Today’s find: Lost & Found

It was an odd feeling, gazing out over the gentle contours of the grassy acres where my home once stood.

SHP then...

SHP then…

I was in Belleville yesterday for an all-class gathering to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the opening of St. Henry’s Prep Seminary—my home-away-from home in the early 1970s.

chapel-cornerstone-32Not much remains of the place today: Only the cornerstone from what once was our chapel…and a few statues and grottos, most no longer in their familiar places. All the structures are gone: The “A” building…our gym, Mazenod Hall…the refectory…the dorm. Only their outlines were visible—marked out with wooden stakes and surveyor’s tape. This added a delicate eeriness to the afternoon’s proceedings, making it seem a bit like we were touring a crime scene.

...and now.

…and now.

In a sense, I suppose it was a crime scene: Alums from different eras shared tales aplenty of pranks and escapades—mostly harmless, but some that wound up humiliating teachers or classmates. We talked, too, about how we often chafed under the discipline of the priests and brothers who served in loco parentis for our high school years. I was reminded of my own youthful obliviousness when a schoolmate recalled what SHP had meant for him in the 1970s: The assurance, for the first time in his life, of three square meals a day. It boggles my mind that I’m only now—four decades later—coming to realize how much I’ve taken for granted through the years. How very deeply I have been blessed.

Returning to 'the scene of the crime'...

Returning to ‘the scene of the crime’…

Far outweighing the ‘police blotter’ moments, though, were the recollections of the extraordinary gift of community we all seem to have shared during our time at St. Henry’s. There’s a prodigalness to the place, not unlike the strange parable we hear Jesus tell in Sunday’s gospel:

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?

Jesus makes it sound like the most natural thing in the world, to go after that one sheep—and to party hearty once it is found. That’s not at all like the ‘wisdom’ I encountered once I left St. Henry’s all those years ago. Our prevailing culture is much more likely to preach practicality and emphasize disposability.

What a blessing then, to spend a few hours in the company of those who think a bit differently than most of the world around them.

We received a gift during the time we spent at St. Henry’s. We found something precious, something most of us probably didn’t even know we were looking for.

In the words of Fr. Daniel Miller, OMI (Class of ’35)—lovingly preserved and presented by Dan Franklin (Class of ’66)…

[St. Henry’s] has never known the jading influence of total adequacy…Whether on the basketball court or curtained stage, the story has been the same: Use what you have and ask no quarter. No wonder her students are proud and loyal…She has taught her boys the meaning of heartache and pain…For each of her boys, she holds out…not the promise of wealth and ease, but the challenge of the blood-stained cross.

A treasure, found...

A treasure, found… the breaking of the Bread.

…in the breaking of the Bread.

Blessings to you, Class of '74 (and spouses)...

Blessings to you, Class of ’74 (and spouses)…

Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.



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8 thoughts on “Today’s find: Lost & Found

  1. Bill Kuenstler

    Thanks for sharing your memories of St. Henry’s. I was a member of the Class of 1967. When we started as freshmen in 1963, we were the largest freshman class up till then (if I recall correctly, there were 104 of us in those first weeks). I have (mostly) fond memories of my four years at St. Henry’s; thanks for helping me remember how special they were!

    • My pleasure, Bill…

      • Mike Kish


        What a wordsmith you are! You captured the moment and the 9 decades of existence. Good news is that it keeps yielding fruit in our work, in the work of all we touch, and in the work of all they touch. Ex-seminarians are part of the “social capital” of the priesthood endeavor. Much will be lost when we die out but our legacy will remain.

        Mike Kish ’67

      • Appreciate the kind words, Mike. My “Gleeman” training in action, I suppose…and it’s good to know that many of my schoolmates continue to work to make the Good News present in the world, in many different roles and vocations!

  2. Bill Mueller '70

    Well written, John. It was an honor to serve with you on the 90th committee. What a colorful, diverse group it is! Hope to stay in touch…

    • Thanks, Bill — and I agree: It was a lot of fun putting our heads together to plan the reunion…and having the chance to compare notes with guys from different eras.

      C’mon back to my blog anytime you like…and I too look forward to our paths crossing again!

  3. Tony Ward '75

    Very good article.

  4. Pingback: Today’s find: Auld Lang Syne | With Us Still

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