The profile of a catholic high school's spiritual leader.
|There he goes, laughing and talking to a bunch of students. It is a sight that is common within these walls around me. The space appears to be just another well-lit office in the school but it is visited by more students than any other one due to the very social nature of the one it belongs to. As I sit down on one of the soft red chairs on either side of the bookcase against one wall with my disgustingly slimy poutine in hand, I munch on my grease-and-gravy-covered fries as I observe the scene unfolding before me. A discussion about an African student and her religious practices brings a smile to my face. The tone of the dialogue between this man and the two young ladies before him reflect his genuine interest in the subject matter. He seems to be as captivated by the students’ words as they are by his. Their interaction reminds me of the reasons I think he makes a wonderful chaplain. As more students come and go, it still amazes me that he always takes the time to chat with everyone, even if he can only give each one a minute of his time. Five minutes and several mini-conversations later, he finally shoos everyone away under the pretext of a meeting with me. While I wanted to keep the door open so I would have more opportunities to observe and take note of the way he interacts with everyone around him, I make no objections to spending some one-on-one time with the man. “Minardi Time” (my affectionate name for quality time with him) is not always easy to obtain. He leaves the room for an instant to reheat what looks like a homemade pizza but when he finally makes his return, the fun begins!
I begin the interview by stating my purpose, which is to find out which events in his life have led him to towards becoming our chaplain. I cannot help but notice the receptive expression lighting up his face as he exclaims, “Oh boy, I got a good story for you!” It appears to be childlike in a sense. The excitement was genuine and almost instantly, I can feel it in the air. It is a contagious feeling, indicating to me that a very relaxed atmosphere is now set for the interview.
Right off the bat, he starts off with the most adorable story. His hands seem to fly as he relates his seven year old self’s random act of generosity with his friends in the daycare center, where he went after school because his parents worked. He goes on to explain that his mother picked him up after going to the store for some bread.
One day, he asked his mom if he could have some of the bread to share with his friends. When his mother asked him why he wanted it, he simply explained, “They’re my friends.”
As I watch him tell the story, he beams with pride. With a smile, he tells me, “Even at a young age, I guess I just always cared for others.”
After that adorable little tale, I manage to regain my composure and glance at my notes. I decide to find out more about his family, hoping I can paint the picture of a younger version of the man sitting before me. A smile escapes my lips for a moment as I formulate the question in my head. As soon as I string together a few words to form the right question, the words come flowing out of him like a river flows out into the ocean. Suddenly, I am traveling back in time into the life of a traditional Italian family. As he talks about how close his family is, images of different meals around the table flash vividly through my mind. He mentions that when he was three, his family immigrated to Canada. They used to live with his grandparents, who became surrogate parents for him and his brothers along with their uncle.
I feel that the interview is flowing naturally as I introduce the topic of siblings. He states that he is one of three boys in his family, the middle child. The issue of sibling rivalry follows in a similar way that the desert usually follows the entrée and I find myself wondering just how the testosterone-filled Minardi household maintains the peace. While he emphasizes that the rivalry did not exist between him and his brothers growing up, he does clarify that a healthy competitive spirit was a standard for all three Minardi brothers, especially when involved in sports. I ask him about how his position in the family, being the middle child and all, affected him growing up. He describes his older brother as the one “everyone had high expectations for” and he was the “nice surprise” while his younger brother was “spoiled”. He goes on to say that he was an easily content kid whose happiness was influenced by his surroundings. He explains in a very simplistic way, “As long as everything’s good around me, I’m okay.” That simple philosophy of a child makes me wish it were possible to go back in time.
There goes that infectious smile again! I am getting so caught up in the stories and the way they are told that I find that I must keep reminding myself that I need to write these things down. For a moment, I just observe. I forget about what he is saying with words and I notice what his body is telling me. The way his body becomes more and more animated as the stories progress makes me smile yet again. Slowly, I discover that those memories of an innocent carefree time in his life are deeply engraved in his heart.
From the corner of my eye, I glance up at the clock over the computer across the room. Time seems to be zooming by and I am anxious that I will not get the information I seek. I relax and attempt to refocus on the goal. Suddenly, it hits me, and I find a direction to take this interview in. I inquire about his childhood dreams and aspirations and I uncover a startling piece of information. Basketball was his first dream. With laughter sweetly coating his voice, he goes into a monologue about his hoop dreams. My pen races across the page of my red notebook, trying to jot as many details down as possible. He speaks with a passionate tone about his past desire to play for the Detroit Pistons and I find myself picturing him on the team. And then, BOOM! The other shoe drops. The story of how his professional basketball career met its untimely demise is soon revealed. Injuries to both his ankles killed that dream during his last year of high school. And POOF! My mental image of Angelo Minardi from the Detroit Pistons vanishes as quickly as it had appeared earlier.
As I dig further into his life for more dreams and ambitions, I find some other interesting tidbits. University time was filled with social activities and more basketball. He also freely admits to slacking off during his first year at the University of Toronto, where he double-majored in psychology and sociology. He did clean up his act and survived through the years, studying hard to earn his degree, with a little romance on the side during the summer. He met his future wife at a summer camp where they were both counselors after his second year. He even began to get involved in the church, becoming a leader for several youth groups. Life was really looking good!
After fours years of hard work, he finally graduated. He started to form his second big dream around this time. He started to have an idea of what he felt he was meant to do. He knew deep within himself that he was meant to help people so he decided he wanted to become a social worker. Just when I think I am getting close to finding out how he actually became a chaplain, something gets in the way: the whole money issue. Before he could really sink his teeth into social work, he got a job at the Bank of Montreal as a loan officer. He left the church behind and cast his new dream aside. Having some sort of vague idea of what a loan officer does, I understand why he got comfortable at that job. He explains how he was getting well paid and how skilled he became at his profession with another smile. Now I’m wondering to myself, how does a loan officer become a chaplain? As the story progresses, I find out that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Soon, the interview takes a serious turn. After several years of having the same routine at the same job, he reveals that he became unhappy and constantly stressed out because of his workload. His relationships with his family and his girlfriend (the same girl from summer camp) were suffering. I am finding it difficult to wrap my head around the idea of such a jovial guy being so unhappy to the point that people around him were affected…but everyone has their dark moments, even the most cheerful people.
It was another one of those turning points in his life where he needed to make a big change. The choice between financial stability and personal happiness was tough. He went back to the one place he knew where he could seek a little bit of guidance: the church. He started praying again, searching for what he was specifically called to do. He says he knew that he was going to help people somehow but was not so sure about how to do it. His girlfriend remained loyal throughout his quest for a purpose, even when he mentioned the priesthood as a possibility. At this point of his story, he claims that the reason he did not become a priest was because “God wanted him to have a married life”. He studied theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary for three years before he decided to become a chaplain. After getting his degree, he got the job at All Saints, where he’s been with us since then. He credits his uncle, who was a priest, for finally getting him on the right path.
As the interview winds down, I ask him why he focuses his ministry on young people, specifically teenagers. He looks at me with the most serious expression out of the ones he has used throughout the interview and he states, “I want people to know this: There’s no place I’d rather be in my life than with young people right now at All Saints.” He goes on to say that he enjoys the energy, the youthfulness, and the hopefulness. He wants to share in our hopes and dreams. Now there is a man who knows what matters in life!
Everybody has a story. After leaving the happy chaplain’s office, I become particularly conscious of that fact. The world of the All Saints staff used to seem like a world away, almost like a different planet. After interviewing one of them and uncovering hidden aspects of his identity, I have a new appreciation for the educators in my life. I see them more as a whole person, not as aliens or people with the inability to understand teenagers. Perhaps if we were given the opportunity to exchange stories, we could come to a better understanding of each other. Maybe then, our two worlds will truly exist as one.