May 30, 1952 – Memorial Day. Almost the entire community went out to the little cemetery above the river to witness the annual commemorative ceremonies for our former chaplain, Fr. Myron. The local post of the American Legion marched from town and held the somber military solemnities, consisting of prayer, the sounding of Taps, and the traditional triple volley over the grave. During the firing of the salute, rain began to fall and continued intermittently throughout the day. A little lunch was prepared for the Legionnaires in the clerics’ recreation room, and for Fr. Myron’s relatives from Wausau, who also attended, in the guest quarters.

On Memorial Day this year, May 30, 2022, seventy years to the day since the above entry, almost all of the residents went out to the little cemetery for the services. We had a few rain showers early, but it didn’t amount to much. The American Legion honor guard no longer marches from town to the cemetery because they pay their respects at a number of area cemeteries on Memorial Day.  Instead, they drive their cars, park them behind the vegetable garden then march down the ramp and across the back yard. They do still play Taps and fire the rifle salute, but now they honor both Fr. Myron and Fr. Ben who were laid to rest in the little cemetery above the river.  Fr. Ben died 50 years after the above Chronicle entry was written.

That seems like a lot of similarities, but there is still one more connection to the Chronicle of 70 years ago. The father of our current director, Jackie K., is a second cousin to Fr. Myron. Fr. Myron served as chaplain in the Army Air Corp in WWII. While serving in the South Pacific, he contracted malaria and returned to the states to recover. A few years later, the malaria reoccurred and claimed his life in 1949.

Memorial Day is a day to connect with the past, in particular with the more than 1.26 million Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the nearly 250 years since the American Revolution began. It is a day to remember and honor them, and to express our gratitude for their sacrifice and the freedom their sacrifice affords us.

With nearly 103 years of history at St. Anthony’s, we cannot help but connect with the past every day. The sacrifices of the Capuchins and so many others make those connections possible. When we walk the halls, we connect with the footsteps of hundreds of friars, dozens of lay staff and thousands of retreatants who walked these halls before us. When we pray in the chapel or anywhere on this holy ground, we connect our prayers with theirs: prayers for peace, prayers for healing, prayers for increased faith, prayers of grief and prayers of gratitude. Our ministry is connected with the Caphuchins’ ministry in years past even as we seek the best way to live that ministry in the present.

These connections to the past are a gift that grounds us. The sacrifice of all those men and women we honor on Memorial Day is a gift, the gift of freedom. The faith and wisdom and example of those who have gone before us here at St. Anthony’s are gifts that strengthen us in challenging times. The spirit of their presence here is a gift that embraces us and walks with us on this journey.

For all the connections to our past and the gifts they bring us, we say Deo Gratias!