Hugs, handshakes, and friendly banter were exchanged as dozens of alumni from six decades of ordination classes predicted the winners of their annual golf outing at Pine Meadow Golf Course. Several alumni priests, including “Vicar for Golf” Father Jim Hyland (Class of 1981) have been in attendance since the first outing was held in the 90s, and others made their debut this year. Good-natured wisecracks about golfing ability (or inability) set the tone for an enjoyable day for everyone, regardless of the actual scores.
Since Mundelein forms priests for many dioceses, the outing serves as a reunion for men who bonded as seminarians but don’t often see each other. In larger dioceses, such as the Archdiocese of Chicago, occasions where priests from all vicariates gather is limited to ordinations or the recent convocation, held every three years. Alumni from Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, and all over Illinois traveled back to Mundelein for fellowship with other graduates. The variety of ages was vast, with priests who have served more than 50 years talking to men who can count on one hand the number of years they’ve been ordained. Registered golfers ranged in ordination years from Father Roger Caplis (Class of 1958) to Father Gregory Bim-Merle (Class of 2017). Non-ordained graduates also attended the festivities and enjoyed catching up with former classmates.
Father Gerry Rogala (Class of 1966) appreciated the chance to spend time with his brother priests, saying, “Our get-togethers mean a lot to us. I enjoy meeting some of the younger priests and encouraging them because they have had to go against the culture much more than we did.”
The afternoon of golf was followed by a lively reception in Mundelein Hall, the 2017 addition to the Refectory, where meals have been served since 1922. The class of 1968 found a comfortable group of couches in the Alumni Room to recant stories of their time on campus. Others perused the new bookstore and stocked up on Mundelein gear and new books. Stories of joy, difficulty, inspiration and encouragement were shared among the unique brotherhood of this holy vocation.
“Our priests do so much for their communities on a daily basis. This outing is a simple way to say thanks and give them a nice day to reconnect with each other and the seminary,” said Bonnie Hansen, Mundelein’s Manager of Events and Alumni Relations. “It’s incredible to think about the number of lives impacted by all of these priests throughout their decades of ministry. Our alumni make us proud to say they are Mundelein graduates.”
The rich bond shared by these men flowed through Mundelein Hall. Former Rector Monsignor John Canary (Class of 1969) and Former Vice Rector Gus Belauskas (Class of 1968) reconnected with men they counseled as seminarians, Bishop Frank Kane (Class of 1969) and newly announced Bishop-Elect Robert Casey (Class of 1994) chatted with various groups who congratulated their respective upcoming retirement and installation, and Cardinal Blase Cupich shared hearty laughter with everyone.
After dinner, raffle prizes were awarded and golf contest winners were announced. The low score of the day, and accompanying bragging rights, went to Father Jim Hyland, Father Mike Nacius (Class of 1989), and Father Mike Novick (Class of 2001), with a score of 67 (-5). The runners-up were Father Christopher Gustafson (Class of 1995), Father Brian Ardagh (Class of 1995), Father Joseph Noonan (1995), and Father Martin O’Donovan (Class of 1978) with a score of 70 (-2) and a birdie on the 3rd hole.
The entire evening was an encouraging occasion, and a reminder to continue praying for our priests and bishops, to get to know them, to share our lives with them. These are men with ideas, hobbies, and great care for their parishioners, whose purpose in life is to lead others to Christ. Holiness and opportunities for evangelization can be found anywhere – even a golf course.