One of the ongoing jokes here at the seminary is that it will be a "long time" until Bishop Sanborn goes to Europe again. He often says this when he returns, mostly due to how tired he is from all the travel. It's not just getting to and from Europe, it's all the luggage — holding specialized liturgical equipment and clothing — that a bishop has to take with him. Indeed, having traveled in Europe as a "simple" priest many years ago, he often wishes he could visit Europe to see certain places. Alas, that is not what Our Lord has planned for him: his trips to Europe these days are always duty-filled, with little time for personal itineraries.
While I've been helping the bishop with his European trips since I first moved there (his first trip was about two weeks after I moved in 2013) this was the first time that I was accompanying him door-to-door instead of meeting him at the airport when he arrived in France. I got a real appreciation for this when I slept through my alarm on our first full day in Poland and as a result missed his Saturday morning Mass. I had never had jet lag on these European trips because I was already there. Knowing that the bishop is almost 30 years my senior and still managed to wake up was humbling, but more importantly, underlined the raison d'etre of his visit: bringing the sacraments.
Our first stop was in Krakow, which the bishop had planned to visit in 2020, before the world was struck with a disease so deadly you had to take a test to know if you had it. So this trip was three years overdue and the people were very glad to see the bishop. There were 46 confirmands and the Confirmation Mass itself was very crowded, reminding me of the chapel blessing in Hungary some years ago now. The chapel, made to fit around 20-40 people at the most, played host to at least 100, as people spilled out into the hallway and outside of the building.
The bishop had time to catch up with Fr. Rafal Trytek, ICR, who says Mass in Krakow and in Warsaw and occasionally in other neighboring countries. He also had the opportunity to speak with the faithful after the Confirmation ceremony on Sunday. A few of them took him out to lunch and some peppered him with theological questions. All in all it was a pleasant visit. We were blessed with good weather and on-time flights.
The next leg of the trip was in France to visit the clergy in Nantes. I felt like so much time had passed since we had last been there together, but in truth it had only been a couple years since the ordination of Fr. Henry Chappot de la Chanonie. What made it feel as if more time had passed was the unexpected death of Fr. Guepin earlier this year, who had mentored Fr. de la Chanonie during his diaconal year and beyond.
The truth is that Fr. Guepin's energy and enthusiasm had obscured the fact that he was carrying a load that would be plenty for three priests, and the three current ICR clergy in residence in Nantes can attest to that. In addition to Fr. de la Chanonie, the Chapel of Christ the King's rectory now hosts the superior, Fr. Damien Dutertre, and Fr. Nico Orasch. If that wasn't enough, there is also a new Brazilian seminarian in residence who was interviewed by the bishop during our visit. (As a side note, it seems that Brazil, for whatever reason, is really coming on strong in the last few years. Here at the seminary we already have four Brazilians, with another confirmed to arrive next academic year.)
The bishop conferred Confirmation on eleven souls while in Nantes and the clergy were very heartened by his visit. They were able to query him on some pastoral questions as well as show him a chapel which had been purchased by Fr. Guepin but never developed, due to various reasons. It's in fairly good condition and should be operational sometime in 2024. When that happens that will bring the number of Mass centers in the area to five: the chapel in Nantes, Notre Dame des Dons, about 30 minutes from Nantes, two in the Vendee, and one north of Nantes in Montauban, where the Daughters of Wisdom of the House of St. Anne have a house.
The bishop was also able to have a meal with Fr. Jocelyn Le Gal of the IMBC on his last night in France as he prepared to return to America. Father Le Gal has been a great help to our clergy in Nantes, not least by serving as a confessor to the nuns in Montauban (our clergy in France are currently too young canonically to hear the confessions of religious).
When we returned stateside the bishop said it would be a "long time" before he was back in Europe again, but somehow I suspect that it will be sooner than any of us expect. In the meantime, as always, keep his health and the apostolates of the Roman Catholic Institute and the Institute of Our Mother of Good Counsel in your prayers that he and the associated clergy of those congregations may be able to fill the ever-increasing need of Catholic faithful worldwide.
The photo is of the Bishop praying at one of the ICR chapels in the Vendee.