By Tom Holmes
"When I first met Kathleen," he recalled, "she was petitioning to leave the convent and was an activist in Cabrini Green, a public housing project with a bad reputation. I was just coming out of a really bad marriage and bad religious experiences. There is a quality about Kathleen. She's not naïve. She's kind. That's probably her most dominant characteristic."
They got married at St. Dominics Church in Cabrini Green in 1972. The all black choir sang gospel songs. "They could have been Baptists," Bob said with a chuckle. The members of the church took care of everything. They had good bread for communion. Kathleen wrote the vows. The women of the church cooked a soul food meal which Kathleen's parents from South Dakota had never tasted.
"Kathleen drew me back to the church," said Bob. "The choir sang On Eagles Wings and did a really good job. I told Kathleen later that I want that song sung at my funeral."
Soon after arriving in Oak Park in 1977, one of Bob's neighbors invited him and Kathleen to the St. Giles Family Mass, an alternative worship experience in the school's gym where folding chairs were set up in a semi-circle every Sunday morning around a free standing altar. The original motivation for the experiment was to have a liturgy in which children and therefore families could full participate.
For the former Catholic drop out it became much more. In those days, the homily was created by a group of lay people. He remembered how "every Monday a designated rotating committee would read the Scriptures for the next Sunday, interpret them and then designate one of the group to preach the homily at the Sunday Mass."
"The power of that for me was that it was OK to be who I am, to say what I felt spiritually motivated to say, and the other people in the group would listen. We would cut through all the religious BS and get to a human collaboration. If felt bigger as a result of it. I felt safe. I was able to grow, expand and see other points of view. It wasn't just blowing it off in the name of tolerance. It was finding where the other point of view could resonate in me."
When asked in 2014 where he was spiritually, he said, "I have an adult relationship with God. I'm not subservient or fearful. God is not a God of retribution. God has put me on this planet for the purpose of being a more loving, caring, understanding person. I now have something in me that is expressing itself. I'm like a piece of dough with yeast, and it's rising. When you talk to me about spirituality and about God those are just words, but the feeling, the connection that I feel--and this sounds corny--the connection that I feel with the universe, the cosmos, with all that exists is very, very profound."
"We ain't so different," he concluded. "My biggest opponent is myself. I thought it was those white guys. No, it's all in here."