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When it comes to fulfilling some of his life’s dreams, Father Thomas Clegg has already dipped big time into the “bucket list” that he created when he was ordained a priest in 1990.
Learn to fly an airplane. Check.
Own a motorcycle. Check.
Vacation in Hawaii. Check.
Have a dog. Check.
Break 80 in golf. Check.
Never pass up an opportunity to ride a rollercoaster. Check.
Father Clegg felt the same thrill of a rollercoaster ride when he recently learned that he was among three priests from the archdiocese who have received grants to participate in the 2011 Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.
Father Steven Schwab, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis, also received one of the 19 grants extended to clergy members throughout Indiana.
“The program allows pastors to step back from their busy schedules and renew their spirits for challenges ahead,” according to Lilly Endowment official Gretchen Wolfram.
“The program is truly a gift for anyone who is a clergy person,” Father Clegg says. “There are so many demands on clergy today that having any time away is a gift.”
For Father Clegg, the grant will pay for the 3½-month sabbatical that he plans to take from parish ministry in 2012. Part of the grant will allow him to finish some of the goals he wants to accomplish from his original list of “the 20 things I want to do before I die.”
In his goal to visit all 50 states in America, Father Clegg has just three states left on his list—Oregon, Washington and Alaska. He plans to tour all three during his sabbatical from April 8 to July 26.
He also will continue his travels across the country to see the libraries of American presidents.
He has already visited the boyhood home of John Adams, and the presidential libraries of Gerald Ford, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Next spring, he plans to drive more than 3,000 miles in a recreational vehicle with his dog, Caesar, to tour the presidential libraries of George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and Harry S Truman.
“I’ve always loved U.S. history,” Father Clegg says. “I love paging through the personal correspondence of the presidents.”
Two other parts of his journey will have an emotional, personal connection for him. He will spend six weeks in Haiti, a country that has become close to his heart from the four parish mission trips he has made there since 2009.
“I’ve fallen in love with the people there,” he says. “Their resiliency and their faithfulness amaze me. I want to see parts of the country I haven’t seen. I want to experience the culture and learn the language. That’s always been one of my goals—to communicate in a foreign language.”
The other emotional part of his journey will come near the end of his sabbatical when he will return to Indiana to hold an extended family reunion in Brown County from June 29 to July 1—for all 65 members of the Clegg clan.
“That’s one of the things I’m most excited about,” he says. “Most of my family is in Indianapolis, and being in southern Indiana I’ve missed out on a lot of family events—birthdays of nieces and nephews, first Communions, graduations, even weddings. I’m going to be able to fly in my brother from California, and several nieces and nephews from out of state. This is an opportunity I have to bring us all together.”
He also views his sabbatical as a way to inspire his parishioners.
“I always think you have to have goals in life,” Father Clegg says. “I just turned 50 last year so I’ll probably start a second bucket list. I want to be a good model for my parishioners—to challenge them. We’ll have a couple of speakers come in and talk to them about creating their own bucket lists.”
As he prepares to finish his first bucket list, Father Clegg is already getting started on his second. He thinks this one will have a different emphasis.
“When I made my proposal to Lilly Endowment, the Scripture passage I used was John 10:10—‘I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.’ God has set us up with so many opportunities, and we really are blessed. I realize that even more after my mission trips to Haiti.
“My first bucket list was really a combination of things that required some money to do. I think the second list will be different, having been to Haiti.
“It’s changed my view of what I want out of life—what do I need? I could imagine that my second list would include funds for a number of young Haiti men and women who want to go to school but can’t afford it. It may be more a list of what I can do for others than what I can do for myself.”
(Stories about the planned sabbaticals of Father Steven Schwab and Father Rick Ginther will be featured in future issues of The Criterion.) †