“Home sweet home.” I must have heard that phrase five or six times from the priests and seminarians as we drove back into Gaming and pulled up to Francis House. It was day twelve of their two-week program. They were just getting back from a day trip to Vienna. And with their departure approaching, they were grateful to have a couple more days to live and study together in the Kartause.
Gaming is very much a home to me. It was that way when I was a Franciscan student back in 2013. It was even more so during my time as an LCI teacher, five years ago. It’s not just the natural beauty, the liveliness of the students, or even the incredibly welcoming community (shoutout to the Carreños, Dudeks, and Wolters for all the cups of coffee!). All those are amazing, obviously. But more than that, it’s the sense of God’s presence and drawing people there — of his wanting us to be together and to be with him there in that small Austrian town.
There were plenty of good memories and connections over those two weeks: in the classroom, on our hikes, during meals in the Mensa, etc. But more than their (rather impressive) improvement in English, more than the fun memories and connections, the main grace of those two weeks for me became clear on that car-ride: simply, that I got to share this home with these nine brothers and fathers in Christ (as well as my awesome teammates) — that, for them, this was a place where they had experienced God’s love and been equipped to share that with others in a new way.
A flurry of certificates, toasts, and promises to send WhatsApp messages later, we were all back in our countries of origin. (My luggage being a bit more reluctant to leave, it hung around in Vienna for an extra day.) I would have loved for those two weeks to go on a bit longer. But I also knew they were meant to be a reminder of the true Home — that “better country” — that awaits us (Heb 11:16). If our heavenly Father prepares such good gifts to last just two short weeks, how much more should we be excited for the place he has prepared for us to live with him and all the saints and angels forever?
By Joseph Hahn, Seminarian for the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio