Stranger: "Is it always like this?"
Parishioner: "Actually, this is our first year of Trunk or Treat..."
Stranger: "No, I mean the Church, these people - are they always like this?"
Parishioner: "Yes, I suppose we are. This is a great place filled with great people!"
Stranger: "This is actually my parish; I live nearby...but I haven't been around for awhile."
- Conversation at Trunk or Treat 2014
My Dear Cathedral,
I need to thank you. And in showing this gratitude both humble myself to you, and express my love for you. This past week you reminded me exactly how you formed me as a boy, re-embraced me as a man, form me as a father, and shape my very spirit.
When I saw the hallways filled with parents for conferences, I recalled my days inside these classrooms. I remembered sitting at the kitchen table with my mother, who refused to touch my paper or pencil ("It's your name at the top, not mine!"), but always demanded that I focused not on being the best, but rather my best. And I had visions of laying in bed while my dad read books to me. We finished "White Fang" together, and then he handed it to me and said, "This book was your grandpa's. You'd have loved meeting him, and he'd want you to have it." Then he knelt next to the bed and we began our Rosary. That bridge from what was Cathedral to what is Cathedral is why I love you.
And when I saw the Little Saints line up down Sheridan I began to consider my own children, the first of whom will enter next year. I considered how your "Family of families" has entrusted me with their children, and how ready Susan and I am to entrust our children to play, learn, love, laugh, be hurt, be healed, and find God with your children. Parenting is hard, tiring, daunting, even intimidating. With you, however, we feel confident.
Then I heard Marissa, Natalie and Jonathan present at the All Saints Ceremony. I stood across from them wondering at the poise, wisdom, and purity of their words. I heard Marissa speak of her own Saint as if she was a best friend she spoke with daily. I felt the presence of those in Heaven right behind me as Natalie weaved together a narrative and analogy that was both moving and eloquent. Finally, Jonathan choked me up as he spoke about the saints around us, both living and dead, and how we are a part of their journeys. As he spoke I looked past him to the Holy Family Chapel. This is where I went when my grandmother held on for her final days. That is where I cried when her husband was taken suddenly, the victim of what can only be called a broken heart. I lashed out and demanded answers here when my friend, John, fell into a coma and was taken in his early twenties. And I knelt there in humble wonder, hours after Monsignor Tucker asked me if I'd be the next leader of your school.
In short, Cathedral - you've always been there, and I love you for that.
Which brings us to Trunk or Treat, 660 kids and at least that many adults: All of us crammed into a parking lot laughing, joking, hugging, shaking hands, and becoming one community on behalf of our children (with Shaggy, Velma, Scooby, Pope Francis and a few other friends helping). While the dialog that acted as this letter's introduction was relayed to me, I did have my own powerful conversations on this evening. One stood out in which I ran into an old friend who was a year behind me in school. "Jeremy," he said, "I can't believe you're sitting in Sister Mildred's office...again!"
We both laughed at this, and then he asked, "But really, isn't it surreal? I mean, think what this place meant to us. Now, you get to help shape that for someone else."
That opportunity, Cathedral, is why I love you. That trust, Eagles, is why I pray in gratitude every morning when I enter the office. All of my memories, Family of families, is why I hold you close to my heart. Seeing you embrace a little boy like Joseph, CRC, is why I am awed by your beautiful spirit. And the knowledge that we can disagree with each other, without being disagreeable to each other, is why I respect you.
Like any relationship, we will face difficult and trying times. But we will fail forward, we will never waste a crisis. And always we will have our arms open to those with the mightiest battles, highest hurdles, most difficult obstacles - I love you most because you hold firmly to Padre Pio's brilliance: "If you knew the value of suffering, you'd never give it up."
I always knew I loved you, but this past week, Cathedral, you out-did yourself.
With all my heart,
Jeremy J. Ekeler