Give Me Five!
A monthly series in Vincentian Voices where we ask five random questions to an Eastern Province Priest or Brother.
We talk with Fr. John Freund, CM, who in May celebrated 55 years as a priest. The occasion of his five-and-a-half decades of priestly ministry seemed like a good time to ask him a few questions.
Note from Fr. Freund:
First let me thank you for this series and the evocative questions you asked. I must admit I progressed from wondering how I would answer, then to the awakening some long dormant memories, and finally trying to figure how to not make the answers book-length!
- Outside of Sacred Scripture, what book or text (religious or secular) had an impact on you as a young man and why?
I had the forgotten the book until you asked the question. “When the Sorghum Was High” detailed the life and martyrdom of a young Maryknoll missionary martyred in 1938, the year I was born. I was in 8th grade when I read his biography. I think God used it to plant the seed of my vocation, which took root with the Vincentians in the soil of St. John’s Prep.
A few years later it was “The Silver Chalice.” This the story of Damian, a maker of chalices. Before crafting a special chalice he traveled the land of Jesus in order to talk with those who knew Jesus. The search took me into wondering about the reactions of each person he spoke with.
- You spent decades teaching in higher education. Do you have a favorite moment from the classroom that comes to mind?
This was tough given that for over 50 years I have been teaching either in physical classrooms or the classrooms of cyberspace.
Perhaps because I just wrote a “Mindwalk” reflection on it, the memory that still impacts me today was not in a formal classroom, but in the classroom otherwise known as the chapel at. St. John’s University. And I was not the teacher. “But your students you will be taught.” I experienced the meaning of proclaiming God’s word from an undergraduate.
It was an Easter Vigil in the late 1960s. Liz reached into my heart as she forcefully proclaimed the passage from Isaiah: “Can’t you see I am doing something new?” I had “heard” the passage many times before. This time was different. In her passion I could hear the frustration of the prophet crying out “thus says the Lord…!” Israel was in cultural and religious crisis in the midst of their Babylonian captivity. Even more in these last years have I tried to proclaim as she proclaimed the word of God.
- You have a popular blog called Vincentian Mindwalk (johnfreund.net). What is the mission of Vincentian Mindwalk and what do you enjoy most about producing it?
This is actually related to the previous question. For almost 25 years I have been editing and writing “news” briefs for the Vincentian Family website FamVin.org. “Vincentian Mindwalk” is a metaphor for what I enjoyed most about teaching… walking with young people as they explored questions that were meaningful to them. “Mindwalk” is a digital space where three or four times a week I and other followers of Vincent and Louise can explore and share with like-minded people issues and questions that matter to us with people who matter to us.
- What movie or television show have you seen the most? Explain.
First, I must admit that I do not watch much TV. I look to the Internet to feed my almost insatiable curiosity (Thank you, Dad!). The exception, in terms of sustained watching, were two long-running and critically acclaimed British TV series: “Downton Abbey” explored in a relatable way the social inequality in British society in the early 20th century. “Call the Midwife” gave insight into the complexity of the life and death ministry experienced by a group of Anglican sisters serving in the slums of London. Both are parables for today.
- If you could have dinner with one non-religious historical figure (dead or alive), who would it be and why? What might you ask them?
Here I beg your indulgence as I cheat by expanding the invitation to two. I would like to sit down with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as they reflected on the great experiment known as American democracy. It would be fascinating to listen to what it was like at the dawn of the experiment… and then at the major societal crisis we call the “Civil War” (which was not so civil). I am certain their insights would be mutually enriching.
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