I headed East again yesterday, like last Friday and Saturday, but this time I was with the Junior High level students from our regional school, Queen of Angels, joined by the same group from the Greensburg regional school, Aquinas Academy. We journeyed by motor coach bus for a field trip to Gettysburg and Emmittsburg, Maryland. We were accompanied by Msgr. Paul Fitzmaurice, my neighbor and ordination mate, the Principal of our school, teachers, chaperons and parents - and a great group of kids. Our bus driver at the end of the trip thanked and complimented the youngsters on their politeness and behavior. He said that he takes many groups of kids, and finds that those from Catholic schools tend to be a joy to serve. Good to hear. We left at six in the morning and returned at nine last evening ... a long day!
This year will mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1, 2, 3, 1863). It was an important battle in the war between the States and marked the first excursion into the North by General Lee. It was an unexpected battle in which mistakes and missed opportunities on both sides ruled the day. After three days fighting in and around the small town of Gettysburg, after nearly 52,000 casualties by death, wounding or capture, with a town devastated, the North won the battle but both sides suffered tremendous losses.
Our tour began at the new visitor's center with a film presentation of the conflict and a viewing of the restored cyclorama ( a circular painting of the battle with presentation ). We bag lunched, then took a two hour tour of the battlefield with a Park Guide, before spending time in the museum and gift shop. Leaving Gettysburg, we traveled the short distance to Emmittsburg, Maryland to visit the National Shrine to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. While there, we took part in a tour of the Stone House (her first dwelling in Emmittsburg), the White House on the grounds, the cemetery and beautiful grounds before visiting the Basilica Church where we prayed at the remains of this great saint. The kids were edified, all of us were impressed (and exhausted), and they had a taste of early American Catholic history and an important moment in the journey of our nation.
I am glad that I was able to make the trip, and thank Queen of Angels for their hospitality.
While on the trip I heard of the sudden death of Bishop Joseph McFadden, the Bishop of Harrisburg (Gettysburg is a part of that diocese). Bishop McFadden was taken ill early yesterday morning and died shortly afterwards. His death was unexpected. He was my age, and would have turned sixty-six on May 22nd.
I mentioned Bishop McFadden in a post a few days ago when I told of attending a Confirmation in Selinsgrove. He was the confirming bishop. I met him then, and he was gracious and welcoming to me, and great with those he was confirming.
May the soul of Bishop Joseph McFadden rest in peace. AMEN.