Monthly Archives: August 2018

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One Day at a Time!

Often, people who know me will ask, “How are you doing?”. My answer is always, “one day at a time!” It’s definitely not a new saying but for me but it is so true. I finally, after months of searching, have found a good therapist. I have opened up more to him in four recent sessions than I did in four months when I was at St. Luke Institute. Finding a good therapist is not easy. Finding someone you can be comfortable with is essential. Unfortunately, when I was at St. Luke I didn’t feel that. The atmosphere there was too intense for me and it caused me not to trust. But, this is not a new issue with me because my trust level in people has its limits over the years. Often I am wary of people. I believe this comes from years of being put down and made fun of behind my back. It’s one of those childhood things that has followed me into adulthood. Okay, I’m insecure on many levels. Perhaps this is related to one of my “daddy issues” (another story for another blog)!

It was one year ago on August 28th that I quietly left Portage and flew to Washington, D.C. to be then whisked off to Silver Spring, Maryland. It sits right off the border of D.C. I went there because I was no longer functioning because of my physical and mental condition. I had been dealing with chronic back pain for three years. I was always in pain. Unless you have endured pain over a long period of time, it would be hard for you to understand. In those three years I had back surgery which relieved me of my pain for a few months but then it returned. Being in chronic pain led to the festering of many other issues that had been suppressed deep inside me.

At the end of a very intense physiological and psychological testing I was recommended to this facility. My diagnosis was this: major depressive disorder, high anxiety, restrictive food intake disorder (anorexia), bereavement issues, chronic back pain and ADHD. Hearing the diagnosis explained a lot; intellectually I understood what was happening to me, but emotionally it was devastating. Surrendering to this six month program gave me even greater anxiety. The “worrier” in me thought about my animals, my aging mother, my parish, my hard working staff and so many other things. But in all of this I had to stop and ask the question: what about me? I was being given an opportunity to begin a healing process. Didn’t I deserve to take care of me for once? After all, my life to this point had been taking care of so many other lives over a 25 year period. But again, the “worrier” in me was feeding the fire of negative thoughts. St. Luke Institute sounds like a very good place but when you strip away the title it is actually a psychiatric mental hospital. Oh my God, I was a patient in a mental hospital! Coming to terms that I was suffering with mental illness was a hard pill to swallow. Even now it is hard for me, at times, to accept. In retrospect, many of these concerns have changed. I can honestly say I was ill. I needed help. I have a profound and new understanding of mental illness. Now that I am back in active ministry I have become even more empathetic to people who are in crisis which may be affecting their own mental health.

I suppose there may be some whisperings behind my back that say “Fr. Andrew went crazy”, or “he was in a looney bin”. Well, I’m at the point now where I can talk about my incarceration, er, uh, I mean, my time at St. Luke. But being real, I did go crazy. I was in a looney bin! The one thing I am ashamed of and have tremendous guilt over is that I hurt some people who were very close to me. Especially my loyal staff who were brutally scrutinized after my departure. Trying to imagine what they had to go through would be as difficult as them understanding what my experience was like. My number one hope is that we can change this and process both our experiences face-to-face, as adults, and begin a healing process. I love and miss them so very much. Before the storm we had so many good years of working and laughing together. Understand that this is not a simple issue. It is much more complex on many levels. Too many to explain in just one blog posting. Right now I’m not sure where I stand with them. It was implied that they did not wish to speak with me at this time. When I learned of this, it felt like a stab in my heart. Until that day comes, I will still remember that it truly is “one day at a time!”


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Don’t worry! Be Happy!

I am a worrier! I worry about everything. So much so, that I make myself sick to my stomach. Two days ago I was feeling like an abandoned child. In fact, I clearly recall as a little boy I had this recurring dream that my parents moved and left me behind. Those dreams were so vivid that I still remember them and how they made me feel. Funny how nightmares like this can carry on into your adult life. The night of my last blog I went to visit my mother, Rosie. Initially I prepared myself that she would be in somewhat of a downcast move, maybe pretending that this move would not be a great thing and regretting this new move. Boy was I wrong! I haven’t seen her this motivated and happy in a long time! It seems she now sees the benefits of living in a place where she will not be alone. She won’t have to cook which is something she does not enjoy anymore. I clearly recall there was a time when mom always had something to eat in our fridge. Either that,or, she was cooking. When friends came to the house she often she would ask them if they were hungry. My friends caught onto this and I now know that when they would come to our house they knew Rosie would be a generous host and Ma was always ready to whip something together or warm up a plate in the microwave. Her homemade pie crust was a killer. It’s a recipe that I still use today. But now, after cooking for so many years she no longer has the zeal. Currently she weighs only 100 pounds. I’m hoping that her time at Rittenhouse in Portage will put a few pounds on her. (She’s happy that the dining room is right around the corner of her apartment).

She expressed to me that she will have new friends, go on trips, socialize and participate with many of the activities they have to offer AND, she can take her cats, Daisy and Buddy! Of course, she will have to sacrifice a lot when it comes of disposing her personal belongings with this move. The jury is still out if we will allow her to take her car. Even though we took away her car keys she told me with an elfish grin that she has another set. But she is being obedient to my brother Dan who is the one motivating force behind this very necessary move. I can’t lie. It hurts to see the changes I am witnessing and the possible last years of life approaching for mom. I wonder how many good years we will have left with her. All of this I worried about and all for my own silliness. At this time we are going to rent out her condo so that we can attempt to hold onto it for now. But if we have to make a different decision then we may take another direction. But for now I feel relief.

The bottom line for today is that I feel pretty good. I know mom will be safe and secure. My next big worry would have been when Dan, Diane and I go to Greece in October and that mom would be on her own for those 11 days. (Dan and Diane live two doors down from her and have been looking out for her)! Now we can be assured that she will be good. Change is often very difficult. How many times have I been with people who were forced to make a change and they struggled with big decisions? How many times have I had to help others lay out their objectives for those going through difficult decisions too? Probably many in my 25 years as a priest. So, now its our turn to make a tough decision for our beloved mother. The one who bore us. Nursed us. Fed us. Taught us our first social skills. How to cook! (Tamales at Christmas, and oh,…her famous taco meat recipe). The list is much longer! For now, all we can just do is to love her to the end.


FYI: If you want to make a comment there should now be a place to do so at the end of this blog but there is not. Instead I would ask you send me an email at: I am having problems with this feature. My dear friend, Fr. Mike, is working on it!  Also I wanted to clarify that even though my debt is totally out of control, I do not have creditors knocking at my door nor am I receiving harassing phone calls. My debt is manageable on a monthly basis meaning my bills are getting paid but my problem is that I have very little for my own temporal needs or to put in savings. Let’s be clear about one thing: I am not asking for pity or money!  Many of you have expressed that they have been in the same financial position. So you know! Maybe those who read this will also know that there is hope and there is help. I can fix this as long as I stay focused on my future and go to my Debtors Anonymous group every week. I always leave there with a sense of hope. I invite you to continue to follow my blog. Making new entries has already relieved much stress. Soon I will be writing about my diagnosis when I was at St. Luke Institute for Clergy and Religious. Google it!