7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 74

7_quick_takes_sm1It’s Friday and time to connect with Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes.

1. Sacramental Pilgrimage
I recently shared the highlights of my Sacramental Pilgrimage here on my blog and at the Amazing Catechists website. The pilgrimage was a day of fond memories, prayers and gratitude for the beautiful gift of my Catholic faith.

In front of Sacred Heart Church, where I was baptized. photo copyright James Hrkach

In front of Sacred Heart Church, where I was baptized. photo copyright James Hrkach

2. Sacred Heart School
I was baptized, made my First Penance and First Communion at Sacred Heart Church. However, it was in the school that I spent most of my time while in this parish. I have many fond memories of my time at Sacred Heart School, which I attended from 1965-1969, first through fourth grades. The school hasn’t really changed much, at least from the outside. The only difference I could see were the red shades in the windows.

Photo copyright James Hrkach

Photo copyright James Hrkach

3. 4. and 5. St. Richard School, Ice Cream Parlor and My Grandparents’ House
I don’t have as many fond memories of this school (it recently amalgamated with Holy Spirit School and is now called St. Pio School). The sisters who taught me were very kind, for the most part. I had a few friends, but there were several “bullies” who made my life difficult. I liked living in Philly, though, so not all the memories are bad ones.

One particular story stands out that my family has laughed about for years. A block or so away from our house in Philly, there was a corner deli and ice cream parlor where my mother (who had lost a great deal of weight as the result of an operation and health issues) used to send me for ice cream sundaes to help her gain weight. One particular time, I went there to buy her an ice cream sundae. The woman behind the counter, a chain-smoking, heavyset woman who always wore her hair in a tight ponytail, was making the sundae. Unbeknownst to her, a long ash from her cigarette dropped into the sundae and she turned and kept squirting whipped cream on it, then snapped the top on the plastic cup and handed it to me. I didn’t say anything to her (I wasn’t nearly as assertive a child as I am an adult), paid the money and brought the ash-laden sundae to my mom. I did, however, tell my mom not to eat it and she never ordered another ice cream sundae from that place again.

photo copyright James Hrkach

photo copyright James Hrkach

Below is the house in which we lived for two and a half years in Philly (1969-72). This was also my grandparents’ home (I described this house and street in my novel, Emily’s Hope). The house looks very different from the house we lived in and even more different from the house in which my grandparents lived for so many years.

Photo copyright James Hrkach

Photo copyright James Hrkach

6. Reading Shelf
Check out my friend, JoAnn’s, newly-released children’s book: Where Did I Come From? JoAnn wrote this beautiful book as well as designing, drawing and coloring the pictures. For the past few days, it has been in the top five of its category. Way to go, JoAnn!

7. Virtual Attendance Cartoon

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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Sacramental Pilgrimage in the Year of Faith

This month’s post for Amazing Catechists shares highlights of my “Sacramental Pilgrimage.”

One of the ways for the faithful to gain a Plenary Indulgence in this Year of Faith is to… “On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistry, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.” (For more on the Plenary Indulgences during this Year of Faith, read about it here.)

When I had initially heard about this Plenary Indulgence, I thought this might be difficult, given the fact that I now live 500 miles away from my hometown in New Jersey. In some respects, I envied those people (like my husband and sons) whose complete sacramental history is confined to one church close by. However, the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. After all, it had been 45 years since I had last visited the church of my Baptism. Once the decision was made, however, it just made sense to also visit the churches where I received my other sacraments, since all three churches were within a 15-20 mile range. So instead of embarking on a Baptismal Pilgrimage, I decided to make it a “Sacramental Pilgrimage.” My husband came along to photograph the journey.

1. Sacred Heart Church, Camden NJ – The Sacraments of Baptism, First Penance, First Communion

My first stop was Sacred Heart Parish in Camden, NJ. This parish is situated in the heart of inner city Camden. Although it had been 45 years since I had last visited this parish, I recognized both the church and school immediately.

After taking a few photos in front of the Church, we tried to open the doors, but they were locked. We headed to the rectory and the secretary (Ann) answered the door with a smile on her face. When I told her that I was making a Sacramental Pilgrimage and that I was baptized (and made my First Communion) here, her smile widened and she excitedly invited us in to meet Monsignor Doyle and the staff, who were having breakfast in the small kitchen. This kind and gracious group of people made me feel special and I’m grateful for their generous and warm welcome.

In front of Sacred Heart Church, Camden NJ  photo copyright James Hrkach

In front of Sacred Heart Church, Camden NJ photo copyright James Hrkach

The baptistry.  Photo copyright James Hrkach

The baptistry. Photo copyright James Hrkach

The interior of the church. It seemed a lot smaller and more beautiful than I remembered. Photo copyright James Hrkach

The interior of the church. It seemed a lot smaller than I remembered. Photo copyright James Hrkach

At the side door entrance of Sacred Heart School. Copyright James Hrkach

At the side door entrance of Sacred Heart School which I attended from first grade to fourth grade, 1965-1969. Copyright James Hrkach

2. St. Richard’s Church, Philadelphia, PA – The Sacrament of Confirmation

A short car drive across the Walt Whitman Bridge to South Philly took us to St. Richard’s Church, where I was confirmed.

St. Richard's Church. I attended St. Richard's School (in background...now St. Pio School) from 5th grade to 7th grade. Photo copyright James Hrkach

St. Richard’s Church. I attended St. Richard’s School (in background…now St. Pio School) from 5th grade to 7th grade. Photo copyright James Hrkach

My confirmation, 1971, St. Richard's Church. Copyright Ellen Hrkach

My confirmation, 1971, St. Richard’s Church. Copyright Ellen Hrkach

Not only was I confirmed in this Church, my parents were married here 58 years ago.

My mother, a new bride, praying in front of the Blessed Mother statue. 1955. copyright Ellen Hrkach

My mother, a new bride, praying in front of the Blessed Mother statue. 1955. copyright Ellen Hrkach

I didn’t realize that James took the photo (below) until I viewed the digital camera later…I said a prayer for my (deceased) parents after lighting a candle for them.

Photo Copyright James Hrkach

Photo Copyright James Hrkach

3. St. Maria Goretti Church, Runnemede, NJ – The Sacrament of Marriage

The last stop on my Sacramental Pilgrimage was to St. Maria Goretti Church (Holy Child Parish) in Runnemede, New Jersey. We actually attend this church several times a year when we visit New Jersey since it is close to my sister’s house.

Copyright James Hrkach

Copyright James Hrkach

May 1982, St. Maria Goretti Church. Copyright Ellen Hrkach

May 1982, St. Maria Goretti Church. Copyright Ellen Hrkach

My Sacramental Pilgrimage was a day of fond memories, prayers and gratitude for the beautiful gift of my Catholic Faith. I highly recommend it to all who are able to visit the church of their Baptism (and other sacraments as time allows.)

Is the Church of your Baptism nearby or faraway? How easy or difficult would it be for you to make a Sacramental Pilgrimage? Feel free to comment below.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 73

7_quick_takes_sm1Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday. My 7QT will be an all photo one!

I recently returned home from a trip to New Jersey and Philadelphia to visit relatives and to embark on a sacramental pilgrimage during the Year of Faith. I was able to visit the church where I was baptized and made my First Communion as well as the church where I was confirmed. My sacramental pilgrimage will be the topic of an upcoming post.

Until then, here are some of the other sights and places I enjoyed.

1. Lehigh Tunnel

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

2. Philly Skyline

Photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

3. Art Museum
We didn’t actually get to visit the art museum, but I always love being able to see it on our trip home.
PHL2

4. Samurai Restaurant
I love this restaurant where we get to watch Japanese chefs stir-fry foods in front of us. Our chef was very entertaining.PHL 4

5. Our Lady of Lourdes Stained Glass Window

photo copyright James Hrkach

photo copyright James Hrkach

6. Philly Skyline Morning Mist
This photo was taken at 5:30 a.m. on our way home with the morning mist hovering over Philly.

photo copyright James Hrkach

photo copyright James Hrkach

7. Ellen Lane
(I recently posted about my husband’s “brush” with the law while taking this photo).

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Photos copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach and James Hrkach

My Husband’s “Brush” With the Law

PHL 7

During our recent trip to Philadelphia and New Jersey, I encountered this street sign (Ellen Lane) in my childhood neighborhood while my husband, James, and I were taking a walk. Growing up in the area, I always thought it was cool that there was a street with my name on it. I commented to him that I’d like to get a photo of the sign for my blog.

Later, we returned to the street sign and my very dutiful husband got out and took photos of the sign while I waited in the van. He returned and showed me the pictures, which I could see were all vertical. I had wanted one that was horizontal. “Do you mind taking one that is horizontal?” I asked him. He sighed, returned to the sign and snapped a few more photos.

During this time, however, an SUV pulled up and a man yelled, “What do you think you’re doing there?”

James replied nervously, “Uh…I’m taking a picture of the street sign.”

The man, who we could tell was a police officer in an unmarked car, asked sharply, “Why?”

My husband, now embarrassed, continued. “Well, you know, my wife’s name is Ellen and she wanted me to take a picture of the sign.”

The officer wore a pinched expression. Looking down at our Ontario license plate, he asked, “You came all the way from Canada to take a photo of that sign?”

James hadn’t wanted to go back and take more photos, but he did, because I asked him to. He offered the policeman a sheepish grin. “Well, no,” he answered, “my wife grew up in this area; we’re just visiting.”

An interrogation regarding the names of the people we were visiting ensued, with my husband giving last names of my siblings until the officer finally seemed to recognize one and his expression softened. He smiled and said, “Doesn’t it snow a lot in Canada?”

From there, it was all friendly conversation and I’m sure the officer was probably just looking out for his neighbors. Still, it was a bit scary.

And my husband, who has always been a law-abiding citizen, wasn’t impressed with his “brush with the law.”

But…I did get a cool photo of a street sign with my name on it.

Photo and text copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 72

7_quick_takes_sm1 Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Jen’s Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. Authorgraph
I’ve discovered a cool website that allows authors to digitally “autograph” Kindle copies of their books. Check out my “Authorgraph” page!

2. Gosnell Verdict – Guilty
Three quarters of the Gosnell jury were pro-choice. This verdict definitely reflects justice.

3. Spring!
Believe it or not, this past week, it snowed briefly and we woke one morning to frost on the ground. Spring is here, though. Flowers — and weeds — are blooming!

photo copyright Josh Hrkach

photo copyright Josh Hrkach

4. A Subtle Grace – St. Agnes Prayer
In “A Subtle Grace,” my upcoming novel and the sequel to In Name Only, the main character, Kathleen O’Donovan, prays the prayer to St. Agnes.
Now good St. Agnes, play thy part,
And send to me my own sweetheart,
And show me such a happy bliss,
This night of him to have a kiss.

Or the Scottish version:
Agnes sweet, and Agnes fair, Hither, hither, now repair; Bonny Agnes, let me see The lad who is to marry me.

Legend has it that the girl who fasts and prays this prayer on the eve of St. Agnes’ Feast Day will dream of her husband.ASG sm

5. Recent Reader Mail
I received some beautiful emails recently:
“I’ve read and reread your books in the last few weeks. Thank you for writing such marvelous stories which reinforce and teach the beautiful truths of our faith. I am an avid reader and library user but at times have to skip passages in secular books or eschew the books entirely because of their sexual content or otherwise offensive content….”

Just finished Stealing Jenny… and besides the guilt over being a negligent mother for the past two days (since I couldn’t hardly put it down! 🙂 I really enjoyed it! I feel like we’re in this little Catholic/NFP bubble sometimes – all alone. It’s so cool to be able to relate to the characters on a “Catholic Culture” level. Not to mention, being a real page turner. Whew! Thanks!”

“Thank you for your book “Emily’s Hope”….my heart and soul has been deeply rejuvenated reading a story of such faith and growth. I love reading a story that shows the beauty, grace, and strength of the church’s beliefs about marriage, sex, birth control, and trusting God’s will. My soul needed a reminder about these…I admire Emily and Jason, and pray that their story reaches many of our young people.”

I treasure letters like these and feel blessed when readers write to me.

6. Reading Shelf
Marriage, A Fountain of Grace – Rosalie McPhee
On Free Choice of the Will – St. Augustine

7. Man Up Cartoon

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach (all rights reserved)

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach (all rights reserved)