I returned home today from Baltimore, where this year’s annual reunion of the Pontifical North American College gathered. It was one of the best turn outs in years…so I am told. It was particularly enjoyable, as this is the 20th anniversary of ordination for my class, and just months since “our rector” was named a Cardinal.

Classmates from North American College along with our 'rector', Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien. L to R are Fr. Brian McGrath, Msgr. Jim Checchio (present rector of PNAC), Fr. Don Henke, Bishop Etienne, Fr. Brian Hayes, Bishop Liam Cary, Bishop William Waterscheid, Msgr. Charles Antonicelli; kneeling (of course) Fr. Joe Fonti, and seated, Cardinal O'Brien.


 Many of us have not seen each other since our ordinations 20 years ago, and for the rest of us, it is always good to get together, ‘catch up,’ and enjoy the fraternal bonds that were forged so many years ago.  I remember as a student when the alumni would visit, and they would say things like: “These were the best years of my life.”  And I would think to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding!”  Now, 20 years on, I look back upon these years with much more fondness than I would ever imagined possible.

Cardinal O’Brien graciously hosted the members of our class for a reception and dinner at his home on Monday night.  It was great to casually visit, reminisce, and enjoy each other’s company.  The Cardinal was also the homilist for our Mass on Wednesday, and it was great to ‘hear his voice’ and enjoy his instruction once again.  Our class gathered for a Mass of Thanksgiving in the Crypt of the historic Baltimore Basilica on Tuesday to celebrate our 20 years of priesthood.  It was one of those ‘special moments.’

On Wednesday, our hosts in Baltimore gave a marvelous tour of the historic Basilica.  It was beautifully restored in 2006.  The Archbishop’s residence was also the sight of a reception on Tuesday evening.  This was the sight for many of the early councils of the American Bishops under our fist bishop, and later Archbishop, John Carroll.  That residence was the sight of the Baltimore Council which gave the Church the Baltimore Catechism.

Tuesday, I also made a visit to St. Mary’s Seminary for a tour and visit with the rector.  While I was there, they graciously allowed me to visit their marvelous archives, where some of the original documents and maps drawn by Bishop Simon Brute are stored.  The archivist gave me shared some great stories, and I was also able to lead her to a piece of information regarding an early visit of now St. Mother Theodore Guerin. 

All-in-all, it was a great moment of ‘renewal’, though not much rest!  The reunion reminded me of what a gift it is to be a priest, as well as now, bishop.  During my visit to Baltimore, the city was also celebrating the anniversary of the writing of the National Anthem.  When our group sang the Anthem at our formal dinner last night, it was quite ‘stirring!’  I had hoped to visit the original site of the St. Mary’s seminary, where Bishop Simon Brute would have lived and taught.  The chapel there was recently restored, but that visit will have to wait for another day!