The Journey Continues: Letters Home from Philosophy Studies, 1965 – 67 – Part 8

There are references to a‘tape’ in some of the letters. The ‘tapes’ were small reel to reel recording tapes which were sent via the post in order to hear family members’ voices. (Telephone was still too expensive.) Though cumbersome, it was also consoling and fun. The first letter describes adventures in skiing, sailing, and ‘flotila’ing. The second letter gives a sense of the numbers in the Jesuit community at the Mount, 140 scholastic philosophers alone, not counting the priests and brothers. The September 15 letter records an important shift at the Mount with most of the Jesuit students now taking their classes at the Gonzaga campus rather than at the Mount itself.

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Mount St. Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

August 26, 1966

Dear mum and Dad,

We got back from villa yesterday afternoon and are going on retreat this evening, so I thought I’d dash off a short letter to let you know everything’s still kicking at this end. Oh yes, thanks for the lovely letter mum and I got the tape you sent. I’ll try to get the recording done right after the retreat.

Marlene [sibling] just wrote too, telling me all about their goings and comings in a serial type letter, and Myrna [sibling] also wrote about a week ago.

I hope things smoothed out for the harvest. It doesn’t rain but pours. I don’t envy you with all the work you still have to do, the harvest, hay, painting and the complications that seem to pop up. Marlene tells me your land-scaping is turning our beautifully. Don’t forget to take some pictures of it to send me. I hope the family picnic as a good one.

Villa was tremendous, and we were all sorry to see it end so quickly, although when you consider it, we had three weeks, a good long time. But it went by so fast as time usually does when you are having fun. I finally made it up on one ski during the last week.

I should have much earlier but just before we drove up to Banff, I was skiing on two skis fooling around feeling very sure of myself. I lifted my left ski out of the water practising a one ski stand and a split second of carelessness dumped me into the water.

I let the tip of raised ski catch the water and up and over I went making a full summersault (I don’t know if that’s how you spell it). The one ski hit me in the back of the neck but I didn’t know that until I’d skied to shore. I thought I just hit the water quite hard.

The little welt cooled me down a little, then the next day we left for Banff. We spent two days on the trip leaving at six o’clock the first day and came home late the next day. We had a couple of days of windy cool weather just then, so there was no skiing. The rest of the villa was perfect for that sport.

But that was not our only activity. I tried my hand at sailing. We have a small boat with a main sail and a jib (small front sail). The boat is the size of a row boat. The first attempt was disastrous at first.

Just as we left the shore a motor boat approached and asked about Mass in the morning. We ‘came about’ (turned around) and pulled up along side of their boat. As we talked the wind started to rise pulling both boats toward the shore so we said we’d better pull away.

We did just that but were too busy talking to notice a gust of wind approaching. (You can usually tell because the waves in front of the wind look like a black line in the water). Suddenly we began shipping water and our main sail was almost dipping into the water.

We shifted our weight to the opposite side but right after the gust was a lull with no wind. Our weight shift took the boat to the other side and more water came pouring into the boat. Just then another gust came taking us over again to the other side.

This time my captain lost the mainsail (some one had undone the safety knot) taking it out to the side. It was too late to lower the sails and over we went. While my captain, who was teaching me to sail, steadied the craft to prevent it from going bottom up in the water, I swam around and lowered the sails.

The motor boat who had sort of caused the mishap came back to tow us to shore, as our life preservers were drifting off along with the bail can and oar. (Oh yes, just as we went over a loud cheer rose from the shore. It delighted them to see my captain lose his ship.)

A couple of the people in the boat jumped out and tied the rope to the boat, and while the captain stayed with the ship I retrieved the straying articles from the boat. We only lost an orange which is probably still floating somewhere in Priest Lake.

We bailed out the boat at shore, dried the sails, and then spent most of the afternoon sailing around the island. A couple of other people took out the boat when we got back and also tipped it. It was much much fun.

On some evenings we would all (or I should say from twenty to forty of us) would pile into the Ark (a ship to shore vessel about thirty feet long, run by a diesel engine) with guitars, bass fiddle and drums to serenade the campers and cabin owners.

Sometimes they would reward us by sending our some liquid refreshment. That too was a lot of fun. The ark was the boat to take out when the wind was strong enough to make big waves. It could never swamp the ark because of its size but it did a good job of rocking and throwing water spray over the prow.

Hoops at the Mount.

It was so pleasant to fall asleep because after sitting on the dock, or spending the day on the sail boat, the ark or just a row boat, you would still feel as though you were being rocked by the water.

On the last day of villa, we tied together our fleet of row boats (we used thirteen of them and tied the Donald Duck behind them as a caboose) and hooked them to the back of the ark. A couple of us jumped in each boat and off we went across the lake.

As I told you before, the row boats are painted every crazy colour you could think of, from pink to light green, and all but two have equally funny names. It took awhile to get the “flotilla” to stick together.

At the beginning there was always a rope breaking, then everyone in the boats left behind had to row like mad to catch up to the ark and tie up again. At last they all stuck and stayed that way until we got almost home. Then the captain of the ark started making circles etc trying to loose us.

We must have looked funny. Motor boats brought kids out to see it and to take pictures and a couple of rowboats of kids caught up and tied their boats to the end of the line.

These are just a few of the silly things we did at the villa. . . . it was all very much fun and everyone enjoyed it.

I’d better sign off now. Don’t forget those prayers,

Love

Frank

[hand written]

P.S. Grandma is remembered in my prayers + also Aunt Annie. I hope Candy + Charles + the rest of the kiddies are over the measles now [and] that little Kim’s operation was successful. [nieces and nephew] I will write after the retreat.

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

September 7, 1966

Dear mum and dad

Well here it is well into September already and the beginning of the new school year. Time goes by much too fast. Now we have to settle down and put our heads to the grind stone again, and it looks as though this year is going to be a busy one.

I’m taking the usual 9 units of philosophy and am trying to get a graduate course in English since I have everything necessary for a B.A. with a major in that subject. I will only graduate officially next spring though because it is better to get the B.A. in philosophy for that is G.U.’s most distinguished dept.

Brothers at work in the tailor shop.

I was going to take another course, perhaps an education course, but most of them look formidable workwise, and I need a light course to go with the ones I’ve already got. Perhaps I’ll end up with an audit.

We haven’t started classes as yet. Our first class will be on Friday here at the mount and we will register for classes down at G.U. next Monday. The third year men began their classes here yesterday. I’ve spent some of my extra time reading and getting my files of notes in order, plus other odds and ends done.

This year twelve men came down from Guelph. Since the railroads were out of commission, all of them flew out. They seem to be doing alright, although it seems some of them are having a little trouble adjusting to our very early rises. (We are getting up at 5 a.m. these days and will be all semester.

Classes begin at 8 a.m. at G.U., so that’s the reason for the early rises. They are used to later rises because Mass and daily prayers were in the afternoon at Guelph. It is almost impossible for us to have a daily ordo of that sort here because most of the classes are at the university, not at the mount.

About another 20 lads will be coming from Sheridan, the Oregon [Jesuit] Province’s novitiate, next week. That will increase our numbers to 140. A goodly size, no? I’ve practically got all the names of the new men down now.

It’s a little easier for us to get names down than some of the lads who have just arrived. Most of them have to start from almost scratch, especially the Canadian group. They only knew the seven of us who came last year.

Tom Bonic’s mother and two sisters are up for a visit right now. I had a nice chat with them on Sunday and we did a little entertaining. Tom sold his guitar and his mother got him a twelve string. It sounds beautiful and does wonders for the sound of our little group.

It’s nice to play it once in awhile, but to tell you the truth, I’d rather play my own. You can do much more with just a guitar, a six string that is.

Our retreat was very relaxing and enjoyable, in fact, I think it was the most enjoyable and rewarding retreats I’ve made. Father Asselin and two young priests, Fathers Bush and Cooper directed the retreat. They have all studied the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius very thoroughly and also have an excellent knowledge of scripture.

They tried to adapt the exercises using modern materials to help create the mood for each particular day and to emphasize the important thoughts of the day. The entire retreat centered around the Mass and all the talks were taken directly from scripture, the Word of God.

(The modern materials mentioned above were things like music, carefully chosen to foster the mood of the day and also to help relaxation, a thing very important, and short films (mostly chosen from the catalogue of National film board of Canada.)

The films were also well chosen and used very well. I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of them. Under ordinary circumstances some of the movies would not be so unforgettable, but in the context of the retreat, they were extremely effective.)

Enough about me. How is the harvest coming. Well, I hope, and I pray that the rain has stopped and dry weather has stepped in. You know farmers are pretty lucky in a way.

They seed the grain, but they always know, as the Old Testament says, “who seeds, and who gives the increase.” In other words they realize how helpless they really are in their struggle to make a living from the land, and know how many things can happen between sowing and harvesting.

It is a blessing in that they have a better chance than anybody to realize their dependence on God. You know, perhaps that is the reason God took the initiative to speak to the Hebrews of all the people in the world. Because of their nomadic lives and great dependence on nature, they were more prepared for his Word.

So much for my theory, but I think it is well founded. It’s almost time to sign off. It’s funny how I started out with the big pages and they have diminished into the little ones. I find it easier to get going though on the…small sheets because they fill up faster and don’t look so challenging at the beginning.

Tom’s mum and sisters just left this morning. I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye but Mrs. Bonic sent me a pack of Canadian cigarettes via Tom. You’ll have to meet her sometime. She’s a wonderful person. [hand written] (Not only because of the gift though!)

You are in my prayers every day. Hi to everyone esp. Rosemarie and Matt. Don’t forget

the prayers.

Love

Frank

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

[Handwritten]

September 15, 1966

Dear Mum and Dad,

Things were really supposed to be popping here at the mount this weekend for we are having “open house”, that is lifted cloister for two days + invited anyone to come up and see our home. The reason is that it is the Mount’s 50th anniversary.

The weather man has not been too co-operative though so only about 300 came up yesterday + today’s weather is not too promising, so there probably won’t be that many.

Everyone has a job though– parking cars– guiding tours, serving lunch (all afternoon)– to entertaining. There is where 15 of us are being kept busy. We have 2 singing groups (both different from our summer singing group.)

Which reminds me that we’ll have to put some songs on tape soon– I’ll get some songs by the summer group– the Mass + song of the new groups. Up to now we haven’t had much of a change to record anything.

We just finished registering + going through a week of classes. Then we needed much practise for the open house deal, so . . .

Class wise, I’m going to be quite busy this semester with on grad course in English, plus the education course and, of course, the 9 units of philosophy. I just don’t know when I’ll get in my extra curricular activities.

The philosophers – a full house!

20 more lads came in from Sheridan a week and ó ago so now we have a full house– but all the new men are really great, so it should be a tremendous year. It seems as though everybody is getting to know everybody else quite quickly– more quickly than last year at least.

I think something like an “open house” helps this because everyone has to work together on a big project to make it a success.

Our semesters this year are going to be a little rough. We are now following the G.U. schedule + most of our classes are on campus– all except one course in each year– that means up at 5 a.m.

By one-thirty it’s surprising how tired you are– but by then you’ve had an 8 hr day already. You also have to capitalize on evening study time for the morning is shot with travelling + classes– afternoon gives 1 ó of study + one class, so you see what I mean.

I had my eyes checked on Friday + as usual need stronger lenses. I guess that’s what much much reading will do. There’ll be even more reading this semester – 400 pages weekly of only text book reading (for all courses)

How’s the harvest coming? I hope you’ve been getting dry weather I’ve been praying for.

Good luck to Rosemarie + Matt on their new school year– I only realized Blaine’s [nephew] birthday went be 2 weeks ago. I guess I need a secretary or something.

I trust you’re all well– You’re all in my prayers daily. Don’t forget me in your’s.

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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