I went to church all the time as a child. My parents are Catholic – my dad is cradle born and my mom converted when she married him. So we went to church every Sunday, every holy day of obligation and sometimes on Fridays if we were trying to do “First Fridays”.
I actually love church a lot. Not the institution but Jesus and what he represents. Who he was as a person whether he be a fictional character or a true historical figure. I don’t care. He taught some pretty cool things that I like to try to base my life around, but I’m not “churchy.” I don’t really like going to church for service. Mainly because I am a night owl and Sunday is my only day to sleep in.
Anyway, I digress from my childhood love for the church. My little church in Rushford was a peaceful place. When I think about being there, I think about how magical it felt at Christmas time with all the candles and poinsettias. And the crèche. It was beautiful. I even got to carry the baby Jesus one year.
The other holidays were equally engaging at the church. Before Lent was the Mardi Gras lasagna dinner. Maundy Thursday always included a repast of green grapes and crackers. My kids could never appreciate how amazing green grapes were back when I was a kid. To be able to get them in our little town was unheard of for my family. Especially in the middle of winter.. It makes me chuckle at how the simple things were so appealing when I was young.
I made my First Communion at St. Mark’s. Father Jann and the nuns from Allegany were our teachers when we were younger. Father Jann gave us Nekko wafers to imitate the host during our rehearsals.
The summertime always brought the Lake People who flooded our little church so that we had to have extra services and outdoor services on Saturdays. At the end of the summer was the annual picnic and corn on the cob. The end of summer also meant the beginning of Fall and the return of coffee and donuts!
The little church across from the school in Rushford was one of the places where I always felt welcome and loved. Father Jann was a wonderful teacher and role model. And that is not a label I give out easily.
Today my mom called and told me that Fr. Francis Joseph Jann, my priest from my childhood until now, died a few days ago. He is responsible for some of my greatest childhood memories.
Father Jann would shake everyone’s hand during the sign of peace. Everyone. And I especially loved during the summer months when he would hug me and call out my name with exuberance to indicate that I belonged there for any of the Lake People who may question my presence.
Fr. Jann was a good teacher and even for a kid who doesn’t like going to church too much, I was listening and learning. When I think back on all my time there, I have no bad memories of church, only happiness and fondness.
I know many adoptees who have become bitter toward the Church and I can understand. I am just glad that I had the experiences that I did so that I have the faith that I do. I don’t know if I would call myself Christian but I would say that I love Jesus’ teachings and aim to try to do what he would do in today’s world. This was an endeavor started in my little church back home.