July 31st, 2014 is a day that will be unforgettable for a lot reasons… I’ll share with you those reasons in a bulleted list. I’m so thankful Father Ken Keller, Holy Family’s Church priest encouraged me to make the trip to assist me to relate on a personal level the over-year long research I have been involved with for the church and Nazareth community. My travel companion was Mary Helen Flores on this trip.
- Arkansas is supposed hot and humid, thankfully the day turned into a drizzling soft rain that kept us cool and almost gave a peace to the Arkansas landscape.
- Ozark Mountains – they gently emerged under the lifting clouds revealing deep blue and green beauty.
- Meeting Father Hugh, the archivist at Subiaco Abbey. He had continually filled my post office box for over two months with materials on the early priests who served the Nazareth church during its formative and early years.
- Walking into the Abbey church… While it was not the original abbey church, I was left speechless on the enormity of the church, as well as its beauty. Not many churches can take your breath away and this one did on many levels. The absolute peace from the outside followed into the church with me. Mary Helen even paused to say her morning prayers.
- Seeing the courtyard about the time the bells started chiming was picturesque. Everything was so wonderfully green and vibrant.
- The one thing I wanted to see most of all were the Abbey archives. Walking down a narrow hallway to the vault and smelling the aromas that only old papers and books can emit made me feel at home. I was in heaven. Knowing that Subiaco cares so much for their history and preserving it speaks volumes. We spent the most time in the vault. I took tons of photographs and went through old photographs and document files. Then finally Father Hugh pulled out Father Conrad Herda’s file. I gasped and awed at every page I turned. Father Conrad who served Nazareth from 1918 – 1923 has been one of the priest’s who has captivated me.
- Walking down the grass path to the priests’ graveyard that Father Conrad built was again full of serenity and peaceful. It was still drizzling ever so slightly and walking through the crepe myrtles and tombstones left me speechless, as well as thankful that I had made this trip.
- Next came lunch with Father Hugh in the private guest lunchroom. It was a burger, chips, and cookie. A simple meal, but nevertheless the best meal of the entire trip. There was something about sharing a meal with Father Hugh and Mary that made me ever more thankful for that moment in time… Plus, the meal gave me an opportunity to learn a little bit about Father Hugh on a personal level. Not many people probably know he loves everything Western and has since he was a little boy. (I’m still trying to locate the perfect Western thank you gift for him.)
- The best word I learned that day was “Pax” – which translates to peace.
- I walked back down to the cemetery to locate Father Conrad’s grave. This time I took my time and walked every row of cross tombstones. I never counted how many, but there were a lot. The crepe myrtles were gently blowing in the soft wind and the rain continued. For that moment in time I wished I could have met all those priests… who knows maybe some of them were actually with me that day in spirit.
- Subiaco was a place where I felt completely safe. Not many places offer that anymore in this day and age.
- Subiaco raises the most gorgeous black Angus cows.
- Being surrounded by so much history was miraculous.
My Subiaco photos: