Excited about another year and a new era

Published 1:45 pm Saturday, May 14, 2022

What a week!  Tuesday, May 10…my birthday – bloody hell alarm went off at 4:00am, 4:30am, 5:00am, 5:20am with that grating noise and just got up as that weird cat, Jag (Jaguar) who adopted me in 2016, the “alarm clock” (meow) finally got it right.  For five minutes, I want to get inside his head … but afraid I might not want to get back out – so smart!!

Some years ago, I quit fighting the birthday thing rolling around way too quickly, embraced each as thankfully being a year older, another year alive, affirmation that God is in control – upright once more … whew!

So, mind wide-open eagerly anticipating the day in our Lord’s hands, like all others, but this was my birthday therefore expecting a special miracle or something, to occur.  Routine kicked in, two pieces of toast, coffee, beautiful sunrise, cleaned up, dressed and at St. John’s by 7:15am to setup the altar as sacristan for Pastor Fr. Joe Tonos’ last “official” Mass…whew, after 18 years was this really happening?

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Mass went well, familiar, read for our office manager who wasn’t sure she could emotionally get through it (nor me), led applause for him at end, selfie, then group photo with many of us attending on the piazza by Bruce Newman’s son, Jax – boom, just grew up, tall as Bruce! No time for the weary to relax, too many projects, home, mowed yard with John Deere riding mower (finally fixed after replacing beau coup parts and mentor Bub Brannan’s help), and cordless, Black & Decker.  

Wanted to drive my bought new, still have 1971 MGB-GT (the best original one-owner MG in the world) and start my work of art 1964 Land Rover Series IIA, but no time – blown away by YOU friends on Facebook wishing me a Happy Birthday and was determined to respond to each…Thanks y’all that was way swell!! Especially cool that Scott Coopwood shares our May 10 birthday.

Wednesday, May 11 – No Mass as we transitioned from Fr. Joe to Fr. Mark, so first things first…said my Rosary. Then cleaned the layer of pollen off my “garaged” MG, key on, swell sound of the electric fuel pump, choke out, neutral, started right up after not driving since Sunday, March 20 – to Jimmy’s on North Lamar for ethanal-free petrol (that stuff will destroy a combustion engine), hour drive around Oxford, no issues, strong engine, perfect idle…so healing in that I bought my MG new a year after returning from Vietnam off the showroom floor, Continental Cars, St. Louis, MO, trading a 1967 Pontiac Firebird that I never liked and $1500…mind-blowing, all these years, what a history, only owner, all original, meticulously maintained by me – can you wrap your head around that?…I can’t!

Then checked my 1964 Land Rover Series IIA (love it), key on, choke out, transmission in neutral, engaged starter push button, instant start  – after eight years of wrenching, sweat, labor, new, old parts on, adjusted from all over the world, so many new friends, nothing keeping me from driving this classic Brit on our Oxford roads than to re-build the dreaded front swivel ball assemblies…got the parts, was waiting for weather to warmup, brain paradigm shift, all here, no more excuses – lots of anxiety as this is rather a big deal for a jackleg spanner-turner like me – but so is everything else – GO STEVE!

Alarm clock (Jag) had me up on Thursday, May 12 at 5:10am, at church 7:10am, to setup altar for 8:30am Mass, first for Fr. Mark Shoffner, Greenville, MS native as is Fr. Joe Tonos, coming from St. Mary’s Basilica in Natchez.  Knowing he was sure to have his own preference as to setup but wasn’t there to consult, so just did the same as for Fr. Joe. 

Met Fr. Mark on Friday, April 22 as he came into church before Mass with Fr. Joe and then co-celebrated.  Right off, I could sense he was laidback, a good guy.  At 8:20am, last Thursday, Fr. Mark finally arrived – whew, and immediately went to the Sacristy to introduce myself, explain the setup, few quirks about us – there was no time for anything else!

Mass went great considering all he’s been through with this move, new to Oxford, St. John’s etc.  After Mass great chat, we “clicked” as he shared some things he would like to change in the setup, then swell stuff like – he’s a car guy, spent time in an MGA, likes my MGB, IIA, introvert like me, and asked if I had any “tips” for him… “Just be yourself….”

Listen St. John and Oxford folk – we miss Fr. Joe, but this change is God’s will for all, we’ve got a “keeper” in Fr. Mark who is just right for us and is going to be way swell! If you’ve been away from St. John’s – come back…you’ll be so prayerfully happy that you did….  Wow – so excited about this new St. John’s era and Fr. Mark…. Peace Out y’all!


Steve is an Oxford resident, worked on Campus and received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, and can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.