You know how I love small world stories. Here is another favorite. In the mid-70's the Marcus schools had a great art teacher.
Mark Osterhaus taught there for just one year. During that year, he instilled an awareness of the fine arts in his students and stimulated many latent talents. Too, he taught an adult education art class which provided an unforgettable experience for a group of area women.
I have been told that for that entire year he struggled with a decision whether or not to enter the priesthood. He decided to do just that, thus ending his brief career as an art teacher. Osterhaus entered the seminary at Dubuque and was ordained in 1985.
He came to St. Matthews, Cedar Rapids, fourteen years later. This church, which is just down the street from where I live is the one which my daughter attends.
So, despite my Lutheran church membership, I have enjoyed going with her to 10:30 mass on many Sunday mornings. This mass is customarily filled with families and it is a real pleasure to see how devoted the youngsters are to their priest. Several serve as acolytes. Then, just before the regular offering is started, he invites the children to bring their offerings forward.
At that point they literally run to the front of the sanctuary to be welcomed by their beloved Father Mark. At the end of the mass he asks for help in handing out the newsletter and special children's bulletins at the church doors. There are always more than enough eager young folks who volunteer.
The priest's homilies, never over-long, are always very good. The sad news is that Father Mark is leaving. Those inevitable changes are a part of the system, but the huge 700-member parish seems almost in mourning.
My daughter invited Father to her home for lunch the other day. Another parishioner and I joined them for a delightful visit. It was fun dredging up memories from that year he spent in our Cherokee County town so long ago. Many may remember the winter of 1975, for its severity was often compared to the one just past.
He recalled being able to visit his home in Maquoketa, Iowa just once from Christmas vacation to mid-spring because of it. He then told us of going to Kodiak Island off the coast of Alaska for a summer of adventure before settling into his seminary studies.
That experience led to his love of all things in the cold northlands, including the late Canadian writer, Robertson Davies whom he declared to be his favorite novelist. When he said that, I nearly flew out of my chair because Davies has long been my absolute choice and many times when I say that, people tell me they haven't even heard of him.
Father suggested that common interest could possibly explain why we enjoyed getting acquainted. Fr. Mark Osterhaus' new assignment is to a cluster of parishes in and around New Hampton. He will be serving about the same number of members but they are spread out in four different locations.
As evidence of the affection of the St. Matthews members, they took up a collection and presented their very special priest with a brand new car to facilitate the travel demands of his new situation. What a wonderful story!
In the words of the famed Disney children's song, "It's a small world, after all," and I love it, don't you?