Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Westfield, 1948

"Ego baptize te Franciscum," which was, my mother was assured, not the name of some Italian beggar, but merely Latin for Frank, her one hundred percent American father's name. And so it is, isn't it? Not that I am much of a Latinist. I mean, Franciscum looks wrong, as if it should be Franciscem, but that would be irregular, wouldn't it? Besides, if I were to be named for the Poor Man of Assisi, I should be called John, after his own Christian name, not Frank, Franco, or Frenchy or whatever nickname he went by. On the other hand, I did take John for Confirmation, so there.

March 20, "of the Feria" then as now. Venerable Fathers of St. Sabbas in the East. The New Calendar East. Go back two weeks for the old one and it's the 40 martyrs of Ammonium. Ammorium. But at least the forefeast, back then, of our own Benedict, of whom I am, on paper, still a novice Oblate.

I visited the church website today and looked up the history, and saw what at first appeared to be an enormous gap in the list of pastors. Then I realized why:

"In the 125 years of Holy Trinity Parish life, there are fifty-five golden years that stand out above all. This was under the guidance of Rev. Henry J. Watterson, who arrived on St. Valentine's Day in 1913, at the age of thirty-seven. He was a man of great determination and tenacity. When he decided to become a priest, he worked day and night to complete a thirteen-year course of study in ten years. He was ordained in 1901 and his first assignment was to St. Lucy's Catholic Church in Jersey City. After that, he went to St. Francis Church is Lodi, where he had the distinction of being the first parish priest in Bergen County to own a car. It is hard to imag[in]e in this age of rapid change, that he was in residence at Holy Trinity for so many years, many of those either by himself, or with just one assistant priest. Msgr. Watterson retired in 1968 at the age of ninety-two and lived into his 101st year. He is buried alongside the church he built."

I doubt he performed the baptism himself, but it is good to think this remarkable man was my first pastor. And he might even be amused to know that the baptismal register now states, or should, that I am no longer a member of his church, but a subject of the long vacant Russian Exarchate. One of them, anyway. Harbin, perhaps?

Westfield, New Jersey. Where I do not remember living. Home of Charles Addams. Inspiration of the Addams Family. No wonder, to those who know me.

Next time, perhaps, something of Weehawken.

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