Friday, July 27, 2018


That is not to say that the way the pastor had the rectory set up is wrong.  It was right for him.  He is of the type of gentleman that gets his energy from being around people.  My first pastor was like that.  Fr. Hilkert of St. Ambrose Parish (God rest him) loved being around people and he didn’t have a lot of boundaries.  His suite was off the first landing on the stairs and easily visible from the front offices.  It was not unusual for him (he was in his mid-80s when I was with him) to be in his pajamas by 8PM.  The secretary might phone up and say that someone stopped by to see him and, putting the phone down would holler down the steps, “Just come on up.  I’m in my chair and have no intention of getting up.”  It would be unheard of today in our litigious society to greet somebody in your pajamas but back then it was a funny quirk.  

Once, getting back to the St. Ambrose rectory late the secretary stopped me and said, “Would you please go up and see if Father is alright?  A couple of big young men stopped by to talk to a priest and he told me to send them up and they have there has been a lot of yelling coming from up there.”

I ran up the stairs, knocked, and went in.  There were two rather beefy young men with Father and they were all holding Bibles and talking over each other.  It turns out that they were Protestants and one of them was getting married to a Catholic and wanted the straight story “from the horse’s mouth” exactly what Catholic believe.  Greatly relieved I said, “Hold on, I’ll get my Bible,” and so joined in on the conversation.

In many ways, though I think we had the relationship I had with that pastor was that of Grandpa and Grandson, Fr. Hilkert and I were polar opposites.  But it was his rectory and whatever he wanted went.  That is, until he decided he was going to put a deacon’s office on the second floor where the living quarters were, directly across the hall from my bedroom.  This house was built in the ‘50s when there was no need for as many offices as a modern parish needs and so, as happened at St. Sebastian, offices crept further and further into this house until there was only one spot left un-invaded by office workers – the guest room directly across the hall from my bedroom.

Sometimes I worry that I am a little too private or picky.  But the idea of taking a shower and changing my clothes and hearing a meeting going on out in the hall with only an inch thick door separating us was more than I could bear.  So I went to Fr. Hilkert’s office, with whom never an ill word passed, and said, “This is your house, and you may do whatever you want with it and I will support you.  But I just want you to know that if you put an office across from my bedroom, I will move out.”  I said it in a very calm and matter of fact way – or at least that is the way I remember it.  There I times that I think I am being very calm about things and friends will say, “Boy, could we tell you were loaded for bear.”  I am always amazed by this.

“They aren’t gonna be coming in your room!” he grumbled back, perhaps sensing an underlying feeling of petulancy.  

“I didn’t say they were.  I am just saying that if there is an office up there, I will not be.”

“I can put offices anywhere I want to.”

“I know that.  I didn’t say you couldn’t.  I just said that I would be moving out.”  

That was the closest we had ever come to fighting in the seven years we were together.  He finally gave in and I apologized.  Looking back I know I was bull headed enough to carry out my threat but I have no idea where I would have gone.  Living in the rectory, after all, is part of our compensation.  One night in a hotel is more than a priest makes in a weekend of Masses.  And the food isn’t as good.

Priests who are extraverts are few and far between.  At least of the ones I know.  This is a good thing.  If you put 5 introverts in a room with a bowl of peanuts, come back in an hour and they all will have found something to read.  Put 5 extroverts in a room together with a bowl of peanuts, come back in an hour and at least one will have to go to the hospital to have the bowl of peanuts removed from his nostril.  So considering we end up living together in situations not far removed from arranged marriages, it is good that so many of us so inclined to some amount of passivity.

There are ways, however, in which it is far easier to be extroverted priest than one that is introverted.  One would be in the arrangements of the rectory.  It is easy to open up your house and invite everybody and their pet cat to roam through at will, dropping in on your breakfast to get a cup of coffee and make idle chatter, taking a short cut to the church when you have company, popping in at night to “get some things done” while you are sitting in the living room in sweats, eating popcorn and watching the game.  True extroverts love this.  “No!  You’re not interrupting!  Sit down and talk for a few minutes.”

Woe for the introverted priest whose assignment as pastor follows that of the extroverted priest.  While the extravert gets his energy by being around people and the more the merrier, the introvert (such as myself) gets his energy by being alone.  And we know from experience that when we try to fashion our home as is befitting an introvert after an extrovert has been there, we seem territorial and mean spirited.  Maybe we are.

So at first you try to live with it, silently crushing your newspaper when someone interrupts breakfast to catch up.  Or scuttling out of the kitchen late at night not wanting to be seen on your PJs when an unexpected visitor with keys comes in the back door to work on a project for the morning.  First we try polite explanations such as, “Could you please not come in to the rectory late at night without warning me?  Sometimes I like to come down from my bedroom for a late snack and am not dressed for visitors.”

Inevitably will come the reply, “Oh but Father, I don’t mind seeing you in your PJs.”  Which may be very true.  But the problem stems from not wanting to be seen in my PJs.  So then the introverted priest starts laying down rules such as “Nobody in the rectory after office hours!”  Maybe that’s it.  We stuff it down until we are upset and then it comes out a bit harsh.  So you feel guilty and so maybe you bake a little something and leave it on the kitchen counter to try to make up for it.  It is best to be a good baker in times like these.


Baking only ingratiates one for so long.  Soon the complaints of ruined diets start marring the positive effects that the initial baking created.  But there was a perennial favorite: my mother’s apple strudel.  It always appeared around the fall and would disappear like a freed helium balloon on a windy day – more of a flash of sweet memory than anything lasting.  

(As copied from an ancient piece of notebook paper, written in her own hand and covered with grease spots.)

¼ cup of water
3 eggs
2 Tbsps. of vinegar
2 cups flour
2 sticks of butter (½ pound)
9 (Mom always used half Macintosh and half Jonathon)
1 cup sugar
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of lemon juice
1 cup crushed cornflakes
(I add a little vanilla to the dough.)

Mix together the water, vinegar, and 3 egg yolks (& vanilla.)  (Save the whites for later.)

In another bowl, cut the butter into the flour as you for pie dough.  When the butter is “pea size” add the liquid ingredients and knead until it forms a ball and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.  A good amount of flour may need to be added as you knead.  Let the dough sit covered in a bowl in the refrigerator for at least an hour or even overnight.

The Filling:
Peel, cut and slice the apples to a size of your taste
Add to the apples the sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and 1 cup crushed cornflakes.

Preheat oven between 325-350

Divide dough into four to six balls and roll out a thinly as possible into a large rectangle.
Place apples along one edge.  Place a row of cornflakes alongside.
Roll the dough, folding over the ends and sealing all with the egg whites.
Paint the rolled loaves with egg whites or melted butter, sprinkle with sugar bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.


Instead of slicing up the apples, peel and core depending and size, about 10 of them.  
Roll out dough into as many squares.
Place apple in the middle of the square and fill the now empty core with sugar, a dash of cinnamon, and a pad of butter at the top.
Fold the dough up and around the apple securing with the eggs whites like glue.
Coat with egg whites or butter, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.

In a double boiler melt some red cinnamon candy.

Put dumplings in a bowl with ice cream and pour to cinnamon mixture over.  Serve piping hot.


Pat said...

How nice that without offices in the rectory, hospitality can be offered to visiting priests and seminarians.

Fr. V said...

Well . . . there are still 6 offices in the rectory (until recently 7) but now they are contained to the first floor. It is a little challenging at times but it is FAR better than living in a full out office building.

Anonymous said...

Mama must have been quite the cook - this sounds delicious! Thank you for sharing this. I am not Eastern European (I am Italian/Irish), but I had the great blessing of growing up with many children of your ethnicity. Their mothers *always* were very hospitable and kind, although they put up with no nonsense. No matter how many extra kids were around (and there always were extras), there was always enough to feed everyone. I remember, during Lent, one friend, whose mother had 7 children and a husband to feed on one Goodyear factory paycheck, would make a sheet of bread dough topped with mashed potatoes, sautéed onions, and a little cheese, all baked together - sort of pierogi filling on bread. And yes, there is *nothing* like homemade pierogies! Economical and filling, but oh my, it was so good, and we kids loved it. Such good memories! God bless you and all your Eastern European brothers and sisters! Susan, ofs