The Native Returns Home
Friday, August 27, 2021, close to midnight: I stagger out of the Toronto Airport and meet Fr. Henk van Meijel, S.J., patiently waiting for me. Relief! Now I can claim to be safely home!
I had left Kathmandu about twenty-four hours earlier. The Turkish Airlines flights were on time and the service good, though I wished I had retractable legs while sitting in coach class seats. The six hours in Istanbul airport were not exciting but I was able to doze there.
Henk drove me across Toronto to our community and retreat house at Pickering, and got me settled in a comfortable guest room. In the morning I enjoyed a good breakfast and met many old and new friends, and then made a final move into the La Storta Jesuit Community residence. I’m now rested and ready to help with retreats.
The center has three sections: the Manresa Retreat House, La Storta Community Residence, and The Rene Goupil Community for retired Jesuits. We generally have meals and liturgies together at Rene Goupil House. The elderly receive the best of care there.
I’ve enjoyed a week of rest and walking. Br. Paul Baker has guided me through the main walking trails in the area. I look forward to more exploring during afternoon walks.
The years 2020-2021 have been full of changes and anniversaries for me. I joined the novitiate at Guelph on 14 August 1960, sixty-one years ago. Regular Jesuit formation followed at Guelph, Spokane, and Toronto, culminating in ordination at Toronto, 5 June 1971. I then spent the last of five summers at Seattle University, to earn a master’s degree in science teaching.
Meanwhile I had asked to join the Darjeeling mission, so in late 1971, I flew off to India. An Indian resident visa was not forthcoming, but I was able to join Fr. Bill Mackey, Br. Mike Quinn, Br. Nick Johannesma, Fr. Jack Coffey, and Fr. Joe Paikaday in Bhutan. The five years there were delightful. We ran a school at the government’s expense. Jack was able to recruit the best of poor but intelligent students from government primary schools. Our lives were completely focused on raising these students.
Once my five-year visa expired, I returned to Canada in late 1976 and enjoyed the first half of 1977 teaching at St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg. I enjoyed visits with family and friends there while arranging a further mission posting.
So in mid-1977 I was off to Nepal. Then Nepal’s education was taught completely in the Nepali language, so I spent the rest of the year learning as much as I could. Early 1978 found me teaching a vocational course in basic electric wiring – a joy to teach despite my limited language skills. I’ve continued high school teaching, while filling in Jesuit administrative posts.
At the end of the academic year in May 2021, it was clear that school teaching was too much for me, so I retired in Kathmandu where I prepared to return to Canada. I now look forward to ministry here in Pickering. I look back in thanksgiving for untold blessings, specially thanks to good Jesuit companions and superiors, and look ahead to new ministry at a reasonably reduced pace, again thanks to God’s blessings.