A new year and a new chapter

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | January 12, 2017

Thirty-six years ago, I walked up the steps to the chancery offices at 226 Summit Ave. for the first time. It was to begin my first step toward priesthood. I was met by a kind and holy priest who prayed with me and directed me to 2260 Summit Ave., all the way at the other end of this Victorian-lined street, to the Vocations Office at the St. Paul Seminary.

Many years passed, and I found myself serving as pastor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Maplewood as the parish celebrated its golden jubilee in 1996. The celebrant and homilist for the day of the Nov. 21 patronal feast was Msgr. Ambrose Hayden, then rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul, who had served the parish on weekends for 11 years while he was the chancellor of the archdiocese.

As I listened to Msgr. Hayden’s beautiful homily, I caught something in the tone of his voice. It wasn’t until the Christmas season that it dawned on me — I had first heard that voice so long ago when I had walked up those Chancery steps.

I immediately wrote a letter to Msgr. Hayden in which I told the story of a young man who went to the chancery with grease-covered hands from his broken-down car, had no appointment and had to be back in Washington State in 72 hours. I even mentioned in the letter that the priest had loaned me the bus fare to the Vocations Office. I closed the letter wondering if Ambrose was that priest.

The good monsignor was in poor health, and I did not know whether he would reply, but in a few days I received a letter from him. “YOU!” it began. “I’ve prayed for that young man for all these years and never knew what happened to him. And now I find out it was you, Charlie!”

Msgr. Hayden died the following year, God rest his soul. The chancery office building on Kellogg Avenue was named that year in his memory.

I reflect on this as part of the sale of our chancery buildings and the big move to 777 Forest St. in St. Paul, to be completed by the end of February. More than 150 years of records will move first, followed by all the staff. There is great sadness in our leaving. But there is consolation in the necessary service of justice owed to the survivors of far-too-many instances of clergy sexual abuse. It is the shadow we take with us, for there is still much work to do.

Recently, chancery and Cathedral staff gathered in the Cathedral’s Hayden Hall to have lunch together and sing a few carols in preparation for the great feast of Christmas. Because we have come to know Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s wonderful sense of humor, directors and representatives from the archdiocesan offices read aloud a clever rewrite of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

In reference to Archbishop Hebda, the last stanza read:

So he sprang from 226 and gave a wave to his staff,

And away they all went to 777 in a flash.

But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all and to all, with only Jesus, all will be right.”

This new year begins a historic new chapter for the archdiocese. By the grace of God and your prayers, all will be right.

Un Nuevo Año y un nuevo capítulo

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Category: Only Jesus

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