When Freshmen and 'Seniors' Meet


Have you ever heard someone say many young people today do not show enough respect for their elders? Have you ever heard senior citizens say, “Back in my day…” when launching a diatribe against teenagers and young adults? Here is a true story that may advance a different trend for both ends of the age spectrum.

A group of five college freshmen were in a predicament. They had applied to and been accepted at a college in the Midwest, but on a probationary status. English was not their first language. Of course they passed the TOEFL exam, a Test Of English as a Foreign Language, which ensured their ability to comprehend lectures so taking notes in class was not the issue. Their problem was writing essays for demanding professors. They were painfully aware that their facility with English grammar and syntax left much to be desired. Needless to say, they were extremely motivated and eager to keep up with their peers. But they needed another pair of eyes to examine their term papers before turning them in. Private tutors would have been ideal but impossible to afford on their shoestring budget.

Ten blocks away from their university library stood the granite church of St. Joseph. The parish had grown smaller in recent years, but the rectory was as spacious as ever. So, when the pastor let it be known that he would welcome retired priests to join him, he received an instant complement of five gray-haired, 80-plus-year-old clerics who were available for light duty but otherwise content to pray, read and play pinochle between snoozes. Truth be told, these gentlemanly priests were talented men whose diminished gait and pale complexion was keenly offset by their quick wit and sharp memory.

By a sheer act of providence these two groups, the five freshmen and the five senior clergymen, found each other and the rest, as they say, is history. The five 18-year-old undergrads respected the five 80-year-old wisdom figures who were just as eager to mentor as the students were eager to learn. Four years later, the cheers for five successful graduates were boosted by thunderous applause from five productive retirees who had donated their time, talent and treasure to the future of the American melting pot.

Holy Homework: Let's recall one significant adviser in our life who guided our steps in the right direction and place their name on the refrigerator door for one month. Each time we pass by, offer a simple prayer of gratitude for their help.


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