A New Year is an opportunity to look back and to look forward and like many people I like to look at the year just completed to assess and to remember, especially the good times. Here, in no particular order, except for the first one, are the highlights of 2013:
1. Birth of Lucia
The year 2013 started with a bang as Lucia Rose was born on January 3. She was a bit late, missing the tax year deadline by 72 hours, but nevertheless we were just happy to have her arrive. It’s been a year now, but like with all the kids, it’s hard to imagine a time before her.
2. Secrets of Star Wars podcast with Fr. Roderick
In the spring, Fr. Roderick Vonhogen of the powerhouse Catholic podcasting network SQPN asked me if I’d be interested in co-hosting a podcast about the new, upcoming Star Wars movies with him. Fr. Roderick and I are the same age and we were both captivated by Star Wars when it first appeared in 1977 and it’s been a part of each of our lives since then so I naturally leaped at the chance. Plus, I’ve been looking for a podcasting project for a while now and why not start with the master? We’ve only had a handful of episodes of the Secrets of Star Wars so far, partly due to Father’s madcap calendar, but also because there’s not a whole lot to talk about yet with the first movie due out in 2015.
3. Hosting the CNMC
Boston holds the distinction of being the only city to host the Catholic New Media Conference twice (apart from Atlanta, where it was started as an adjunct of their annual Eucharistic Congress). The Archdiocese welcomed SQPN and the conference in 2010 and then we hosted again in October, 2013. A highlight of the event was the keynote by Msgr. Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, whose address on the Vatican’s efforts in social media garnered international attention. The VIP day which included a tour of Boston and hands-on workshops in the city added to the awesomeness.
4. Vacation to Maine
In August, we took a family vacation to Maine. Wanting our kids to experience the whole package, we bought a family-sized tent and camping gear for our kids. We took the long way by driving up through the White Mountains and then east into Maine to arrive at my sister’s house. We picked up my mom there as well as her camper and then continued on to the Camden/Rockland area where we camped out, cooked outdoors, had campfires and made s’mores. They had such a great time that they wanted me to set up the tent in our backyard when we got home so they could continue to camp out.
5. Coverage of the resignation of Pope Benedict and election of Pope Francis
While I didn’t actually get to go to Rome like my colleagues George Martell and Scot Landry, I was the point man back here editing and posting all the content they were sending back, including audio interviews, YouTube videos, blog posts, and hundreds and hundreds of photos. Much of it ended up on the website of The Good Catholic Life. With all the attention being paid to Cardinal Seán as papabile, the intimate access we had to him proved to be compelling for our many social media readers and listeners.
6. Coverage of Cardinal Seán going to the Holy Land
Hard on the heels of his return from Rome and the conclave, Cardinal Seán headed back out again on a long-planned pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a large group of Boston priests. Once again, I wasn’t able to go so I stayed here editing and posting all the photos and blog posts he sent back. It was so compelling and interesting, that–at the risk of sounding clichéd–I felt like I was there. I was especially moved by the photos of them celebrating Mass in the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher, although the FaceTime call from a boat floating on the Sea of Galilee was a lot of fun too.
The joy of the pilgrimage was cut short, however, by the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing that occured on the last day of the pilgrimage. I had to shift quickly from joyful pilgrimage photos to our prayerful response to the bombings, including the ecumenical prayer service attended by the President in Holy Cross Cathedral.
7. Isabella’s First Confession
We’ve known that the time is approaching for Isabella to receive the next sacraments in the sacraments of iniation–First Confession and First Communion. She hasn’t been in any religious education class; we’ve just been forming her at home. But we hadn’t made any formal plans yet.
A few weeks ago, in early December, we were at Mass and stopped to chat with Fr. Matt Williams, who lives in residence at our parish and is the Archdiocesan director of the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults. We mentioned that Isabella was preparing for her First Confession and he jokingly asked her, “Would you like to go now?” I think he expected her to recoil at the thought, but instead she chirped, “Sure!” The adults were taken aback at her readiness and after making sure that she was really sure, off she went to the sanctuary (Fr. Currie, the pastor, was hearing confessions in the confessional already) and there she had her first confession. I have to admit to being a bit emotional at my daughter receiving this sacrament, the first sacrament she sought for herself, and that she was so grown-up.
We’re looking forward to her First Communion on the Feast of the Presentation.
8. Family visits: Granddad, Grandma, Theresa
Until recently, all of my family lived close by us. The furthest was my mom and my sister Francesca who lived in Maine, but that was only a couple hours drive. (This fall, though, they moved to Virginia where my sister has a new job.) Melanie’s family, however, are all in Texas and while in 2012 we were able to fly down for her brother’s wedding, it is cost prohibitive and just plain difficult, especially now that we have five kids. (Much to my chagrin, because I really do enjoy Texas, especially in the winter.)
Thus her family–mainly her mom, dad, and sister–come to visit us. Melanie’s mom, as is the custom now, came right when Lucia was born in order to help as Melanie recovered from the c-section. Then her dad came after that. Theresa came to visit around Easter. Their visits are always times of joy, especially for the kids, who love getting stories read whenever they request and to go on walks and all the rest.
This past summer, Melanie’s dad had a stroke and his recovery was nearly miraculous. He was home within a couple days and the only lingering effects were trouble with hearing conversations and speaking, which were treated with speech therapy and a hearing aid. Still, it was quite nice to have him come back to visit us again this fall, especially for Melanie who so wished she could have been there with him when he was in the hospital.
9. Museums and zoos
It has become our custom to purchase one or two museum or zoo or other memberships each year. With a family our size, the cost of a yearly family membership is only slightly more than one trip to these places and with the membership the opportunity cost to go is pretty low. We can pack up at a moment’s notice, go for half a day and come home again without worrying about getting our money’s worth.
This year we had a membership to the Museum of Fine Arts at the beginning of 2013. When that expired, we got one for the Museum of Science. We also bought a membership at the Franklin Park Zoo. We were able to go to the MFA for some excellent exhibits, including one of Audobon prints and another of Japanese culture, including samurai arms and armor. At the Museum of Science, we saw the incredible Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit that included some of the actual scrolls, as well as a two-ton block of stone from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. At the end of the year, we made another visit, this time seeing the new Global Kitchen exhibit that discusses food production, geopolitical issues surrounding food, personal nutrition, the ways that different cultures prepare food and more. It was quite good.
We also like to take advantage of deals available from the likes of Groupon and Living Social, which let us go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a truly quirky but excellent museum, the legacy of Ms. Gardner who was an amazing collector of art and who upon her death left her Italianate palazzo and all the art in it as a permanent gift to posterity.
The zoo was another kind of outing for us. It is a short trip for us from our home and nearly all outdoors so it’s almost like going to the park, just with lions and tigers and gorillas, oh my. We went a few times and I even took the four of them on my own once while Melanie stayed home with Lucia.
10. Going to Denver for the Catholic Media Conference
I had been invited to go to the Catholic Media Conference in 2013 and give a presentation on diocesan social media. It was just around the same time I was suddenly given the additional responsibilities of producing The Good Catholic Life, our daily radio program, so I almost cancelled. I’m glad I didn’t. While the conference itself was okay, I really appreciated the opportunity to catch up with friends, including some at the conference like Greg and Jennifer Willits (Greg works for the Archdiocese of Denver now and helped organize the event) and those who just happen to live in Denver like Jim and Meg Beckman, who I went to Steubenville with and who I hadn’t seen in more than 15 years. A highlight of the trip was getting a tour of the Augustine Institute, a very impressive place. I was drooling over the high-tech media production they have going there.
What might have been the best part of the trip was the most unexpected. I had an amazing conversation with my driver on the way to the airport. I believe he was Ethiopian Orthodox and he had a lot of questions about Catholicism and what I do for the Church. By the time we got to the airport, I feel like we had connected, not to proselytize one another, but like long-lost brothers getting to know one another again.
It’s not a bad way to spend New Year’s Eve, looking back on the year that’s just concluded and this exercise has reminded me of some good times. I hope to do this again as 2015 dawns and, the good Lord willing, a tradition for years to come. And if I don’t make it that far, well, I hope and pray that the time I have is spent wisely and wonderfully.
- 2013inreview: Constantin Stanciu | Dreamstime.com | Copyright by owner. Used with permission.