Can you tell that Sr Bridget (not to mention the concert schedule) has been keeping us busy? Thursday night was our fund-raiser event on Staten Island--our biggest concert, too. We had over 600 guests, including our celebrity co-chair, Chazz Palimteri (of "A Bronx Tale"). Chazz is a really lovely person, quite the opposite of his usual on-screen persona. He made himself available for photos and then gave a little intro to our program. To help with the fund raising aspect (proceeds this year are for our education fund), he even ran a little auction for a guided tour of the "Bronx Tale" neighborhood, with a shopping spree and lunch with him at one of his favorite spots. (This is the sort of thing New Yorkers really love, and the bidding was exciting.)
The next morning we were at Newark airport, en route to Cleveland for the Friday night concert at St John's Cathedral. Bishop Lennon (our dear friend and former chaplain) was there to meet us as we arrived in the baggage claim area. The turnout that evening was really good, almost filling the cathedral! And the bishop treated us to dinner at one of his favorite spots along the lake--quite a late meal for us, but it was delightful.
Saturday was our "free" day, spent almost entirely in returning to the New York area. This is when I had my first experience of the new "enhanced security" process. I saw that the TSA agents were simply directing everyone into the back-scatter X-ray booth. You had to already know you had an option to take it, which I did. It caused a bit of ruckus. (I was, as far as I know, the only person in the line at that time who opted out of the enhanced body scan.) The female agent just told me to keep an eye on the stuff I had put on the belt while she did the pat-down. (I really didn't like that idea; you could do nothing if someone decided to help themselves to your computer while you were under the agent's guard.) I asked what happened to my stuff if I chose the private screening. (They bring it into the booth.) Not that I had a whole lot of stuff with me this time (no computer, for instance), but in order to be able to write about the experience for you, my beloved and faithful readers, I chose the private screening.
It took a while for them to find a second female agent for that: they have to have one agent to perform the actual pat-down and another as a witness. Naturally, their first priority is to protect themselves, but I also appreciated having a witness, because it dimishes the likelihood of being subjected to arbitrary abuse of authority. (I think we passengers are in the most vulnerable situation possible under the TSA: we do not have access to our phones, cameras--or even our shoes!) The pat-down itself was not as intrusive as I had read about or feared--not at all. It just takes a lot more time.
I also noticed an odd impulse after it was over: I felt I should apologize to the agents for having troubled them by not going along with the system! Naturally, I stifled that impulse, but I found it very interesting that I should feel that way: that I had, in choosing an option that is legally available and perfectly legitimate, caused a disruption of their routine! Later, speaking about my experience with one of the sisters, I learned something else: the reason the TSA can do this sort of unmotivated search even of a citizen's person is that our 4th Amendment rights do not apply on airport territory. It is written into the law that way. I had no idea that I was giving up a constitutional right like that when making my travel plans! Well, since they found no indication of combustible chemicals on my person, I was able to take the grey container with my shoes and 1-qt zip-seal bag of liquids and gels and resume "normal" life.
That was Saturday. Yesterday afternoon we had a concert at St. Paul's church in Princeton, and from there we drove to Philadelphia.
We are staying at the convent of Nazareth Hospital with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. I first encountered this community when I attended the summer program at St. Charles Seminary and met Sr Mary McDevitt (are you coming tonight?). The CSFN sisters were founded in Poland (eleven of their sisters were martyred by the Nazis for having sheltered priests) but their foundress is something of a Polish Mother Cabrini: she came to the US herself 125 years ago (leaving half of her sisters in Poland to continue their work there), became an American citizen--and is now known as Blessed Mary of Jesus the Good Shcpherd.
Last night, we were (again!) treated to dinner, this time at an Olive Garden. As we waited for a big enough table to be cleared (for our party of 14), a family passed through the entrance. One of the children looked at us with surprise and announced, "Look, Mama: Sisters!"
This could only happen in Philadelphia. Everywhere else, children either stare at us or (if they are a bit older and more socialized to be polite) steal curious glances. Here in Philly, there is such a strong presence of women religious in the schools, nuns are not some kind of memory that only older adults possess. I am praying that this visible presence of sisters in Philadelphia continues to inspire vocations, too. Especially for...us and for the generous CSFNs.
Tonight: a modest fund-raiser at Father Judge High School. Tomorrow: back on the road, heading for Boston.