Fr. Charlie McCoy, C.S.C., has checked in with his monthly post. This time it is a truly insightful reflection on our union as brothers and priests in Holy Cross.
At UP, one of the pastoral resident’s official duties is to guide the planning of the hall’s retreat and to lead some of the weekend’s prayer and liturgy. Now, I have a secret that I’m revealing right now on the Internet: I’ve never been much of a retreat person, at least when compared to most other people in the priesthood and religious life; it’s a side of my spirituality that needs to grow. So last year, in my first year as pastoral resident, I was a little relieved to have a CSC retreat partner: Deacon Gerry Olinger, Villa Maria’s hall director. Since Deacon Gerry is now Fr. Gerry, he himself is now a pastoral resident of a different hall, and so, I figured this year I’d be flying solo.
But about a month before the weekend, Br. Tom Giumenta asked me if he could participate in Villa’s retreat. Now Br. Tom has come to our hall’s Tuesday night Mass a lot this year, so our guys already knew him and felt comfortable with him. Plus, as a Holy Cross brother who has ministered in the U.S. and Latin America for over 40 years, Br. Tom brings a diversity of experience and a wealth of wisdom to almost any conversation or activity. Finally, since he’s an Irish-Italian, just like me, and a fantastic guy, I love him like family. Needless to say, I welcomed him to join us for the weekend.
Well, I made a terrific decision. Br. Tom had some great insights for the young men during our retreat discussions and our night of shared prayer. Saturday afternoon, we took a long hike up a high peak overlooking the ocean, and I think a lot of our guys were impressed with Br. Tom’s fitness and agility. And each morning, before most of the house was up (we’re talking about college men on retreat, so there weren’t too many early risers), Br. Tom and I took a long walk and just talked. Most important, I could tell throughout the weekend that some of the Villa men responded to him in ways that they don’t generally respond to me. As the retreat was ending, when it was just the two of us together, I told him this very thing, and he replied, “You know, Charlie, some of the young men in the dorm can use a father figure at times, and right now, you’re probably more of an older brother to them.”
I really appreciated these words. First, he was smart enough to appeal to my vanity and recognize the obvious fact that I’m still young and handsome enough to be the older brother of these 18-21-year olds 😉. But seriously, his insight really made me meditate on our life together in Holy Cross. Here was my friend, Brother Tom, the father figure, and me, Father Charlie, the brother figure. As an ideal, we in Holy Cross talk about the “indivisible brotherhood” shared by the brothers and priests who form our one congregation. I had the privilege that weekend to experience the reality of this unity in our vocation and in our identity as one religious family.