Over the years I have been given numerous opportunities to be taken aback by the vastness of the Saint Ignatius family. Walking into a local restaurant in Florida and having someone point at my shirt and ask, “Is that Ignatius in Cleveland?’ or walking along the beach in South Carolina and hearing someone yell out, “Go Cats!” could be a bit unnerving for someone who, while on vacation, just wants to get away from it all. And yet…there is something really awesome about being connected to an institution whose appeal is so amazingly universal.
Last week my wife Ann and I went to the State Theater to see a Genesis tribute band, The Musical Box. It was fun to take a little trip back in time to when we were in high school and saw Genesis together at the old Richfield Coliseum, and it was even more fun to notice that compared to most of the crowd we have fared pretty well – especially Ann - in the “getting old gracefully” game. Plus, there was the added attraction of watching old men, unable to wait until intermission – or even the end of a song, run to the restroom over and over again.
Before the show began we ran into several Ignatians: fellow Theology teacher Jim Brennan ’85 and his son Danny ’19, as well as Charles Farrington ’19 and his dad Stephen. All were fellow Genesis fans, and it was no surprise to run into them because we knew that they would be in attendance.
But the special magic of the spirit of Ignatius came into play when we found our seats. The two seats on the aisle, those next to ours, were as yet unoccupied. A few minutes later a gentleman and his son planted themselves in the two aisle seats, leaned over and gave us a friendly greeting. And then the son said to me: “This might seem a bit odd, but what is your last name?” Before the question was completely out of his mouth I had a strong suspicion of where this was going to end. I told him my last name, and he responded pretty much as I expected: “You were my freshman theology teacher.”
It turns out that this young man, Marty Calkins, was in one of my classes in the 2002-2003 school year. On top of that, his dad Terry ’80 was a freshman when I was a senior, and is a cousin of our very own Fr. Dan Reim, S.J. After we went through the obligatory “what a small world” stuff we spent the 20 minutes or so prior to the concert swapping stories and asking about various members of the Ignatius family who had been in both of our circles of friends and relations.
The next day I related this encounter to some of my colleagues, and each had similar stories of “chance” meetings with classmates, former students and the whole gamut of those caught in the Ignatian web.
I went off to teach, and by the middle of the day things got even more “Ignatian” as one of my former students, now enrolled at The Ohio State University – or, as we jokingly call it: “TOSU” – stopped by for a visit while on his spring break. Of the hundreds of former students now in college, and of the dozens who show up during breaks, how was it that the one who showed up that day was Chris Calkins ’17? Chris is the nephew of Terry, and thus the cousin of Marty, and as Chris entered the classroom my first thought was that this is a one in a million shot and that I should probably go buy some lottery tickets. But then I realized that this sort of thing happens all the time and that, in my own special way, I’ve already won the lottery.