Eighth grade graduation has always been a big deal in Catholic schools, and I still have our 1965 class picture, where we all got dressed up, all ready to make the next move, which in Augusta was Aquinas High School. The year before, Bishop McDonough of Savannah had confirmed us at St. Joseph’s, and beyond the catechetics, I had written down the letters “XLNC”, which was how we were to address the bishop when answering questions about becoming soldiers of Christ, etc. through the Sacrament of Confirmation.
At 13, my faith was more about following the rules, which were made quite plain to us, and that brought a measure of comfort. You knew where you stood. Being a faithful Catholic also meant supporting the teachings of the church, its ministries and always showing care and concern for our neighbor. I recall my parents, with little money to spare, helping a young family in need get back on their feet, buying a suit of clothes for the dad, etc. We were a bit disappointed that within just a couple of days, that the family had quietly left town without saying a word, and we were reminded that it was the concern and action that mattered. My Dad had been placed in an orphanage when he was just 5 years old, and he always had a tender place for others less fortunate and was a great encourager to many.
While many in our eighth-grade class where thinking about Aquinas High, a few others among us had different plans. Father Bill Coleman, rector of St. John Vianney Minor (high school) Seminary in Savannah, was on a recruiting trip, which included a stop at Sacred Heart School. My mother knew all about the seminary, and before long, I was tapped to join the 1965 Freshman class at St. John’s. Becoming a priest had been something I thought about, and believed a vocation might be possible, and apparently so did several of my friends and fellow altar boys at St. Joseph’s. It must have been some sort of mothers’ conspiracy, I wondered, as four of us from the same eighth grade class from St. Joe’s were on our way to the Savannah seminary in the Fall of 1965, for what would be a life changing experience, sparked by changes flowing from the Second Vatican Council, which wrapped up in December of 1965.
(Next time – seminary life at St. John’s)