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Thanks for the memories

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Several months ago, I received an invite to a class reunion. Oddly enough, it wasn’t for any of my own grade school, high school, college or seminary classes. Instead, it was a gathering of the very first class of kids that I was chaplain for at Hayden High School in Topeka. Seeing the organizer’s name — Andy — started a pleasant cascade of other names and faces from that class.

I was especially amused at Andy’s typo, which said that this was the class’ 30-year reunion. It was only their 20th. Or was it? A quick calculation on my fingers — one digit for each decade — told me that Andy was absolutely right. This class, the one from 1982, had graduated 30 years before.

I was stunned as the full effect of the math hit me. If it’s their 30th reunion, then my Hayden “kids” are now 48 years old. I had to sit down and take a deep breath. How had that happened? Where had all the years gone?

As the plans developed, I was asked to do a Mass — at 7:55 a.m., no less — on Oct. 27 at Most Pure Heart of Mary. I was hit by another wave of nostalgia because MPH was my first assignment as a priest. And if that wasn’t enough of a walk down memory lane, the Mass intention was for Misty, a great kid and member of the class of ’82, who died tragically in a car accident on graduation night. I was not surprised that her classmates never forgot Misty — or her parents and siblings — and requested a Mass in her memory. They were always a close and supportive group.

In attendance at that regular parish Saturday morning Mass a couple of weeks ago were some 20 or so members of the class of 1982, along with Misty’s folks and a sister and brother. After Mass, I had a chance to visit with Misty’s family and with the class. Some of us even headed out to breakfast afterwards to continue reminiscing.

A barbecue meal was scheduled for later that evening. When asked if I planned to attend, I explained that I had Mass in Tonganoxie at 5 p.m., and the likelihood of my returning was pretty slim. The more that I thought about it, though, I decided to return. After all, how often does a 30th reunion roll around?

So, yes, I drove back to Topeka that evening and was thrilled that I did. A good number of the class that could not make it to the Mass was in attendance at the barbecue. There was a sustained and excited buzz in the room throughout the night. Stories were exchanged, laughter shared, yearbooks passed around. It was not just a celebration of the “good old days,” however. It was an appreciation of the present and a joyful anticipation of the future.

I stood back and took it all in. Much had happened in these 30 years: My “kids” were now parents and even grandparents. A good number had experienced the death of their own parents. Some had remained in Topeka; many had moved away. Some were in successful marriages; others not. The conversations were only briefly about jobs; there was much more interest in “how are you doing” as a person. The room was filled, it seemed to me, with a genuine love, care, and closeness.

I felt honored and humbled to be a part of it. As a newly ordained priest back then, these were the people who welcomed me to a new city, a new vocation and a new school. They encouraged me and helped form me into the person I am today.

I do intend to stay in touch, via Facebook primarily, with the class of 1982. And even if it’s years before I see any of them again, two things are certain: They’ll always have a part of my heart . . . and they’ll always be my “Hayden kids.”

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Fr. Mark Goldasich

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