Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's (Really) Who We Are

Some of you will remember the events of last September when, after coming home from a bar, two seminarians were killed in a car wreck on the grounds of St Mary of the Lake Seminary outside Chicago. The surviving seminarians were charged with related offenses, and the week that followed sent the Mundelein campus into a tailspin.

Today's Tribune features a look at the driver that night, who still wants to be a priest. He's been forgiven by the families of the victims, whose pleas for clemency got him a sentence of probation and community service.
"I [did] not want him to go to jail, and Jared would not want him to go to jail," said Joan Magette, Cheek's mother, who told prosecutors of her wishes and his father's. She breathed a sigh of relief at Spaulding's May 2 sentencing. "We know that Jared is in a good place right now, so all of our worries are focused around Rob."

Spaulding, 28, still plans to become a priest, if the Catholic Church will let him. His future in the priesthood will be decided after he completes his court-ordered community service, perhaps by the end of the year.

He struggles with guilt but not his faith.

"I have experienced God's presence like never before, especially through the absolute forgiveness I have received" from Magette and Pam Molnar, Matty's mother, he said. Molnar's father died years ago.

On April 18, Spaulding traveled to St. Mary's, Kan., to meet Magette for the first time.

She nervously awaited his arrival. She wasn't sure how she'd react.

"Part of me ... you wonder if you're going to hit him," she said after a pause. "But as soon as I saw him I just wanted to hold him. He just kept saying, `I'm so sorry.'"

Spaulding, who brought his parents and a priest from his native Wyoming to Kansas for the visit, talked with Magette and her husband privately for an hour. With his guilty plea behind him, he finally was able to talk about what had happened....

"That was the most difficult day of my life, and also the most transformative," Spaulding said of meeting the families. "To be able to look them in the eye and say face-to-face how sorry I was, and to hear them say, `We forgive you ...'"

The next day he went through it again with Pam Molnar, who said she never blamed Spaulding for the accident.

"Hate makes you a very bitter, angry person. You just can't dwell on things, as much as I'll miss [Matty] forever and I'll probably cry forever," said Molnar, who lives in Prairie Village, Kan. "I think [Spaulding] is a good guy, I really do."

Spaulding believes the ordeal could make him a better priest.

"It opened me up to the woundedness in the world," Spaulding says. "Just sitting in a restaurant, thinking about the trial coming up, the possibility of going to prison, I remember thinking, `How many other people are suffering like this?'"

But whether he becomes a priest is not entirely up to him. To be reinstated to the university, he will have to obtain permission from his home diocese in Cheyenne, Wyo., and undergo a review with seminary officials. Since the crash, he has been living at a parish rectory in Buffalo Grove.

There is no timetable for when that will happen, in part because Spaulding is still completing his community-service requirement, said Rev. Thomas Baima, seminary provost.

"The people who have been in touch with him have expressed feelings about the quality of his repentance and how they really feel that he has been changed by this," Baima said.

The Cheyenne diocese, which sponsors Spaulding at the seminary, supports his return but will re-evaluate his case at some point, possibly after his 30 months of probation, spokeswoman Katy Ferrari said.
Read the whole thing. We can all learn something from it. Truly, truly, the best of what we're called to be.