As Lambda Omega Alpha’s chaplain, I arranged the affair. It started back in September with a few voicemails shared between the Diocese of Austin and myself. Finally, I’m riding home with a friend following a snack of queso when my cell phone rings. I answer the phone to hear “Hello Brandon, this is Bishop Aymond. How are you?”
From my previous experience in the Diocese of Fort Worth, being very active in Diocesan Ministry, I have never been called by a bishop. We setup a time for me to meet in his office to discuss the dinner and set a date.
Hung, Secretary of the Lambdas and a good friend, joined me that day. He prefaces the meeting by telling us that his secretary had informed him this morning that he has two evenings free between that time (September) and Christmas. Honestly, I must say that I was a little worried. We talk about the dinner and present him with a letter of appreciation for his work so far. We get back to setting a date and time. We decided upon October 29th and he says “I’ll block off my calendar from 6 pm until the end of the night, sounds good?” Of course!
We talked about some other random topics including the new GIRM and he gave us his personal copy of the 2002 GIRM with Diocese of Austin footnotes and adaptations (for places where it is up to the local bishop). We tried to get two but he didn’t have another one. He told me to contact the worship office.
Some time passes, some brothers volunteered to cook, we buy food, have people RSVP.
The day arrives. I run around some picking up baked goods that the Lambda Little Sisters made; they are simply incredible. I can’t speak highly enough of our sisters. A final run to the store, a quick breather. I arrive at the Blessed John XXIII House in central Austin, the home of the Bishop, around 3 p.m. I’m met there by Bonnie, his former secretary who now, in a part-time role, manages his house for events like the dinner. The home is already prepared for a dinner with thirty-one people with enough wine, soda and coffee for us all.
Bonnie shows me the home, runs me through the kitchen and where everything is located. I make a run back to the Catholic Center around 4:30 p.m. to pick up some of the food and transport it to the Bishop’s home. Put that all away. Mass is supposed to start at 6 p.m. People are supposed to arrive at 5:45. Some more dead time. I played with the Bishop’s dog, Samantha, for awhile. It made me miss having pets. People start arriving on time when the Bishop calls. He left a reception he was attending but traffic is slow. He’s going to be late. Some of the brothers call; they left the UCC on time but traffic is unusually heavy. No problems so far.
The Bishop arrives, runs upstairs to drop off his briefcase and returns to the main living area. He brings to me another copy of the GIRM; the Director of Worship had asked him if he would see me since otherwise, it would have been sent by messagener to the Chancery for me to pick up. I talk to him for a few minutes about the details of the night, how things are coming about, what’s on menu for the evening. We decide to push back Mass since everyone wasn’t there yet.
I find Hung and ask him to be the reader for the Mass. The Bishop asks if I would serve for him (I had previously served for him at the Confirmation Mass in April). Around 6:15 p.m., we call everyone together and enter into his private chapel. He makes a short joke about the stained glass windows- they’re just window stickers from Target or Wal-Mart.
He celebrates Mass with a homily reflecting upon our imperfections and how we can find our strength when we embrace those imperfections. We find our perfection through the perfection of our weaknesses and to perfect them is to first know and acknowledge them. A little bit of paraphrasing on my part but all the same. I also serve as Minister of the Cup; everyone takes a small amount. I finish the rest of it to which, after Mass ended, the Bishop comments that he was going to help me finish it but I had a spart of courage.
We exit the chapel to have the salads already on the table. I really couldn’t tell you what the salad was, but it was great. I sat at a table separate of the Bishop with some of the Lambdas.
I get the main course and realize the seat next to the Bishop is open. I asked around to see if anyone would like the chance to take it. Darryl mentions to me “you put all this together, you deserve it.” Everyone at that table agreed. It was such an amazing feeling to have the guys say that. A moment of blessing.
I sit next to the Bishop and dine. We discuss things such as his calendar coming up, the Center, more about the Lambdas, who the Little Sisters were and what do they do. After telling him about that, he acknowledged the benefits of a guys’ night but he wanted to see the Little Sisters at the next dinner.
The Bishop tells us that he will be out of the country for Thanksgiving and so this was actually his Thanksgiving meal (we had turkey, dressing and all the traditional Thanksgiving food). That made the extra headaches with food prep worth it.
We finish the meal with some amazing baked goods from the Little Sisters. Stephanie made a pie with the greek letters lambda, omega and alpha as part of the crust. Shannon made this sinfully chocolate cake. Marion made some delicious pies. Lauren made a cheesecake. Bronwyn made a few things; I really don’t know what. They were gone before I got there. Now, a week later, I don’t remember there being anything else. I believe that was all. In either case, the Bishop enjoyed the desserts and for all the Little Sisters reading this, you have both the complete appreciation of myself and the Bishop.
After coffee and deserts, we left the dining area to sit in the living room. We talked about so many various issues from the Bishop’s personal experience with Cardinal Francis Xaivier to the Bishop joking with Mark about his Scripture studies. It was a great evening; he is truly amazing. The Diocese of Austin is blessed to have him as our Shepherd.
We asked him many times through the night to tell us when he was ready for us to leave so as we wouldn’t impose. He always told us he was fine and brought up new topics to discuss. We ranged from the theological nature of society today to the latest issues with the gay bishop issue in the Episcopal Church to the media’s reaction to the Church.
After all that, it was 11:30 p.m. and it was time for us to leave. We made sure everything was as clean as requested plus a little and headed back to campus to return the leftovers.
After putting away everyone, talking to some of the Little Sisters and taking some people home, I finally was able to get home by 2:30 a.m.
The Bishop told me to call his office this week to arrange the time and date for the next dinner and to let his office know about him leading a Lambda Night Prayer. That would be amazing.
The Diocese of Austin is everso blessed.
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