(SAN ANTONIO, TEX.) I’m a 1969 graduate of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Back then I lived at Assumption Seminary preparing to become a Catholic priest. I later traded in my Roman collar for a badge and gun to become a police officer.
People sometimes wonder if there was intrigue in my leaving. Whenever I speak to book clubs I allow time to answer questions. I always anticipate one question and answer it before anyone asks. “Why did you quit the seminary?”
My answer is, “It’s not a dramatic story; no sultry temptress in fishnet stockings, bustier, and spiked heels lurking in the shadows of the seminary. If there was, I probably would have left sooner. (Pause for laughter, hopefully.) My reason was that I just decided I no longer wanted to be a priest.”
I’m in San Antonio for a reunion of my seminary class. (I studied three years in Michigan and two in Texas.) The numbers of those who actually are ordained are about 10 percent or less of those who start. Only two in my Texas class were ordained. I don’t know how many started with them in Texas. I’m the only cop, but one became a probation officer. Several are social workers, and two were career military.
One of the guys became wealthy. He was a fleet defensive back on our football team, but pudged up while enjoying his riches. When it was discovered some of his dough came from embezzling, he did time in prison.
While in the slam he lost weight and straightened out. Shortly after his release he died of a heart attack in his mid-40s. We had two others fall victim to cancer.
We only lived at the seminary, attending classes at the coeducational university of about 5,000 students. The hundred or so seminarians stood out because we wore blazers with the seminary crest on the pocket.
The fraternity intramural leagues allowed us to play football, basketball, and softball with them. The frat boys were surprised when our football team proved to be a tough group. I guess they expected us to be pious and turn the other cheek. That happened off the field, but not between the lines.
As juniors we took second place in football. Our boys on the line liked to hit. It was only flag football, but they hit. During the last game, an opposing player separated my shoulder for me. That’s what a Prima Donna quarterback gets who tries to block a knuckle-dragging lineman. In our senior year we were the champs in both football and basketball.
As I mentioned, St. Mary’s was coed. This means (gasp) girls attended. To some of the girls we seminarians were somewhat of a puzzle, and to others, a forbidden challenge. We were well-groomed, good students (for the most part), polite and nice.
Some of the adventurous guys even dated surreptitiously. A few of those who dated continued on and were ordained. Others left the calling. Although many of the guys entered the seminary in the eighth grade, I didn’t go in until after high school. I had dated before, so girls weren’t a mystery to me. Actually, that’s incorrect. Any man who says women aren’t a mystery is mistaken.
All in my class will be here except for three. Guys are coming from Wyoming, Florida, and Michigan. A few guys from other classes heard about it and are coming too, along with faculty members. The beer will flow like Holy Water.
Most of us have not seen one another since 1969. We’re looking forward to seeing our rector, Fr. Roy Rihn who is 92 and still very sharp of mind, although his body is wearing out. He said, “I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in.”
San Antonio has changed a lot. We didn’t get around too much 41 years ago, having no money and no transportation. The reunion will be fun.
Retired police officer Tom Basinski lives in Chula Vista.