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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Gray Matters: Father Jan column reaches global proportions

Monday, December 4, 2006

I'd been having problems with my computer recently; due more to my ineptness than that of the machine, I know.  I was just about ready to "boot it out" instead of  "booting it up", when a welcome message appeared on the screen, all the way from Italy.  That changed my attitude at once, so now I'll admit it 's a pretty amazing device after all. 

But to begin at the beginning. 

Last spring I wrote a column about Father Jan Lisowski, the Polish cleric with severe war wounds who had served as an associate priest here in Marcus in the early 70's.  To my stunned amazement, Chronicle-Times editor, Paul Struck, forwarded an e-mail to me several weeks ago which was from a man named Aldo Sabatini asking for help in contacting Fr. Jan.  He explained that he had been a child, an altar boy, 40-50 years ago in Cecchignola, which he described as "the military city of Rome," and had known Padre Giovanni. 

"I asked always chewing gums to him, maybe he remembers me….Surely he remembers Padre Luigi, Padre Sebastiano, Padre Ambrogio," said Aldo.

I was certain that Father Jan, who was a good bit older than I, had to have  gone to his heavenly reward, so I checked with Father Eugene Murray, local priest at Marcus Holy Name Catholic Church,  for verification.  He was able to tell me that the good man had died in Sioux City on Oct. 25, 2001 and was buried in Calvary cemetery there.  I then e-mailed this information to Sabatini.  It was his reply that gave me such pleasure.

He began with apologies for his bad English, which were totally unnecessary as  I am always in awe of anyone who is even remotely bilingual.  Then he explained that now, at 57 years of age, he still often remembers "that strange priest, his beard to cover the mutilation, his difficult Italian, twice arduous to be understood!"  He then went on to say that his good nature was immediately in evidence as his eyes were always smiling. 

"He became the elder brother of every boy of the quarter of Rome where we lived….  Soon after he moved to Sioux City 'informations' about him ceased," explained Sabatini.

 Aldo continued,  "In the years of university, of marriage, of sons, I have put Padre Giovanni in the corner of my earth, almost forgotten." (We would say "in the back of my mind" wouldn't we?)  Then he indicated that when the Internet arrived he sometimes "digited" varying spellings of Lisowski with Jan, John, Giovanni, Sioux City etc., always failing until he found my Gray Matter column, which pleased him so much.

I had assumed  Sabatini was still living in Rome but he told me he now lived in Pisa "the Pendant Tower, do you know?", and assured me that it was beautiful country indeed, "but Rome, too, is not so bad…"

Now I plan to have someone take a picture of Fr. Jan Lisowski's grave so I can send it to my new-found Italian friend. Too, I expect you can understand  why I am finally able to forgive this "magic machine" for almost all of its idiosyncrasies.