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Father Muench Says...

Reflecting on the first week of January

January 6, 2021

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The first week of January. I looked forward to the first week of January with real anticipation each year. The first week of January each year was when I joined several priests of my diocese on a ski trip to Mont Tremblant, north of Montreal, Canada. I loved that trip, and I always loved being able to ski at Mont Tremblant. It was a very special trip.

The first year I joined that group, it numbered around 40. I remember that the trip was also such a great time for building a friendship with the others, especially the older priests. During the first years I was ordained – let me see if I remember a few – there was Monsignor Bob Giroux, Monsignor Tony Milia, Monsignor Floyd Brown, Monsignor Joe Bailey, Father Peter Riani, Father Dick Sturtz – and so many more. I just noticed there were lots of monsignors in those days. This trip became an important time each year for me. I never missed it.

I do remember the whole schedule. After the Sunday Masses, we would all head for the mountain. I remember I joined with various groups to travel, depending on where I was assigned. In those first years, our group stayed in the small cabins on the South Side. Each morning, we walked down to the little parish church nearby to celebrate Mass together. The morning Mass was a wonderful and important part of the ski week. I can still remember that church and its interior and many of the paintings in the sanctuary.

Then, after breakfast, it was off to skiing. The first couple of years, I remember taking lessons. I wanted to learn enough to catch up with the others. After a few years, I could enjoy spending the whole day skiing with this or that group. I truly remember the interesting conversations while riding up the lift or catching up with the news and the various programs or projects that others were involved in. We such a great group.

After the skiing, we changed our clothes and got together for a happy hour. That was a time for such good discussions! Then, we’d go down to the main lodge for supper. I must add that I also remember that we were expected to wear a suit coat to supper in the early days – a rather high class atmosphere. I do have a memory of meeting other guests who were there skiing.

I must tell you that after several years, we decided to stay at another lodge in the area. It was across the lake from the ski area. Our schedule changed a bit, but we still gathered for Mass each day, though it was after the skiing all day and before supper. The discussions were still great, the skiing was still such great fun, and the friendships were still strong. Unfortunately, the group grew smaller over the years.

I do remember some of the events that made a particular year rather memorable. There was the year of the ice storm that stranded us for an extra weekend. I remember how each of us scrambled to find someone back home to take care of the Sunday Masses. And there were the accidents – the injuries – that changed plans some years. Even today, we share various stories from the past trips.

I bring this up today because opportunities like the ski trip were important for us priests and helped us to make our diocesan presbyterate such a strong community, a real family that carried over to our ministry. It helped our efforts to work together with the power of the Holy Spirit. So, the first week of January is an anniversary of such a happy time in my life.

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