As promised: the story of the potato carving.
Once upon a time, St. Anthony’s front office was carefully shepherded by a joyous and generous affiliate of the Province of St. Joseph. Her name was Joan Wilichowski — most of you will no doubt remember her! Many of you may also remember the second key actor in this remembrance: a friar by the name of Loran Miller. Actors number three and four are, respectively, yours truly and the potato, as featured in the photo at the top of last week’s chronicle.
Upon the morning of a chilly autumn day in 1998, Loran appeared in the doorway to the office and announced his intention of running into town. Joan acknowledged his pending absence and added a request that shocked me, being the newcomer that I was to the world of always-joyful-and-sometimes-downright-silly community life. With a smile that bordered on outright laughter, Joanie, still focused on her computer screen, said to Loran: “Don’t forget to bring us something.” Loran responded with an utterance that fell somewhere on the phonetic spectrum between “pffft” and “hmmpf.” Meanwhile, I almost fell off my chair at the impertinence of it all.
Some time later – an hour, perhaps? – Loran re-appeared in the doorway to the office and announced that he had returned. Without missing a beat, Joanie asked, “Did you bring us something?”
“Oooh!” Loran’s eyes grew wide in a look that fell somewhere on the expressive spectrum between thoughtfulness and mischief: “Wait a minute!,” he exclaimed, waving the index finger of his right hand in the air and turning back towards the hallway.
Joan resumed her work as if nothing had happened, and I sat shocked, trying to process the impertinence of it all.
A few minutes later, Loran returned to the front office, bearing a potato from the bin in the basement. The potato had been cut in half, and each half had been, as featured in the photo at the top of last week’s chronicle, skillfully carved with Loran’s pocket knife to create one highly realistic image of Joan and one highly realistic image of me.
“Here you go!” Loran handed one half of the potato to me and one half of the potato to Joanie.
Joanie burst into laughter, and I followed suit, suddenly realizing that this entire exchange had not been an impertinent request for a gift: it had been part of the joy – sometimes zany and sometimes a bit more muted – that kept this community alive and well and alive with love.
As St. Anthony’s Centennial Year winds to a close, and as last week’s Chronicle reminds me of the joy that still runs deep within the walls of this house, let us all give thanks for silliness, for joy, and for the Holy Fools who bring love into a world that is very much thirsting for love.
Blessings on 2020 and the dawning of St. Anthony’s next century – long live the joy!