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Eighth grade book relates personal stories of priests and their chalices

02 Personal Grail HALFGina Furrer and her eighth grade class at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Redwood City, created a book on priests’ chalices as a class project.

October 26, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

Father Dave Ghiorso’s chalice and paten were crafted by his father and a close friend who was a police officer. Father Andrew Ginter was bequeathed his chalice by his mentor Father Kevin Gaffey, who had died a few months before the young priest’s ordination. Father Peter Zhai received his chalice from the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Redwood City.

Twenty priests’ stories are chronicled in an Our Lady of Mount Carmel eighth grade class project, a book “Chalice: A Most Personal Grail,” written and produced with their teacher, Gina Furrer. The students graduated in May 2017. The book was sold as a fundraiser at the priests retirement luncheon Sept. 29. Proceeds of continuing sales will go to the priests’ retirement fund, said Our Lady of Mount Carmel principal Teresa Anthony. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice and Reno Bishop Randolph Calvo are among the priests interviewed.

Every chalice and every priest has a story; a story that is often close to his heart because a priest’s chalice is the cup he uses to transform wine into the blood of Christ at Mass, Furrer said. The paten holds the hosts transformed into the body of Christ.

“The point of the book was to create a connection with the children and the priests and one of the most precious objects they own,” said Furrer. “The priests were able to share their stories. The children took their time and wrote a beautiful compilation of the memories related to each one.”

“Because the chalice holds the blood of Jesus, the cup itself is a sacred object,” Sulpician Father Gerald D. Coleman, in residence at St. Pius, wrote in the book’s forward.

Eighth grader Ty Winston interviewed Father Ghiorso, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, San Carlos. “The police officer he grew up with built the chalice,” Ty said. The wood chalice has silver inside. “When he dies he wants the silver inside to be melted and made into crosses for his nieces and nephews,” Ty said. Father Ghiorso’s father made the paten with a piece of the maple bench that was on their family basketball court, he said.

Father Larry Goode brought his sister-in-law with him to the interview because her father, a silversmith who created jewelry for City of Paris, Shreve’s and Tiffany, crafted his chalice, said Donovan Growney, who with Maddy Perry interviewed the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, East Palo Alto. “I thought it was interesting, how his chalice and his relationship with his sister-in-law made his chalice what it was,” said Maddy.

Archbishop Cordileone’s chalice, a gift from his godparents, has the Twelve Apostles engraved around the cup and symbols of the four evangelists engraved around the base. Bishop Justice received his chalice from his parents and its base has a “loving message” on it, the students wrote in their explanation. The cup is gold and silver, with African wood for the base to symbolize the universal church.

Furrer’s favorite story is that of the priest, ordained in 1938 in Ottawa, who was a priest at the parish during most of her childhood growing up in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Father Dominique Desjardins.

“Father Desjardins was a storyteller as well as a listener, the story of him and his chalice is the inspiration that brought the concept of this book to life,” Furrer wrote in the book.

The chalice was the gift of a childhood friend who was heartbroken when Father Desjardins entered the seminary. He directed that after his death the chalice be sent back to the parish where the two young people had grown up, Furrer said.

That touching story inspired project, wrote Furrer, but it was her students who brought the inspiration to life.

To order the book, send $20 cash or check to: Chalice Book, OLMC School, 301 Grand St., Redwood City, CA 94062; to pay by credit card visit mountcarmel.org/school.

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