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.”