This entry opens with the lyrics (English, French and Inuit) of the National Anthem of Canada. (For background on origin, editions, and promulgation as national anthem, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Canada).
As all national anthems, this paen moves the reader / singer to embrace a nation as central to life, worthy of life, and in this case, a life centered in freedom. Such sentiments have echoes in the French values of the revolution, Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity). Echoed, too, are the values underpinning the rich history of English Law and its cousin, the values of the United States of America. Finally, such would also be appropriate notations of the First Nation peoples of Canada.
First Nation, French, English — unique peoples connected by an intermingling, a co-existence fraught with creative tensions (which from time to time have erupted into verbal, physical and psychological violence). And yet, they today remain bound to one another, as awkward at times as any other multi-nationed and cultured people. In that, we are connected to them and they to us.
Driving from St. Meinrad Archabbey and Seminary (another later entry), I left my vehicle in the parking garage (wow, did that prove expensive). With a flight from Louisville to Chicago of limited duration and timely arrival, a very long, fast walk from one terminal to another gained me the flight to Winnipeg. Aboard the latter, with time stretching into the afternoon, passports were brought out to complete customs forms prior to landing.
Deplaning brought all on-board to the long, grey hallways which seem to be the norm for international airports and customs / immigration areas. Flowing into the waiting area, we queued (how British and French of us), awaiting the inevitable inspection of form, passport, and our veracity. The usual questions came — “Your reason from coming to Canada?” “Have your brought anything of value with you?” “You are visiting a friend. Have you brought anything for your friend?” Oh, the wiles of those immigration inspectors! When I responded to the last probe “Myself”, an arched brow and chilly smile brought forth more — “Anything of value? Gifts other than yourself?” I must have appeared penurious to the fellow, or downright cheap! My response to arched brow and thin lips “A good bottle of scotch and a fine meal”, which brought another query: “Did you bring the scotch with you?” The gentleman was doing his job, no doubt, and probably better than some others with his persistent, plucky probes! He did wave me through, beckoning “Next!” barely before I stepped aside.
Luggage in tow, I moved through doors to find folks awaiting arrivals. I scanned about, hoping to find Leo Groulette (sic?), the man I was told would meet me. Seeing no sign with my name emblazoned upon it, and no eyes in search of me, an assumption took over: Ok, he’s late. I’ll go upstairs and see if he’s there. Ascending on the elevator (ascenseur in French), a bustling, relatively small (compared to Chicago!) departures area revealed no one preying for me.
I had received by e-mail Leo’s cell number; I dialed; the response was quick, a female voice, somewhat faint. Taken by a fit of anxious hope, I said “Leo?” The voice responded “No. I am Simone. Where are you, Father Rick?” Well, she was down below where I had been; I was up where she had arrived. Assuring me that she would be right up — a promise readily kept — my eyes soon clasped a petite lady, small in stature and warm of smile. She held a sign, “Richard Ginther”. She queried, “How did I miss you?” My response, “How did I miss you?” Laughter engulfed us! We decided that I must have been looking “over” the crowd and she “at” the ground for us to have blundered past one another. With smart step, she lead me outside to a waiting car with Leo at the wheel, busily fending off a parking-flow attendant who was urging Leo to move on
The ride into Winnipeg was delightful, my chauffeur and greeter divulging their ages, their life together in a second marriage after losing their first spouse, their children, their joy of being able to ferry visitors to the Archdiocese of St. Boniface and Archbishop LeGatt (as and when they are able), and their work with and through the Knights of Columbus housing for the elderly. As they were pointing out landmarks, bragging on the NHL Jets and the CFL Blue Bombers (especially over the Saskatchewan Roughrideers, Archbishop Albert’s favorite), there was an urgent bet between them which they said was mine to settle: did “Fr.” before my name mean brother? Simone said yes. Leo said no. Simone had surmised it meant “brother” (in French, frere); Leo insisted it must be more like “Father”. To his delight, Leo won.
These two kind folks deposited me at the Archbishop’s House (sometimes referred to as the Archbishop’s Palace — in French, palais — a term not in current usage but still held dear, it would seem, by some).
Gaining entry through a buzzer system, the receptionist greeted me warmly and assured me that Alice, the Archbishop’s secretary, would be down very soon. Appearing as promised, Alice was just as warm in welcome, and drew me with my luggage through the much larger (than appears above) structure. Without time for camera, what unfolded can only be described as historic — the original section from the 1860′s (the oldest and longest occupied residence in all of Winnipeg!), additions made for expansion of not only residents but meeting areas, with attachment of former seminary-now-retired priest residences, and a convent next door housing Sisters of Africa who care for some food and the cleaning needs of this large house.
After a dizzying and circuitous tour through this maze, Alice left me in my room. Post-travel weariness set in after unpacking. Reading led to a nap. The nap complete lead to supper in the dining hall in the basement (I found the ascenseur, at bottom the signs for Cafétéria, and lastly the food line!) The meal was delicious. I sat alone rather than interrupt the conversations of the French speaking residents (other than “Qui” and “No”, I am at sea in French. I would later find that all residents speak English as fluently as French; I would not be alone at a meal henceforth).
Returning to my room, a sampling of local and cable TV proved Canadian TV was as full of options as anywhere in the States.
Eventually returning to my reading, around 8:30pm I was happy to hear footsteps in the hall and a knock at the door. It was Albert, home by air from Cornwall and the annual meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CECC, CCCB). We had not seen each other since Albert’s visit to Indianapolis in the spring/summer of 2003 or 2004 (neither of us could remember!) When last we were together, he was Bishop of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; I was Director of Liturgy for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Rector / Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Our lives had changed, but happily our friendship and pleasure at seeing one another had not!
Leading me to the second floor, he showed me to the living room adjacent to his office and quarters. They were very warm, well-appointed but in no way ostentatious. Prepared by one of the sisters for his late arrival were cheese, crackers, fruit and vegetables. And from the cabinet he drew forth one of the things he and I have shared a liking for since the day we met at the University of Notre Dame: fine scotch!
Though he was travel-weary, he was hungry, and so began our first time of sipping, munching and sharing our mutually fascinating and shared lives in ministry. Catching up on family was important as well (I spoke especially of the very recent Siblings’ Weekend, he of his Father, his brother now married and with his wife expecting a child, and his sister who is suffering from cancer).
The range of topics could have been endless, but discretion reminded us we had other times for such. And so, appropriately he shared what was for tomorrow on his calendar and how I might choose, or not, to intersect in some aspects of it. Otherwise, he guided me to things I could easily do within walking distance; there were plenty of options.
Wisely, we parted; slumber came to us both, for tomorrow would be a full day.