While searching for something else, I came across a diary entry from the Maryknoll Center by Fr. Edward McGurkin in February 1952 that made me chuckle. Fr. McGurkin was quite the story teller, and his diary entries read more like articles in an adventurers’ magazine than a retelling of daily activities. February was full of tales from around the Maryknoll world, not just the Center. From Brother Gonzaga Chilutti’s unfortunate death in Bolivia to the solemn honors given to those chickens on the Seminary farm who led the pack in eggs-per-year to Fr. Vincent Mallon’s summit of a Mexican volcano, the wider Society family had many adventures.
But what initially caught my eye was Fr. McGurkin’s interpretation of Groundhog Day 1952 as he imagined how the resident Maryknoll Seminary groundhog felt on that fateful morning of February 2nd. I hope you’ll enjoy this tale of a living legend who, according to Fr. McGurkin, Maryknoll could call neighbor.
“The groundhog was not sure about his shadow. He came out too early and got such a scare that he went right back and spent the day in his burrow compiling historical facts and popular legends… He was at his door blinking and stretching when good old Father Lou Hater came down the lane with an axe. Herr Groundhog did a tailspin back into his vestibule and there he stayed. Father Lou was simply starting another peaceful day on Father Bordenet’s project to reclaim farm and pasture land and he was making a pleasant detour by way of the Plaza de Toros [cow pasture] to pass the time of day with Eric Whitney VI [the steer] and to see what new signs Brother Harvey [Essy] had posted in the pig pen, of which the latest was ‘Kwitcherbelyaken!’ At the end of the day the groundhog was still in doubt about his shadow, and February turned out to be like Baked Alaska, one of those frozen desserts covered in meringue that you put in the oven before serving just to brown the meringue and make the stuff inside all slushy and gooey.”