The earliest memory I have of The Franciscan was when I was 5…maybe 6. She was standing in the doorway twirling a set of car keys on her slender fingers looking sooo cool to a little boy. Strawberry blonde, tall, thin, with her little brother Tommy standing behind her, eyes fastened on the keys. Uncle Tom would go on to become iconic for me in the Tao of cars, Lucky Strikes, boogie woogie, the aesthetic beauty in great design, motorcycles, and women. The Franciscan would always be a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Until now.
The last leg of The Lost Trip started with a visit to St Anthony of Padua School in Greenville, South Carolina – our Aunt Sister Catherine’s legacy to children, faith, and the unforgettable fire in her soul. Cath saved St Anthony’s from closure with a stubborn unwavering refusal to allow it. On the “eve of destruction” arose the drive to make St Anthony’s bigger, better, and more sustainable than before inspiring neighborhood renewal, uplifting architecture, and fine art. A sanctuary for kids to become…and become. Beware of stubborn women – you never know what might happen when they are present in your life.
The Pastoral World Above the Rim
As we walked the lot that afternoon capturing every angle, a woman approached us from within to find out what we were doing…wearing a smile on her face. Of course. When she found out who we were she shrieked with joy, gathered us all up, and pulled us inside to see Sister Catherine’s world and its fine citizens shaping the next generation. For the next couple hours we were toured, tutored, and introduced to each and every teacher, administrator, coach, and countless numbers of young children who possessed the remarkable demeanor of the child we all wanted to be. They are Catherine’s kids. And they’re proof that her vision was right. When we asked Coach why all the backboards where pointing at the ceiling he said simply it was the only way Sister Catherine knew how to play.
Now We Know
That afternoon solved the mystery of why a young woman suddenly dropped her car keys one day and left us all to join the Franciscans. People just didn’t do things like that. But she did…and we never knew why. Now we do.
Sister Catherine’s work in Puerto Rico and South Carolina devoted to the education of young children was a legend that updated itself over the course of our lives. But seeing the children, shaking their hands, walking through the school, and feeling the love was another level of knowing. St Anthony’s, the kids, the administrators, and the teachers will always be Cath’s. They adore her as if she was still there…and in a way she is.
St Anthony of Padua School in Greenville with Marie, Diane, & Dad August 17th 2016
Author Notes: Cath likes to say she had plenty of angels helping her with this project…people at the school said it was her tireless never-ending effort
St Anthony’s and Cath are living testaments to the power of vision
Cath is retired now but the people of St Anthony’s long for her to visit…I’d like to be there when that happens
December 9th 1965. I was 12 years old and we were getting some basketball in before our dirt court became an ice-skating rink. Every year the alternating ritual of basketball and ice-skating repeated itself like clockwork. I had the ball and had out-maneuvered my friend’s Dad for an easy lay-up that would surely result in two points for us and embarrassment for him in our ritual game of 2-on-1. Suddenly, my friend’s Dad began shouting and pointing his finger at the sky behind me, “Look! Look! A UFO!” No doubt a trick to steal the ball while my head was turned. I refused to fall for such an obvious ruse but he continued with gathering urgency to the point where I could resist no longer. I banked-in two points for us, turned, and saw a long multi-colored tail of light behind a beautiful glowing object streaking across the sky. The three of us stood there in stone-cold silence…chins-on-chests. Strange multi-colored lights, moving across the sky, silently…it fit the standard description of UFOs. But even as a 12 year old I knew that it was a meteor burning-up in descent…not a UFO. My friend’s Dad was having none of that and as we headed up to the house pitching the ball back ‘n forth we could see how enthralled he was with having seen his first UFO. We let him have the moment…after all, we had just owned him for an easy layup.
Being There Now
For me, something happened during that event that was far stranger than a UFO. Standing under the basket looking silently at the sky the odd feeling that everything is now washed over me…as if time didn’t really exist. Stranger yet, I knew right then that I would never ever forget that moment. And I haven’t. It made me a sitting duck in adulthood for esoteric teachings, the Zen of trout fishing, quantum physics, the Tao of motorcycling, and Shipley’s hot glaze donuts. But I still do not believe in UFOs.
The Kecksburg Incident
Many years later the TV show Ancient Aliens devoted an episode to the “Kecksburg Incident,” an account of a UFO crash-landing in Western Pennsylvania outside the town of Kecksburg. The breathless account included all the usual suspects: a UFO witnessed by hundreds, a crash-landing in the forest, and military vehicles rushing in to retrieve the alien bodies and their craft. And then it happened – the flight path based on eye-witness accounts was put on the screen showing a line right over my old home in The Allegheny Forest. And then I noticed the date… December 9th 1965, the day of the easy lay-up.
December 6th 2015. In the 50th Anniversary coverage of The Kecksburg Incident by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette I learned the day I saw a UFO had become an event second only to Roswell for true believers in extra-terrestrials. In the article on the 50th anniversary of the crash a new explanation was revealed that put the matter to rest. It turns out the object burning-up in the atmosphere that day was a General Electric Mark 2 Re-entry Vehicle fresh from placing a spy satellite into orbit. Which explains the military vehicles that showed-up to retrieve the remains as well as the meteorite cover story. 1965 was the height of The Cold War.
The Tao of Now
Back in the day people said “UFO” in order to hide what they were really thinking: flying saucers…extra-terrestrials…girls from Rigel 7. Now people talk about aliens with no fear of ridicule at all. Fantasy is the new real and reality is becoming virtual. We see it everywhere: in politics, on social media, in music by The Flaming Lips (God bless ’em), and in the full length mirror on the closet door. I believe more than ever there are no such things as aliens…everyone is identified…everything is real…everything is now.
I’ll never forget the day when the way I see was changed forever…and that easy layup.
August 14th 2016
The Post-Gazette article was so interesting to me for how the eyewitness accounts matched my own descriptions of the “meteor”
For anyone interested in the infamous Kecksburg Incident and the solution to the mystery you can read the story HERE
True believers will not be dissuaded…which is as it should be