectic I might change my mind.

Our weather has warmed up considerably, so it is pleasant to be outside again. Today was a lovely day, villa day. The villa days are a little different here than they were back in Guelph. Practically your whole day is free and the only real regulation is that you be outside from eleven a.m. until till two p.m. So everybody packs a little lunch in a paper bag and goes out to play or work for those three hours.

Fall is not as beautiful here as in the east [Ontario]. Although it isn’t as colourful, it is not unpleasant. Since we live on the top of a huge hill, there is a good view of the valley below and the hills or mountains in the distance. One thing that is beautiful is the sunsets and sunrises.They are just as beautiful as they are on the prairies.

The choir is still going strong on the program for Christmas, and guess what? I’m in business with my guitar already. I have a solo to do in one carol. You have probably heard the carol done to the melody of Greensleeves. I will sing the verses while the choir hums in the background, and then the choir sings the refrain.

I have been trying to design a Christmas card, and think I’ve finally come up with something. Another lad, George Smith, and I tried to make a silk screen but have not met with too much success. The frame was the easiest thing to make but the difficulty we had was finding some silk. We tried a number of materials but they didn’t work. We finally got what we thought was silk, but it turned out to be something else because when we tried to squeeze the paint through it , the cloth stretched and tore.

We found one more type of cloth, but we haven’t tried it yet. It looks pretty promising. The difficulty with those we tried so far is that they are the right thickness but are just not strong enough. The cloth has to be thin so that you can trace your drawing on the cloth from underneath and so that you can squeeze the paint through it.

I have probably…… I was going to say that I can’t think of anything else to say, but as you can see it didn’t even begin right. And besides that there is something else. Our Father Provincial will arrive tomorrow. It will be good to see him. You probably remember him because he was rector at Campion the last year I was there. His name is Father [Angus] McDougall. (I think the spelling is incorrect.)

As far as my studies are concerned, I have never found anything more difficult to study than philosophy. It has been quite a grind thus far, and I hope that it will taper up a little as time goes on. So there is a good intention for you, that my mind will be enlightened, a little at least, for philosophy.

Please say hello to everyone for me and don’t forget me in your prayers. You are always remembered in mine.

Love

Frank

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Mount Saint Michael, Spokane, Washington 99207

October 29, 1965 [Hand written letter]

This is just going to be a short letter so that I can send it immediately. I just got your letter today.

Oh take it easy mum! I was a little shocked to hear why you were in the hospital. I hope by the time you get this letter you will be completely well. But in future don’t let yourself get all run down because, as you know, that’s when flu, colds etc. etc. hit you. I started coming down with a terrible cold but caught it just in time to get rid of it quickly.

I was sorry to hear that the crop is such a poor grade but as you said at least what there is is in the bin.

Myrna [sibling] didn’t write. I hope she’s alright now.

My days are so busy that sometimes I wonder which way to turn. The philosophy is still slow in coming so keep up the prayers. With those behind me I can’t go wrong.

You know mum, one thing about my life as a student and religious is that every once ina while I get a new + fresh insight into the extreme importance of prayer. Sometimes there is nothing one can do but pray. No doubt this all sounds a bit naive to you because it is probably the same in every vocation. But that is the reason that I always ask for prayers. No one of us here can make it or could make it without wonderful mothers, fathers and families to back them up with prayers and sacrifices.

Please give my love to Dad and the rest of the family. I was going to send this to the hospital but by the time it got there you would probably be home.

Thank Marlene [sibling] for her letter I always appreciate them. I will answer sometime in the future. (That’s about all I can promise for I still haven’t begun those other thank you letters.)

Please take care of yourself mum, and offer up some of your prayers, works, and sufferings for me.

Love,

Frank

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Mount Saint Michael, Spokane, Washington 99207

Nov. 4, 1965 [Hand written letter]

Dear Mum, Dad + all,

Thanks for the letter, mum, and the good news [on her progress in hospital]. By the time you get this letter you should be home. Take good care of yourself.

As usual times’ going by quickly. I handed in an essay on Wednesday and received my mid-term mark in my English course which was an A+ which I will probably need to bring up the philosophy marks in my average.

In the past two weeks I was picked up by one of the football teams in our little leagues here on the mount. We lost our game last week, but today we walked off with a solid 13-0 victory. So we were very elated. I didn’t sign up early in the season because of my leg, but now if I don’t push it too much, it’s o.k.

I still haven’t got at those thank you letters. I’m making my own Xmas cards with a silk screen so, since I waited this long, I [will] wait a few weeks longer and send them a xmas card + thank them in it. These last three weeks have been particularly hectic, and although things have lulled for a bit I’ve a feeling that it won’t be for long.

I think our beautiful fall down in this area has come to an end. It started raining yesterday, and today it was cloudy + cool. Fr. Farrell from Guelph wrote Tom Bonic + told him it snowed down there and froze the water pipes at the new villa. So it must be pretty cold there.

Well, I guess I’ll sign off. I decided it might be a good idea if I wrote a short note every week or so because it’s easier to put aside a little time than a lot. I don’t know what I’ll end up doing yet.

Guess what? I’ve gotten permission to take up the old habit I dropped a few years ago. So now I have nicotine on my fingers again.

Don’t forget to pray for me.

Love

Frank

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All photos courtesy of Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

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