Monday, June 11, 2007

California, here I am.

After an eventful, prayerful and restful two-week hiatus, I'm back to blogging. Today was my first day back at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, where I had the chance to get reacquainted with old coworkers and to meet some new ones. The refugee program expects to get a lot of new arrivals over the course of the summer, so there's no shortage of work to do. I'll also work with some clients who are already in the program, including some francophones from Africa with whom I hope to practice and improve my French.

Though I'm still a bit jetlagged from a busy weekend, I'm happy to be back in sunny San Jose. From what I've seen so far, the city hasn't changed much since I left here in May 2005. Coming back here has offered me an opportunity to appreciate the wonderfully mysterious nature of human memory, as apparently minor sensory impressions - like noticing the smell of the carpet on entering the door of the Jesuit community, or glancing at the unchanged photos on the office walls at Catholic Charities - bring back a flood of recollections that I haven't consciously brought to mind in two years.

While I'm here, I'm looking forward to returning to places I got to know and love two years ago. I took a stroll down The Alameda this evening to browse at Recycle Books, a locally celebrated used bookstore with a large, varied inventory and a decent amount of comfortable seating. In a perfect world, all bookstores would have a feline-in-residence; Recycle Books happens to have two felines, one of which is larger than most canines and may deserve the attention of scientists looking for the missing link between the cougar and the common housecat. In other news, I passed the Santa Clara In-N-Out today and hope to make a pilgrimage there in the near future.

To report briefly on the past couple weeks, I had an excellent retreat and a great time at province days. For reasons that I'm not sure I could ever fully articulate, I find God more easily in Montreal than I do in many other places, and the days I spent there on retreat were full of grace and consolation. During my time in Montreal, I also enjoyed the chance to return to old haunts and to encounter new people and new places. Notable in the last category is Saint-Louis-de-France, which offers extensive programming for young adults and has the reputation of being one of the most vibrant Catholic parishes in Montreal. Attending Sunday Mass at Saint-Louis-de-France, I got the sense that the parish deserves the praise it has received. The church's lively liturgy attracts a multigenerational crowd that includes many more youth and young couples than I'm used to seeing at Mass, and going there I both felt very welcome and felt a little more optimistic about the future of the Church in Quebec.

Another reason to be optimistic about the Church's future came this past Saturday with the priestly ordination of my fellow Chicago Province Jesuits Kent Beausoleil and Mike Conley. I'm confident that Kent and Mike will both be great priests, serving God's people faithfully and well. Jesuit ordinations also serve as a kind of annual province reunion, and thus this past weekend in Chicago also gave me the opportunity to catch up with my novitiate classmates in First Studies at Loyola University and to see many other Jesuits who I don't often get to see. One such Jesuit, Chi Prov vocation director Patrick Fairbanks, asked me to call your attention to the new vocation website Think Jesuit, a joint effort of the Chicago, Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces. As I've mentioned before, Patrick also has a blog which deserves your attention. While you're at it, check out this new blog by Chi Prov novice Hung Nguyen. As far as I know, Hung is the first Jesuit to blog bilingually, posting in both English and Vietnamese. I look forward to reading Hung's continuing reflections on novitiate life, and I hope you'll give them a look also. AMDG.


At 6/12/2007 7:55 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

My kids are busy planning their annual pilgrimage to In-N-Out burger, to take place next week as we head from East Coast to West. The french fries are a proof that God exists, and delights in us!

At 6/12/2007 10:31 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Michelle -

I completely agree re: In-N-Out. The last time I was in Californa for a substantial length of time - i.e., for two months in 2005 - I went to In-N-Out once every week, in part because I knew that they offer the best fast food burger and fries on God's good earth and that I had to take full advantage while I still could. That said, I'm glad we don't have In-N-Out on the East Coast - for one thing, the mystique would be lost, and for another, I'd probably be a lot less healthier.

At 6/13/2007 6:52 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Joe -

I spent a year on sabbatical in the Bay area and drove down to see my parents south of Monterey every few weeks. We'd stop at the In-N-Out in Salinas.

But I concur - if they appeared in the East, it would be a blow to healthy dining in my household.

Enjoy the summer sojourn!


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