Column: When Irish eyes are smilin’

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

Well, I’m back . . . but just barely. My 10-day visit to the Emerald Isle almost turned into a longer stay.

On May 3, I was in the Dublin Airport making my way through a snaky line, waiting to check my bag and get a boarding pass for the flight back to Kansas City. I was traveling with 17 other people on a pilgrimage to Ireland; most were parishioners of mine from Tonganoxie.

We’d started out in Dublin on April 24 and had made a loop of the central and southern parts of the country, returning to Dublin for our final two days. It had been a great trip to places like Clonmanoise, Galway, Knock, Ballintubber and Kylemore abbeys, the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, Blarney Castle, Cashel, Kilkenny and Glendalough. Sure, it rained almost every day and the temperatures never got out of the lower 50s — and it was often windy — but I’d come prepared with coat, umbrella and even a stocking hat, so I was comfortable for the most part.

I’d cleared U.S. Customs, right there in the airport, and headed to one last security stop (the second of the morning). I passed through with no problem.

After about a 40-minute wait, it was time to board the plane. Our passports and boarding passes were checked and then we headed down a ramp to the plane. At a bend in the ramp, though, there were more security officers, and each passenger was directed to one of them. I could answer their questions in my sleep: Did you pack your own bag? Has it been with you the whole time? Did anyone give you anything to put in your bag? While everyone else heard, “Thank you. Have a great flight,” after answering those questions, my security man looked at my passport, looked at my boarding pass, frowned and said, “Please stay here.” Then he left . . . with all my documents.

As members of my group and other passengers happily passed through security, I waited. After about five minutes, the officer returned and said, “Come with me.” I followed him back downstairs to security. There, I had to do the whole drill again of removing shoes, belt, coat, etc. The contents of my pockets were scrutinized, I was “wanded” and frisked. My passport was run through some machine and my name printed by hand on some mysterious list.

Finally, the security guy said, “Thank you,” and led me back to the plane. I said, “You realize this is terribly embarrassing. I’m a Catholic priest, and I’ve got about a dozen parishioners onboard that plane.” The guy burst out laughing and said, “Oh, they’ll be wondering what the pastor’s done, won’t they?” We shook hands as I headed down the ramp and I heard him tell his colleagues, “Guy’s a priest!” A chorus of laughter erupted. It turns out I was the “random security check” person . . . and the last one on the plane.

Things weren’t much better onboard. About an hour into the flight, I tried to turn on the overhead light and accidentally hit the button to summon the stewardess. In seconds, a steward came and asked what I needed. I told him I’d mistakenly hit the call button when I wanted the light. At that, he said, “Look, then push! Look, then push!” He then pointed out that there was a little person’s image on the inside of the armrest above the call button and a little light image above its button. Again, he said, “So, look, then push!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d need to be a yoga expert to bend my body in such a way as to be able to even see those tiny images on the armrest.

Another hour or so passed and I was just starting to feel comfortable, when the purser came up and said, “Are you Father Goldasich?” My first thought was that the steward reported my reading light fiasco. My eyes must have bugged out because she laughed and said, “I was going to tell you that security wanted us to watch you because they heard you were studying Arabic! But I won’t do that!” She then put out her hand and introduced herself. She was originally from Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Kan., a Bishop Ward graduate, Croatian, and a classmate of one of my parishioners on the pilgrimage. He was seated a number of rows ahead of me and had put her up to this visit.

What followed was a very pleasant conversation. We knew a good number of the same people and she had even gone to school with managing editor Anita McSorley’s sister. Our conclusion was: It truly is a small world.

Later, you’ll hear more of my Irish adventures. I’m still processing all that I saw and learned. For now, though, my passport is locked up tight and, though it was a real blessing to travel, there honestly is no place like home.

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