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Thoughts...

Robert Leigh

Bob Leigh

Normandy Prep, Class of 1944

I spent about an hour this afternoon going through your web site and both enjoyed it and learned a lot. I thought our novitiate class (of 16 starting; with 8 finishing) was big but I see in the 1960-1970 era, these classes ran about 30. I guess the 1970s were the era of the big exodus....for a variety of different reasons.

I remember visiting Fr. James Patrick in 1988. He was in Daneo Hall at the time and had been our Prep school rector in 1944-46 before he went on to be Provincial for the first time. He asked me: "Bobby, why did we lose so many?" I was rather shocked to get such a profound question so unexpectedly from JP. He had tears in his eyes and I had to look away and think about it for a long time before attempting an answer. I believe it was because the Holy Spirit was instituting some fundamental changes in the Church.....and was beginning with the clergy. Today, it has become clear to me---that we are embarking on a non-sacramental way of salvation.

Until I was 24, I went to Mass/Eucharist daily and confession once a week. Today, we don't have priests up here; we have Eucharistic prayer services, generally conducted by women. Once a year, we go down to Coeur d'Alene or Spokane for confession. Parents baptize their own children. There are no church funerals. The 'arrangements' are with undertakers and are usually cremations. There are no priests to administer the sacrament of the sick and few Catholic marriages in the county seat parishes. Our little Church in Clark Fork, ID, was closed down by the Bishop (Boise) in 1997. He said we were attempting to maintain a chapel for the convenience of a few families. Since that time, we've managed to obtain, in large part, our own retired priests from outside the diocese for the purpose of Eucharist celebration.

The Bishop tolerates this as long as we send all collections to him and don't ask him for priests or money. He predicted that by 2005, our efforts would fail and he will sell the little Church built by the Catholic Extension Society in 1949. The last three Bishops have never been to our little Church, Sacred Heart, and the summer visitors are always amazed at the beauty of the liturgy as sung by our little community of less than 30 people.

We have adopted the "Renew" spirit of small community worship where the individuals really love and care for each other. We have charitable and caring programs that go beyond the large city parishes. We have Scripture studies each Wednesday and pot luck dinners at least once a month. We have the Stations of the Cross in the Church and at ranch outside it. We have a very active prayer chain which a number of Protestants and Mormons have joined.

I better wrap it up here. A good book which I recommend for reading is: The Changing Face Of The Priesthood by Donald B. Cozzens, a career long seminary rector. It is a recent book and I got a copy off Amazon.com for $5. It goes into the problems of the priesthood.....which I believe many of us saw coming 50 years ago.