It has to be a sign of the times when you learn about the death of a friend through Facebook. But if not for this immense social network, it is quite likely that I would not have found out until ... when?
My last e-mail conversation with Fr. Fred was prompted when I got what looked like spam from him. "Fr Fred, I think your e-mail got hacked..." And we agreed to meet for lunch next time he was downtown. Before Easter. Never got around to actually saying when.
Fr. Fred Sahuc and I don't go way back, as friends go. We met at CTU when we took a course under Richard Fragomeni, "Preaching Parish Retreats and Missions." Fred (he was just finishing his M. Div.) and I were on the same "mission band," along with a Divine Word seminarian. We realized that we were both from New Orleans and (New Orleans being New Orleans) that we had connections to many of the same people. (Today I learned of yet another one of those connections.) So that was it. Despite the age and generational cohort differences between us (Fr. Fred had ten years on me), we hit it off like only fellow ex-pats of a remarkable city can. Especially when one of those ex-pats wears a broad smile most of the time.
I battled the rush-hour traffic on I-55 to get to his Perpetual Profession Mass at the Dominican University chapel. I was late, but so was the Mass. I couldn't make it to his ordination, but when he celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving in New Orleans in 2007, my Mom was there in my stead. In fact, when Mom and my sister came here in November to see me (and my sister's in-laws), we all drove out to Oak Park to chat with Fr. Fred. Over ice cream. When Mom found little New Orleans specialties, she would put them in a care package for Fr. Fred. Just yesterday I put a note on his Facebook profile asking what he wanted me to bring back from home (I'll be visiting Mom next week).
And today I learned, via Facebook, that I can't quite bring him anything from home.
He was on his way home already.
Rest in peace, my friend! To quote a memorial message you left a fellow New Orleanian not long ago: "You were a delight to be with, and a caring person." While you're celebrating Easter, ask Jesus to send your community a dozen or so vocations to take your place!