In January 1970 a priest friend from my Masters program had just returned from the Gregorian University in Rome. He advised me that he thought I would be an excellent candidate for a Doctoral program which was to begin in September 1970. The program was a combination of psychiatry and pastoral counseling. The four year content and classes were to be held in Rome and each summer would be at a psychiatric clinic in Chicago. It sounded intriguing, but I was so fulfilled in Westfield and the thought of leaving this wonderful parish was filled with anguish. However, being a member of the Priest’s personnel board I knew that we had just recommended to the archbishop that all priests should be transferred after five years. The intent was to keep ministry fresh and challenging by having all the clergy minister in totally new environments. This was my fifth year in the parish so to some degree the choice came down to another parish or graduate work. Also there was the difficulty of leaving jack Murphy who had become in three years a brother that I totally trusted. We were a seamless team and spent hours planning and devising ways to improve the lives of all of our parishioners.
In February the zany “Murph “ who never ceased to amaze me with his take on any issue proved once again that he was one of a kind. It was the feast of Saint Blaize and the church was filled to capacity. Saint Blaize was the patron saint of protecting others from any ailment of the throat. The reason that the church was filled was that in the northeast sore throats abound . The service consisted of a priest placing two unlit candles on a person’s throat and appealing to Saint Blaize with a particular prayer. The process was the people would kneel at the communion rail and starting from each end Jack and I would bless their throats. As we were about to meet in the middle I was saying the proper prayer but I heard Jack in a whispering voice saying.”May the bunny rabbit bless your throat.” I looked at him with some degree of disbelief. He just shrugged his shoulders and said”I never learned this prayer.”