Yearbooks mark passages. They express hopes, dreams, best wishes.
In front of the alter at this year’s Memorial Mass for Alumni the display of yearbooks marked the graduation years of those whose names were read. There were the expected and the unexpected. Graduates of the 90’s. One from last year.
Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Anthony from the class of ’35. One of St. Francis’ oldest alumni praying for those who’d lived but a fraction of a lifetime. Father is blind and hard of hearing. To witness the gentle assistance and respect from Fr. Michael, the other celebrant, was a reminder of all things important. The choir of male voices reminded me of many Sundays singing in that choir for recording sessions for the Rosary Hour. Will some of today’s young voices be in the pews forty years from now enjoying a similar memory?
Attendance at the Alumni Mass is growing. Long line up after mass for coffee and bagels. More memories of lining up by seniority during lunch and supper. Shared conversation with an SFHS graduate from the class of ’58 who still runs a pharmacy in his home town of Lackawanna. Although he’d graduated before I started, our name exchange exercise quickly finds commonality in brothers of classmates, recognizing family names, and Franciscans we both knew.
Once again John MacMillan and I enjoy the company and conversation with Louis and Gladys. This couple are living history of what Tom Brokaw called ‘the greatest generation’. Memorializing the young brings memory and pain. Gladys’ brother died 63 years ago, to the day. Just two weeks and change after arriving in Europe. Louis’ tragedies started soon after graduation during army training. First, while attending army engineering training at Orono, Maine, the residence building burned. With bare feet and a coat, he made it outside, but three of his buddies did not. Soon afterwards, during a training exercise in Tennessee, twenty one more died when their pontoon boat capsized. They were in full battle gear. The river swollen from spring rain. Louis was at the Battle of the Bulge; endured endless days of shelling; and witnessed concentration camp corpses. “I can still smell it.” He did find one survivor.
The snow is bright white in Buffalo right now.