All of Us – #157

Fr. Larry Lisowski Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Parish Catholic Church in Chicago

Thank You Mary Beth

This Sunday we have the opportunity to show our appreciation for the ministry that Mary Beth May has provided for our parish in the past two years serving as the Director of our Religious Education Program. We have been blessed by her commitment and talents.

A reception will take place at 12:00 noon this Sunday in the atrium of the St. Joseph Parish Center. I hope you can join us, even if only for a few minutes. May God continue to bless Mary Beth and her family as she makes this important transition in her life.  

A Search Committee has been formed and the interview process has begun to fill Mary Beth’s position on our Staff.  I will keep you informed along the way.

Face To Face

My classmate Fr. Fred Tomzik and I have taken a summer train trip for the past ten years to a city to catch a major league baseball game. We try to check out a different ballpark every year. This year we took the Amtrak train to Washington D.C. to see the Nationals host the Brewers; and on the way back we stopped in Pittsburg to see the Pirates play the Cubs. 

Riding the train is an interesting way to travel if you are not in a rush to get to your destination. It can be relaxing because you don’t have to worry about precise directions, getting caught in road construction or making it to the next gas station when you are running on fumes. There is something peaceful about looking out the window as you pass through one small town after another. You begin to wonder: “How can people live out in the middle of nowhere? Do they ever get bored? Where is the nearest hospital?”

One of the traditions (rather it’s more of a policy) of riding the rail is that your meals in the dining car are eaten “in community.” Every half hour the conductor calls over the PA system summoning the next group that made reservations. There is no private dining. Folks are asked to share a table because space is limited and the staff is small. I laughed to myself when the brassy woman conductor emphasized their motto, “all our meals are ‘community meals.’ You will make a friend.” I felt the pressure to be nice.

Fred and I made it to the dining car for our 8:30 a.m. seating. The young waiter sat us down at the table that was already set with silverware and napkins to accommodate four. He told us to have a seat and that another couple would be joining us soon.

After a few minutes an Amish father and daughter joined us for breakfast, and we politely exchanged our names. They were from eastern Iowa, traveling west to visit relatives in Delaware. The father wore a traditional long gray bread, a neatly pressed shirt and a black vest. His daughter, Barbara, who looked like she was going into 8th grade wore a simple gray dress and a blue scarf around her head. Just her angelic tan face was showing. 

I naturally said to myself, “Well, this is going to be interesting.”  I never had breakfast with an Amish family before. I honestly know very little about the Amish lifestyle and their beliefs. Plus, they probably never had breakfast with two Catholic priests either. 

In short, it was a great breakfast- truly a graced moment; filled with a few cute stories and laughter. Here’s what made it so good. When the food came it was an awkward moment because we all wonder how are we going to do grace? I simply said, “Thank you Jesus” and then winked to the father. Then simultaneously the father and daughter both bowed their heads in silence. A calm came over the table. When done, the father lifted his head and winked back at me. I smiled in return knowing that God heard our prayers of thanksgiving.

There were no smart phones at our table. I noticed that at the other tables in the dining car people were glued to their digital screens tracking their GPS, trying to figure out when the train will make it to their stop. Others were flipping through useless emails and deleting them as if they were playing a game. There was little conversation going on at these tables because people were silently sucked into in the vortex of the Internet. They couldn’t get out.

In the hour we spent together we talked about a variety of topics-- some light, some heavy. We discussed camping in the summer, visiting zoos and museums, crops, cancer, tattoos, funerals and weddings, raising seven children, and how big our congregations are on Sunday.

My favorite part of our conversation was when I asked Barbara, “Now you have about five tattoos, right?” The look on her wrinkle-free face was priceless. I tried to imagine what the look on her father’s face would be if she would have said in return, “Actually, I’m up to nine now!”

Breakfast on the train reminded me that there are plenty of good people out there in the world, trying to make it a better place. We laugh and worry about the same things. We want the best for our families. We know that it is good to stay humble and to often bow our head and give thanks to God. 

Jesus knew this every time he sat down to eat. He was the best at hosting “community meals.” That is what he had in mind when he visits Martha and Mary in today’s gospel.

Plus, there was always an empty seat at his table for whoever wanted to be fed by food and stories. 

May we bless the world as we pass through it. Enjoy the ride and the people God puts into our life.

Looking Real Good!!!

We are grateful for the hard work that EJ Karsten and Lisa Casolino provided as they tackled the project of cleaning-up the courtyard between St. Joseph Church and the Parish Center. This was no easy task. It involved a lot of sweat and muscle on the hot days of July.

With the assistance of Jose’s Landscaping Company they removed dead bushes, planted new flowers and spread lots of mulch and decorative crushed rock. The place has been transformed to a beautiful place for folks to gather and socialize. Thank you EJ and Lisa for your green thumbs and the gift of your time and energy.

– Fr. Larry