The Journey Continues: Letters Home from Philosophy Studies, 1965 – 67 – Part 5

Drama has been a continued interest to the Philosopher. His experience again in the costume department is one challenge reflected in the first and second letter. His studies are clearly his main concern as for any university student. The fourth letter reports on Easter activities and the anticipation of the visit of Fr. General Pedro Aruppe.

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

February 2, 1966

Dear Mum and Dad,

Wow, is this letter over due. Things have really been hopping here, so naturally my letter writing was the thing that suffered. I was going to write last week, but then I got so involved in studying for a term exam for G.U. [Gonzaga University] and also in preparing our play which we are putting on about the 18th.

Then the weekend came and an opportunity to go to Priest Lake for a couple days of skiing, fresh air, and relaxation away from the books and everything else. It was a fantastic weekend and just what I needed because I really haven’t gotten too much exercise this  winter because it just hasn’t been cold enough to get the ice rink ready, and even though there were opportunities to go down the G.U. pool and skiing on Saturdays, it always happened that they came on the wrong days, days when I was supposed to do something else.

One thing that is really keeping me busy is the play. I think I told you that we’re doing the Pirates of Penzance. I am playing the Major General, the same part I played in our production at Guelph. Since I didn’t have to learn a whole new part, the costume department wasalso placed on my shoulders.

Again I thank heaven that you did a lot of sewing because it is proving invaluable to me now. At the moment I am in the midst of making seven policemen’  jackets out of old cassocks. A number of people are helping me get the other 31 costumes ready.

We borrowed some costumes from a high school in Spokane [Gonzaga Prep High School], but still need more. Oh well, we’ll finish them even if we have to make them all.

I’m not taking too heavy a load credit wise this semester, but as it is turning out, it is a good thing I didn’t because a couple of the courses are really demanding. I don’t think I did too badly last semester, probably a B average.

The house here is a little emptier now. Since they have changed the courses of study so that one can finish philosophy in two years instead of three, a number of lads have left for future studies and regency [the next phase of Jesuit training]. Joe Schuck left last week for [regency at]St. Paul’s [High] School in Winnipeg. He entered the year before I did, but he only had one year of Juniorate so that is why he seems so far ahead.

There is a possibility I will go to University of Toronto after my two years here to work toward an M.A. in English. But there is also a possibility that I will go to regency too.

By the way, thank you very much for your letters mum and for all the information. . . . . .  Gosh they are making you wait a long time to get into the hospital mum. Isn’t it terrible on the nerves? I remember waiting for only two weeks back at Guelph, and that wasn’t pleasant.

Marlene [sibling] wrote just the other day telling me how cold it was out there [in Regina]. When I tell the Californians about it, they just can’t believe that anyone could exist in that cold. I think I would rather have it cold than the way it is here though. It is always just between. It gets cold at times, but then shortly after, it thaws again, as though it just couldn’t make up its mind.

Frank as the Major General

Speaking of coldness reminds me of last night. I think I told you that I was staying in San Juliano which is in the basement of the building. Well, since all those lads took off, there are many vacant rooms upstairs so everyone moved up. I was the last to leave, and I had to move last night because they shut off the heat down here.

(The reason I said ‘here’ is because most of my things are still not moved, including my typewriter.) The room I moved into has two windows and is at the corner of the building. The heat in the room had been turned off all day so by evening it was cool, and last night it was cold. But by the time I got back from breakfast and

Mass, it was as warm as hot toast. Well, I’ve run out of news. I hope everyone is well and happy and I’ll be waiting for news from you and Lil. You are all n my prayers every day. I count on yours.

Love

Frank

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

[Handwritten]

February 11 1966

Dear Mum, Dad + all,

As I was coming down to my room this evening I finally noticed there was a letter for me. It was sitting in the box all day. Thanks very much for the letter + lovely valentine. I will keep a special remembrance in my prayers that all will turn out well for Lil. I hope she’s better by now.

My last term marks finally arrived and good news! All A’s except for one B, so thanks for all your prayers. Keep them up.

Things are really keeping me hoppin’ here. I’m taking a prose writing course, for as you know my forte certainly is not in that field so thought it might be a good idea to try to develop it.

Besides regular writing assignments in that, we also have to write a paper each week summarizing the work covered. So with 2 essays per week + much, much, much reading time just evaporates.

Our play is coming along slowly, but it is a tremendous amount of work. Besides the practice time I have to spend a good deal of time at costumes + thank heavens they are almost finished except for a million little odds and ends. I had to make seven police jackets.

I used old cassocks, but off the bottoms to the needed length, + trimmed the collar + sleeves with white trim. I put a strip of white down the front where the jacket would have a fold over + sewed on bottle caps (covered with silver paper) as buttons just a little to the one side. The results are not too bad. The police men were the biggest headache.

Our dress rehearsal is on Thursday, then our first performance on Friday. We’ll have two more on Saturday and one on Sunday. Many of the nuns from round are invited, drama classes etc. for the performances. We have much to do yet + there’s only 5 more days.

The weather here is terrible. It’s not cold enough for winter but too cold for spring or fall. Besides that it’s rather damp. We never did get cold weather consistently enough to have an ice rink this year, so our winter sports activities here are limited. A couple weeks ago we went to villa (Priest’s Lake) to ski + it was a lot of fun. My skiing hasn’t improved too much but I’m happy I can ski at all.

Last week we celebrated the 50th Anniversaries of two brothers. It was a lot of fun. At Easter time Father General of the Society [Pedro Arrupe] is coming to the U.S. + will actually come to the Mount. It will be a first.

Do you know that I still have not completely moved into my new room! It ended up that  every time I was near my old room I’d pick up an armload of stuff but after most of the things I need every day were moved I stopped. After the play is done I’ll have to take a cart down +  move the rest in one lump.

I have company in my room now, two gold fish. One of the third year men gave them to me when he left. They are in a clear glass battery case is about one foot high + six inches wide. So they have lots of room. Oh yes, there’s a snail too.

How did Rose + Matt make out on the exams? Well I hope. I’m glad the rest of the family is well, and my letter writing will have to expand after next week. I owe many letters + have not written any of the girls since Christmas. It’s terrible!

Marlene’s written twice + the rest have written too. Besides that I’ve missed a number of birthdays.—- Well I’d best get to bed, morning comes very quickly, too quickly usually, + there’s a full  day of practice ahead..

Again, thanks for thinking of me on Valentine’s day. You are always in my thoughts + prayers.

Love

Frank

P.S. I hope you can read this. It had to be written tonight or it would have been another week.

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

March 29, 1996

Dear Mum, Dad and all,

I started this letter last week, wrote about one half a page and gave up. I should have at least dashed off a note, but after that attempt, it was just impossible to get down to it. I just finished my weekly Metaphysics paper after much labour and so figured it was time to send off this note because it would be a breeze in comparison.

Thank you very much for the prayers, and the large package of gifts. The goodies were positively scrumptious and the shirt and T-shirts very welcome. Thanks also for the carton of marvellous Canadian cigarettes. I’m enjoying them immensely.

The past few weeks have been rather quiet. I’ve been pouring over my books and will have to really start pushing the next month or so to finish a term paper and get everything up to par for exams and what not.

The weather has been simply beautiful for the past week or so. Last weekend we went out to Priest Lake to our villa. We took along our skis planning to get in the last skiing for the year. As it turned out, the ski tow broke the afternoon we arrived, so a few of us walked (or crawled would be more exact) to the top of the hill and skied down once, trying to miss the brown spots on the hill where all the snow had already melted.

By the next day the holes were even bigger, and the day after that whole section of the hill was devoid of snow. So all in all we didn’t miss much as far as skiing was concerned. It was so warm that we took ouT the row boats and went over to an island with a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon playing cards on the sand beach while the sun began to brown our backs.

Some of us tried to wade in the lake shore water, but the water was numbingly cold. It was really funny though to relax in the warm sunshine on the warm sand just a few feet away from the remains of a large snowbank. The whole weekend was wonderful and just what most of us needed.

The warm weather has been holding out here for a few days so I’ve been getting a lot of badly needed exercise. There wasn’t too much to do during the winter, because it was so warm. Now the handball season has begun, and tennis, soccer etc. etc. So all my muscles are a little sore.

Spring is quite pleasant at the Mount. The daffodils are beginning to bloom and should be very lovely by Easter. All the lawns are green and the trees are showing signs of budding. A lad from California went home a week ago because his sister became seriously ill and when he got back he told me that the peaches are almost ripe at home. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?

I just can’t believe that Easter is just around the corner. It seems like yesterday that it was Christmas. But all the statues etc. are veiled, and Sunday is Palm Sunday. I had planned at Xmas to make Easter cards, but they just won’t get done. I’ll just send a few short notes.

Well, I’ve run out of things to say. I hope all of you are well and that spring has arrived there. Don’t forget the prayers; I still need them. You are always in mine.

Love

Frank

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

April 14, 1996

Dear Mum and Dad, Well, it is about time that I write you a half decent letter. It was terrible not to write a good Easter letter, but at the time I was just not up to doing anything. It took a week and a half to get completely over whatever it was. Now that I have [recovered], there is much work to do.

Exams are only about three weeks away, and I have a number of assignments to complete by next week. Oh well, with much elbow grease all will get done.

Thanks very much for the lovely package. Who made those delightful little baskets? The cookies, cakes and chocolate were all delicious. I opened it up a little early, on Holy Saturday, and set up a little Easter display so that I could feast my eyes on everything for a couple of days before we gobbled them up.

One thing I enjoy very much is opening up the parcel. You pack everything so well that it is like taking apart one of those block puzzles. It is impossible to see what is at the bottom until you take everything out. I can never put everything back in again the same way either, but that is probably because I taste things as I remove them and there are pieces missing. But it is a lot of fun, and everything is so fresh and in excellent condition even after going through the U.S. mail.

(Easter was marvellous.) On Palm Sunday we had a concert in one of the churches in Spokane. I had joined the G.U. [Gonzaga University] choir just for that Sacred Music concert. We did Mozart’s solemn vespers for a confessor, about sixty-eight solid pages of music. It was really a thrill to sing with a full choir of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses, with a string orchestra.

All of our singing [at the Mount] has to be 1st tenor, 2nd tenor, baritone and bass because we just don’t have girls in our choir. The music was rather difficult, but the end result made it all worth while, and it was a good experience to have a professional director.

The reason the music was hard was because I can’t read music too well, like most of the lads here, and so had to rely a great deal on my ear.

I started the last paragraph with ‘Easter was marvellous’. Well just ignore that sentence up there because it is entirely out of place. I was going to tell you about holy week, but then remembered to tell you about the concert. As usual I was in the choir up here for the holy week services.

We did everything in English, so that meant that everything we did had to be learned from scratch. We kept the singing down to a minimum and will build up each year because the people will know some of the things we did this year next year, and so it will not be too much to learn a few more things.

Our little choir learned a few of the older four part harmony pieces to help solemnize and beautify the ceremonies. On [Holy] Thursday we did the ceremonies here and then went down to the cathedral to sing for the ceremonies [there].

On Saturday, we had our vigil service at eight o’clock, so I went down to the orphanage with a small group to sing for [their] vigil service (at midnight).

Our lads were all over helping serve and sing for the Easter services at hospitals, missions, parishes etc. That little bit of ministry certainly helps us to remember where we are going and what we are studying for.

On Easter Sunday we went down to the cathedral to sing for the High Mass at ten o’clock. For a closing hymn at the Mount and down at the cathedral we sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God’, a powerful hymn written by Martin Luther.

(If you have ever looked through some of the newer hymnals, you will see that we are borrowing quite a few melodies and words from our separated brethren who have gone way beyond us in English hymns and melodies because they have not had Latin services since the reformation.)

Gerry Price arranged a four part harmony and that together with a pipe organ and trumpet gave Easter a wonderful triumphant note. We left for villa at Priest Lake on Easter Sunday evening and came back yesterday evening. We had a wonderful time out there as usual.

Today Father General of the Society [of Jesus] (from Rome) is arriving in Spokane to visit our houses here. This is the first time the General has every done any travelling to other countries. He is making a tour of many of the houses in the States, and the trip will do a lot to help foster a family spirit.

Father has been in the States before when he was studying, then he was in Japan (before he was made General). So he can speak English. He is a Spaniard though by Nationality, and came from the same place as our founder, St. Ignatius [of Loyola]. We are going down to a dinner in his honour at Gonzaga University this evening. He will come back to the Mount tonight and say Mass for us tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to it all.

Well, I’d better close and get down to writing all those papers due next week. I hope all of you are well, and that you had a happy Easter.

Don’t forget to remember me in your prayers. You are always in mine.

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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