I have been in Mobile for just over a week. I am still adjusting to the reality of being on sabbatical. Like each summer's vacation, the first week or so, I am still remembering 20 things per day that I did not get done before I left; 10 things per day that I could have done differently, and worrying about how this or that will get done. It is one of the reasons I have always tried to take my full month of vacation at once each summer. The first week of that month, I will still be at work. I have feeling it will take a little longer this summer. But that is okay. It is, in a since, laying in the bed I made for the last 10 years when I had my hands firmly embedded in so much of the day to day running of the Newman Center. In that context, I can expect phone calls until I leave the country in September, and I welcome them.
At the same time, I settling into my very part-time gig here at St. Ignatius. The people of the parish have received me warmly and really embraced my preaching style. They are kind to say things like "forget going back West at the end of the year, we could use you here." I assure them that at the end of 2 months they will be willing to let me go ;) It is strange living in a Diocesan rectory. As one might expect, there is nothing approaching "community life" among the guys who live in my house. I have a feeling that this is exacerbated by the reality that it is summertime. They do not share prayer or meals and are busy with their lives. We come and go without accountability to each other. I presume they check in with each other in the context of their work on the parish staff. But as I am not part of that, I feel completely disconnected. They are really nice guys and I am enjoying my contact with them, but it certainly reinforces my love for community life (warts and all). I am grateful for the place to lay my head and for the little bit of ministry that I am doing.
I am missing Tucson some - especially the Newman Center and the Dominican Community. Some part of each day I have been writing thank you notes for gifts I received in the last couple of months. That means that each day, Iam reading cards and notes adn remembering the special time that has been my separating and leaving a home of 10 years.
I have had fun connecting with some people here - During this week, I have spent time with my John Norton, my best friend here in Mobile and his girlfriend, Monica. We had a nice evening out at Felix's Fish camp my first night in town and a great Italian meal on Friday. Ihave also seen my friend Jennifer Duke Lenoir - recently returned to Mobile - a few times. On Sunday, I went to Pensacola to see 2 friends from Tucson: Juliette Moore and Michael Underwood. Juliette retired from the UofA a few years ago. She had been a music minister at Newman for 13 years. Ibaptized Michael 2 years ago. He is in the Air Force adn is assigned to NAS Pensacola for training. It was a fun tme reconnecting with friends and reconnecting with Pensacola.
Monday of this week, Iwas blessed to attend the funeral of Judy Johnson, the mother of Bob Johnson who was in my high school class. I did not know Judy and really went to support Bob - his mother had died quite suddenly. The funeral was a beautiful tribute to a beloved woman.
I have likewise enjoyed reconnecting with Mobile. I only lived here as a teenager and, while vaguely aware of the historic nature of this city, I never really appreciated either its beauty, its grace, or its grandeur. I have, in the last week been reading a lot about Mobile's history. When I have needed to get out of the house, I have been visiting and taking photos of Mobile's beauty. I have become kind of obsessed with live oak trees. Mobile's nickname is "the Azalea City," and one is certainly aware in the spring how appropriate that is. But the Spanish Moss bedecked Live Oak Trees which form a canopy over the main historic thoroughfares of Mobile could easily provide a different nickname: the Live Oak City. After marveling at the size of several trees, I remembered that I had seen the supposed oldest Oak in Mobile when I was in high school. A simple Google search helped my find it again and I was able to once again be impressed by a 300+ year old tree. I have provided some other pictures of Mobile's live oaks as well.
Part of my reason for coming to Mobile as part of my sabbatical was to connect with my family here. It is the part of the sabbatical that is the least defined for me. I have seen my mom, sister, and neices in the last week, but not nearly enough. This is going to take more effort on my part.
Fr. Bartholomew Hutcherson, OP, "The Pilgrim Preacher" is an Itinerant Preacher and member of the Western Dominican Province Preaching Team. He is available for retreats, conferences, and Parish Missions. He offers pilgrimages periodically and shares images and reflections on this website as "virtual pilgrimages."