Adieu to 22
The ending of 2022 created a bit of a logjam of events for the community. The extremely cold weather kept many people wisely indoors. Only a small handful of six guests braved the elements to join us for midnight mass. We gathered in an open area of our infirmary (the sunroom) after the services to sip on eggnog and sample Christmas sweets and exchange greetings with one another. This is one of the nights of broken sleep that can make it more difficult to be alert and cheery on the following day. The morning mass at 10:30 was more fully attended by guests, neighbors, and friends and we were happy to share the celebration of the Christmas eucharist with them.
We were surprised by the death of Fr. Jonah (75) on the evening of December 27th. He had just returned from a retreat and celebrating Christmas liturgies with the sisters at Mississippi Abbey. Although not feeling well, he thought it was something a little rest would cure. We called the local paramedics from Epworth at 7:30 who responded very promptly and with the best of medical attention, but his heart had given out in spite of this care. To accommodate his relatives living in Des Moines, we postponed the funeral eucharist until 11:15 a.m. All of the sisters from Mississippi Abbey joined us, as well as another nearly 100 persons who overfilled the guest church. Several priests of the archdiocese concelebrated as well. He had had a very active ministry as confessor and spiritual counsellor in our guest house, as well as being the liason between the community and the Associates of the Iowa Contemplatives. Although a bit wet and muddy underfoot, the weather for the burial in our cemetery was beautiful and contributed to our reflective and affectionate commitment of Fr. Jonah to the earth.
Since the Guest House was still closed for the Christmas interim, we were unable to offer any hospitality to our guests. Since it was past dinnertime (12:30), guests were left to find sustenance on their own. We were able to invite the sisters to share a small dinner of pizza and salads with us before they returned to their Abbey.
In recent years, the Burke family had been hosting a Christmas party in our guest house dining room for both the monks and the nuns of Mississippi Abbey. This had been suspended in recent years because of COVID, but they generously offered to provide a dinner again this year. Originally scheduled for Friday, the Feast of the Holy Family, it was delayed a day because of Fr. Jonah’s funeral. It is a rare opportunity for everyone in our communities to meet each other and share in a festive gathering. We were able to say adieu to 2022 and welcome the New Year.