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Towards the end of my term as prior at Holy Hill in 1993, I posted this comic strip on the door to my office. Part of the joke was that for a while I had a kitten named Hobbes, a gift from my subprior who thought I needed a cat. He disappeared some months later, we think cat-napped by a group of kids who had been seen playing with him outside the church that day while I was away giving a retreat to nuns in Pennsylvania.
At any rate, by 1993, I was ready for a rest.I had been ordained in 1979 and been busy ever since. I had been working on a doctorate at the time as well as being on the staff of a retreat center until 1981. That year I was transferred to Boston and became assistant to the novice director, the guy with a crucial role in the formation of new members. A year later I was appointed postulant director, the guy who had those new members for nine months before they went on to the novice director. I held that position for five years, then in 1987 became novice director and subprior -- assistant superior -- at Holy Hill, the biggest Discalced Carmelite operation in the States. In 1993 I was elected prior, superior of a community of about twenty friars and the employer of a staff of fifty or so lay staff.
After three years, the community, charitable men that they were, asked me to take a second term, but I was approaching burnout and declined. I was happy to turn the reins over to the man who had been my subprior. Unfortunately, his father suffered a heart attack and died suddenly soon after. As a result, instead of getting to wind down in preparation for a sabbatical at Brown Univeristy, I continued handling the superior's duties for a couple of months. At the end of an exhausting summer, I headed to Rhode Island to take classes in writing and editing, preparation for work in the publications ministry. The only way I had been able to finagle a sabbatical was to assure them that I would use it to learn skills that could be put to use upon my return.