Monday, November 11, 2013

Garden City, Kansas: A Real Gift

Monday morning greetings from Tampa, Florida.

What a whirlwind these past several days have been.

On Friday morning, I left Chicago, headed to Garden City, Kansas. Back in April in Wichita, I met three members of Saint Dominic's parish from Garden City at an RCIA event sponsored by the various dioceses across Kansas. They asked if I might be willing to come to their parish to speak with the people in a kind of "mini-mission" to conclude the year of faith for the parish. Frankly, I had never heard of Garden City before. They assured me that two commercial flights a day came into their airport. So, I said, "Yes."

I first flew to Dallas, then hopped on a small jet to Garden City. As we approached the small airport, I was stunned by what I was seeing as I looked out the plane's window: farmland, with crop circles as far as the eye could see. I snapped this photo just before we landed.

Now I have done my share of flying in my life and usually am at about 35,000 feet when flying over states like Kansas. But this was amazing to me; no towns that I could see, just thousands and thousands of acres of farmland. When I got off the plane, I was struck by the stiff breeze and the even stiffer odor being carried by that breeze.

I found out later that this is cattle country and tens of thousands of heads of cattle are kept in "feed lots" throughout the area. Folks, to echo and adapt a line from The Wizard of Oz: "Toto, I don't think we're in Chicago anymore!"

After retrieving my bag at baggage claim,

I met my host and we drove ten miles to the parish of Saint Dominic. In the gathering area, I was greeted by a large sign announcing the mission.

I gave a presentation on Friday night, focused on reclaiming the power of the sacrament of baptism. Then on Saturday morning I met with approximately 20 musicians from three area parishes. I focused on contextualizing music ministry within the larger ministry of evangelization, talked about pastoral musicians as true artists, then launched into a presentation and discussion about Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship. After lunch, it was time for the final presentation, focused on the Eucharist, seeing it through the lenses of sacrifice, nourishment, reconciliation, and mission.

I absolutely loved my time and the people I met in Garden City, Kansas. Folks, I realized that I was in the middle of the country's (and parts of the world's) food source. Corn, milo, sorghum, wheat, and soybean are all planted, cultivated, grown, and harvested here. Feed is produced for cattle here. It gave me a new appreciation for the prayers of the faithful that I have prayed for decades: "For farmers who till the soil . . . For good weather for our crops . . . For an abundant harvest . . ." I met people who have farmed here for generations. As I said, a whole new appreciation and an expansion of my appreciation of how diverse our country is. I felt about as far away from downtown Chicago, where I live, as I could.

And the faith of the people I met ran deep. Praying at Mass with the people of Saint Dominic's was a real treasure for me. The music drew me in. I felt so privileged to bring forth the wine at the preparation of the gifts.

I would describe my short visit to Garden City, Kansas as a real gift.

Here is a photo of the sanctuary of the church.

Very early yesterday morning, I flew back to Dallas, then home to Chicago to do laundry. I went back to O'Hare last night and flew here to Tampa, Florida, for a few days of business meetings. On my walk this morning:

I had to wonder, "Am I in the same country in which I woke up yesterday morning?"

I am feeling so blessed to be able to have seen so much of our country over the past few days, and actually over the past several decades. It dawned on me that I have visited all but one of the fifty United States and all but one of the Canadian Provinces.

Well, that's about it for now. Joining my prayers today for all of our country's veterans, living and deceased.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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