Father Manny: A Day In The Life (of an #Episcopal priest)

A Day in the Life…
Busse Woods November 2009

Wednesday morning, 6:05am, it is still quite dark out. A thick fog had settled upon the northwest suburbs muting the autumn colors and muffling the sounds of nature. All was still; the trees were motionless. Even the birds were nowhere to be seen. Traffic was heavy headed eastbound. Not much to do but endure the bumper to bumper situation, remain patient and, well, pray. I do quite a bit of praying while I drive. It’s not a testament to my driving skills, but rather a practice in which I’ve engaged for as long as I’ve been driving. Praying brings a palpable peace upon me that is far too pleasurable to ignore or do without. So, I pray. More heavy traffic. More prayer.

St. Alexius Hospital is just off to the left. I park at the farthest spot from the front door. I like to walk and quite frankly, my car is safer parked farthest away. I ask the front desk receptionist how to get to the ICU. She points to the elevator and says get off on the 3rd floor and turn left. I find and opt for the stairs and walk the 3 flights, turn left and locate room 364. I see Erlene in the hallway, talking to the doctor. She and I embrace and talk about how Vernon is doing and how she’s coping. After donning a blue cover-all and gloves, I go in to see Vernon. He’s not too responsive: he has tubes here, there, seemingly everywhere. I hold his hand and gently stroke his head with my other hand. He tries to talk, but his breathing tube prevents any audibility. No problem, I share with him that the community is praying for him and for Erlene, that we all miss him and wish him to return to us happy and healthy. Despite the tubes, his smile can not be denied nor missed. It is contagious. Erlene smiles, I smile and I have to think that even God is smiling with us at that very moment. And why not? We are His children and God loves us with such intensity.

I say my goodbyes to Vernon and Erlene and begin the drive to Elk Grove.

Vernon and Erlene

(Little did I know that this would be my last visit with Vernon. I will treasure the time spent with him and always remember his most infectious smile. Rest in Eternal Peace, my dear friend.)

Barrington Road is clearing up by now. After all, it’s after 10am and the morning rush has pretty much ended. I turn left on Schaumburg Road, past a series of strip malls, schools and churches. A quick right on Meachem to Biesterfield Road, over and across Rt. 53, past Alexian Brothers Medical Center, the Village City Hall and Police Station, veer left to Jewel and pull up behind the store. I ring the buzzer once, twice and three times. Finally, an employee opens up and announces he has “some stuff” for us this week. 8 full boxes of canned goods and staples I carefully load into my car. The cans and bottles rattle up against one another and I fear something will break and spill onto my fresh and neat car seats. Fear not. All went well and nothing broke, spilled or was the cause of all my earlier prayers going out the window with any utterance of disappointment or anger. Went in through the back door of the church, unlocked the sacristy and greeted Jim who was unpacking all the bread and pastry he had picked up earlier that morning at Panera’s. I took the large cart, down the ramp out the back door and carefully sidled up next to my car. Unloaded all the cases and heaved the cart into the church, up the ramp and into the Pantry Room. We unloaded the boxes and began to stock the shelves with the bounty made gift to us. The bare shelves had life again and the pantry guests would have some selections from which to choose. How wonderful.


Back into the church, I prepare for the weekend Services by getting the chalices ready, cutting the altar bread into halves, one set into the freezer again and the other set into the fridge for use this weekend. Printed the Stewardship inserts that will go into the Worship Programs once they are ready. Music books are straightened out, the chairs in the church are lined up in order and the funereal candles we used for All Saints Day were lugged back into the storage room. Checked the Book of the Gospels to be sure the proper passage is readied. The phone rang three times, solicitors, a neighboring church inquiring where we purchase our altar wine and some one asking about our food pantry requirements. Haven’t had any breakfast but I’m not hungry. I could, however, use a cup of coffee. I brew a fresh pot, pour myself a cup and take it outside with me as I walk around the church. All looks so nice, so clean and well kept. I smile and again I consider the chances that God is smiling along with me. And why not?

It’s just after 3pm and already several pantry guests have gathered. In fact, they’ve been at the church since 1pm. They are invited in where coffee and pastry await. They have been huddled at the table in the Gathering Space, talking, laughing, sharing recipes and stories. It is a community; a gathering of friends who meet up every 1st and 3rd Wednesday, compliments of the Holy Innocents Food Pantry at St. Nicholas Church. I look at their faces, those happy and grateful faces and my heart is full with joy and peace. I smile. I know that God is smiling with me right then. And why not?

Bob Kalicki and Gary Lackey have arrived by now. We share some stories and chit-chat about this and that. I fill Bob in on what’s going on, about the food we received from Jewel and that all the bread and pastry Panera’s gave us is all ready, packaged and available to whomever desires it. I say my goodbyes to the Pantry Team and to the guests, I grab a couple bottled waters from the fridge, make sure the sacristy is locked up and all is as it should be. I get into my car which is rather hot and stuffy. Here it is, November 4th and it feels like it’s mid-September. I love it. How much longer are we to be blessed with these rather late, Indian Summer style days? ‘Embrace and savor them while we can,’ I say to myself. Next week, we could have snow. What bliss.

I drive the 2 miles to Eunice’s home where she awaits my arrival. As I walk up the drive, a rather friendly squirrel carefully and cautiously crawls over to me. I keep calling him over and he responds. Darn it, no food to give. He nibbles at my shoe, looks up and scampers off. A little touch of nature right at my feet. I knock and walk in, give Eunice a hug and sit myself down in the wing back chair which is my traditional place. We talk, laugh and laugh some more. It’s what Eunice and I do when we get together. I bring her up to speed on what’s happening at St. Nicholas. No, not gossip, but actual concerned conversations. We talked about Vernon, about how Nancy Allan is doing, about how beautiful the gardens look again in large thanks to Connie Nicholson, Marilyn Brown and Bob Kalicki, too. We talked like a family would talk about each other…with love and care. And after the conversations, we pause and prepare for Holy Communion. I offer a prayer and share Jesus with Eunice. We are silent for a moment. Then, we pray the words our Lord and Savior taught us…”Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” I bid my farewell, give Eunice another big hug and find my way to my car. Fortunately, the two bottles of water are still cool to the touch. I’ll need them as I know traffic headed north will be heavy this time of the day.

Fall Leaves
It’s 5:30 pm, the sun is preparing for its descent and the sky is a brilliant reddish, orange. It’s autumn’s beauty on display. The birds that were absent earlier this morning are everywhere. My car windows are down and I can hear them overhead. I see a line of geese headed south in their classic “V” formation. It’s wonderful. I’m at a red light watching the traffic pass by, watching the birds begin their migratory journey, squinting into that setting sun…and I smile. Yes, God is smiling, too. And why not?

Shout-Outs: Priests And Elves

Thank You150

To Fr. Scott Barron who joined us for worship last weekend. Thank you, Scott and we do hope you’ll come again…our doors are always open.

To our Fearless Food Pantry Team of Bob Kalicki, Vince Otero, Jeff Westerheide and Gary Lackey who ventured to the food warehouse in Romeoville and restocked our sadly depleted pantry shelves. Santa’s elves don’t stand a chance against you guys. Great work!

To Cyndi DeBock who pitched in and picked up our December Jarosch baked goods . . . thanks for your kindness with all the sweet treats, Cyndi.

Food Pantry Usage Up, Donations Down

St Nicholas’ next Supplemental Food Pantry hours will be Wednesday, July 7 at 430pm at the parish house. Fresh veggies from our garden soon, next food drive this fall!

‘It takes a lot to live in this life right now’ | wisconsinrapidstribune.com | Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune

Some churches have ongoing collections, but donations tend to decrease during the summer months. The pantry benefits from organized drives, such as those conducted by postal workers, Boy Scouts and the Ho-Chunk casino.

“This is an ongoing thing, and truly, we are so blessed in this community and this area, because we receive tremendous support from food donations and monetary donations so we can purchase the things we need to purchase,” Steele said.

Not all needs are covered by the food pantry. Kyle Ruud oversees the Essentials Pantry at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, which helps families in need with non-food products, such as toilet paper, personal hygiene items and some household supplies.

“At the present time, we have about 800 families registered,” she said. “We see about 120 to 130 persons in the four hours we are open.”

Open Wednesday afternoons, the pantry will close July 7 until September to restructure its system.

It’s difficult to run an all-volunteer, all-donations food pantry program, and the dedicated people who do this work deserve huge kudos. At our own pantry, we see more families each week in need of a little extra help. Now that employment benefits may be running out for many, it may become more of a necessity for Elk Grove area families to know where they might be able to drop in on the first and third Wednesdays to pick up food and non-food items (paper products, personal care products) that are not covered by food stamps, and we’re open after normal work hours so that working families have someplace to try when they can’t get to conventional pantries during those times.

The next big food drive will be in the fall, so Elk Grove families may find our door hangers and grocery bags during that time. We ask you to think of your neighbors who might be struggling to put food on the table for their families, and please give generously. We have been blessed, too, with unexpected large donations from commercial food operations, and if your business can donate non-perishable food items, personal care products, cleaning products, or other non-food items that families and singles can’t buy with food stamps, please consider donating surplus (but not expired) items. Contact Fr. Manny Borg via the church (or send email to info@onebreadonebody.org with “Attention Fr. Manny Borg” or “Attention Food Pantry” in the subject line.