Another Massive Update

Goodness — has it really been a month and a half since the last update?  Herewith some more updates and observations.

1.  Work has been … work.  Not too bad; it’s helpful having more people in my area to share the workload.  Yet the tasks and the environment haven’t changed much in the last six weeks.

2.  It was a great honor to serve as the cathedral sacristan for four ordinations in my diocese two weeks ago.  Three priests and one transitional deacon were ordained at St. Andrew’s Cathedral by Bishop Walter Hurley; two of the new priests were gentlemen I lived with briefly a few years ago, at Christopher House, before they went into major seminary.  Getting caught up with them, and participating in their Mass of Ordination, was a real treat.

3.  I managed to eek out a narrow victory in my campaign for Great Lakes Senate, in the United States Government Simulation.  I had been appointed to the seat (which covers Michigan and Wisconsin), and had to stand for general election at the last cycle.  I beat a Michigan Congressman who was the sitting DNC chairman, despite an almost $3M funding disadvantage.  Hooray for me!  The only down side is that the seat is up in normal rotation in the NEXT cycle, in two months.  Ugh.  With hobbies like this …

4.  Karate training has been progressing well.  I’ve started free-form sparring practice, and the effort has reminded me of just how much more work I need to do!  On the bright side, I’m told that I’m quite aggressive in the ring (perhaps too much so), but I also know that I’m starting from “ground zero” and have a long way to go before I’d be a formidable opponent. 🙂  Last week, I earned my third stripe, and should test for orange belt in August.

5.  I’ve started prison ministry through the Diocese of Grand Rapids and the Michigan Department of Corrections.  I went to an orientation session last Thursday at a minimum-security facility the area.  The prison chaplain gave me the grand tour of the facility, including walk-throughs of the rec areas, the main yard, and one of the housing units.  I was surprised at the lack of bars (the inmates dwell in open-air cubicles), and at how beautiful the grounds were.  The inmates can participate in a horticulture program, so they take great pride in their vegetable and flower gardens.  This should be an interesting experience — as part of the orientation, I spent about 20 minutes one-on-one with one of the inmates who has been active in the Catholic ministry group.  Lots of potential there, and the prison is a good one, both in terms of its security level (the inmates have an “out date,” which means they have incentive for good behavior), and in the administration’s support for religious programming.  Still, it’s a little funny to walk around in the middle of hundreds of inmates in their jumpsuits, with little more than an alarm pack clipped to my belt.

6.  Speaking of criminals … over the last few weeks, I’ve taken to walking to work.  It’s a 7.25-mile trip, one way, down Division Avenue, that includes some parts of Grand Rapids that could charitably be referred to as “disadvantaged,” including the Burton Heights and Heartside neighborhoods.  Three times I made the trek, and faced nothing more unusual than a homeless guy asking me for 75 cents.  The third trip back, however, was a bit different; construction on Division forced me to reroute down a side street, even as a pedestrian.  This street — Corinne — is apparently home to drug dealers, pimps, and gang bangers, and they were out in force as I strolled down their sidewalk.  There I was, dressed in “hospital business casual,” walking alone down an inner-city street, knowing darn well that everyone was looking at me without really looking at me.  Until, that is, one banger standing lookout next to a parked white Escalade made a show of waving to me and, in an oh-so-polite way, shouting: “Hey, I hope you have a nice day, officer.”  So I smiled, waved, and kept on walking.  After all, they’re not gonna mug a cop, right?  But that notwithstanding, actually walking through those neighborhoods provided an interesting perspective on urban poverty that you don’t get by driving in the area (not to imply, of course, that I “understand” poverty for merely having walked down a sidewalk).

Other than that … eh, more of the same.

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  1. Having read quite a few of the books on “poverty”, you may not realize it but by actually walking down that street, you’ve probably done more productive research than the majority of them have done by publishing “scholarly” studies on poverty. It’s one of my real pet peeves (all joking aside) with this industry of scholarship that usually equates to some educated person trying to pretend he or she “understands” poverty because he or she has interacted with homeless people in a shelter. I take you back to that article I wrote on the way to tackle poverty is to realize it’s a state of mind that is extremely difficult to change rather than an economic barrier that can be overcome by using the “system.”

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