Notes From Near and Far

by Fr. Zach Romanowsky


“It restored my faith in the goodness of humanity,” said my friend Fr. Thomas Lim. He was reflecting upon his experience of standing alone in the darkness next to our broken-down vehicle, praying and waiting for help to arrive. Our front tire, on the driver’s side, had rolled off while he and I were returning home after a visit to Echo Bluff State Park, thirty-seven miles south of Salem, where our house is.

I had gone to phone for help and Fr. Thomas said that out of twenty or so cars that passed by over the course of an hour and a half, at least twelve stopped to ask him if he needed any help.

And several of those cars had passed him by, turned around, came back to check on him, then turned around again to continue on in the direction to which they were going. Being from a big city, Fr. Thomas was not used to such kindness from so many strangers, both men and women, both young and old.

Two good Samaritans had stopped and offered to take me to a place where I could make some phone calls. There was no cell phone signal along that stretch of Highway 19. Both men were quite fervent Christians and the one who was driving the car said that the Holy Spirit had “strongly prompted” him to come to our aid.

They were struck that Fr. Thomas and I were both “pastors.” They were incredibly kind and generous with their time. After driving me back to the state park where I could make some phone calls, they waited for close to an hour until I could assure them that help was on the way. Before we parted ways, we took some time to pray for one another.

Patrick, the director of our house, picked up Fr. Thomas with our other vehicle, came and got me, and together we led the tow truck driver to the auto shop in Salem.

None of us, especially Fr. Thomas, will soon forget the genuine goodness and kindness of those good folks and the Father’s amazing care for us that night.

While that event was a rather dramatic example of the Lord’s tender solicitude and his goodness shining in and through others, we would all agree that it is just one example among many.

In early July we held our first summer program, modelled on that of Madonna House Combermere, with six young adults participating. Three came from Kansas City, one from Des Moines, Iowa, and the other two were already with us as working guests. Patrick, Carol Ann, and I (the three staff in our house) each gave a talk on the theme of being salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt. 5:13-14).

One of the women guests, who had extensive beekeeping experience, helped Patrick with an inspection of our beehives. Another made us a delicious curry meal and delighted us with her cello playing by the lake. We had canoe races, hit golf balls, went swimming, had lots of great discussions at mealtimes, and spent much time together in the chapel in silent prayer.

Several of the ladies from the parish brought us various dishes to help us with the meals. And they helped us again later in the summer when three seminarians from Florida along with a college friend of theirs from Chicago, visited us for a week.

We continued to have a steady flow of visitors through July and August. Some dropped in for a short visit, others stayed for several weeks. Several families dropped in for short stays.

Fr. Thomas Lim, who I mentioned above, enjoyed two and a half weeks of quiet and solitude at our guesthouse. He is a friend of mine from the seminary and is on a six-month sabbatical. He said that his time with us was a perfect preparation for his upcoming thirty-day Ignatian retreat in September.

With a steady flow of visitors, a couple of house road trips, beehives to attend to, grass to mow, and a bumper crop of Roma tomatoes, habanero peppers, and cucumbers to process, it’s been a very full couple of months. But we are not complaining. We are grateful for it all.