April 13, 2018

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Reminiscing about my first trip overseas in 1971

John F. FinkLast week, I wrote about one of my visits to Rome. I thought this week I’d tell you about my first trip abroad. I’ve traveled to 68 countries, but this was my first trip overseas. It was in 1971. I was 39.

I worked for the Catholic publishing company Our Sunday Visitor (OSV). It always supported the Catholic press, including the international Catholic press. A World Congress of the Catholic Press was held in Luxembourg in 1971, and I was asked to go, along with Maryknoll Father Albert Nevins, who was then OSV’s editor in chief. I had just been elected

vice president of the Catholic Press Association, an added reason for my attending the congress.

Naturally, I wanted to take my wife Marie with me. At the time, our children ranged in age from 15 to 3, but Marie managed to find a baby sitter, and we were off to Europe.

We arrived in Luxembourg, and Marie discovered for the first time that the Americans were being housed at a Holiday Inn; I guess I neglected to tell her that detail. She was absolutely crushed. “My first trip to Europe, and I’m staying at a Holiday Inn?” she exclaimed. She tried to find another hotel, but everything else was booked and she finally resigned herself to staying there.

The Luxembourg World Congress was the first of nine such congresses I attended. The others were: Buenos Aires, 1974; Vienna, 1977; Rome, 1980; Dublin, 1983; New Delhi, 1986; Ruhpolding, Bavaria, Germany, 1989; Campos do Jordao, Brazil, 1992; and Graz, Austria, 1995.

After the congress was over, we rented a car and, along with Father Nevins, drove from Luxembourg to Rome, stopping in cities along the way—Heidelberg, Munich, Oberammergau in the Bavarian mountains, Innsbruck, Venice and Florence, to mention a few. I doubt that there is anything quite as beautiful as the mountains on the route from Oberammergau to Innsbruck.

In Rome, the rector of the Maryknoll House, where Father Nevins stayed, took us to dinner at a neighborhood ristorante. Marie ordered a whiskey sour and the waiter, trying to please the priest who had brought us to his place, assured us that he knew how to make it. He brought a bottle of whiskey and started to pour it in a glass, saying the Italian equivalent of “Say when.”

The Maryknoll superior also gave us our own private tour of Rome, including the Vatican and the Vatican Museums. We couldn’t have had a better guide.

Leaving Father Nevins in Rome, we drove back to Luxembourg by way of Switzerland and France. For Paris, I had asked a Parisienne at the World Congress in Luxembourg to get us a good hotel room. It proved to be a terrible hotel, with a hand-operated elevator and an ugly room. The night before we had found a room in an inn where the bathroom was at the end of the hall, and this wasn’t much of an improvement.

By this time, Marie was wishing we had a Holiday Inn like the one she disparaged in Luxembourg. †

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