In August of 1998, 40 University of Portland students began a journey of a lifetime. We gathered in London. We were friends, acquaintances, strangers. We had one thing in common-we were all chosen to study for one year in Salzburg, Austria.
We visited museums, cathedrals and Stonehenge in England. We crossed the English Channel together and ate caviar under the Eiffel Tower. We snacked at McDonald's in Luxembourg before floating down the Rhine on a tour of German castles. Little did I know of the friendship that would grow between myself and another student standing by my side at the bottom of the Olympic ski jump in Innsbruck.
I lived in the Penthouse, a group of five rooms (two triples and three doubles) above the director's apartment. The other student lived on the second floor of the main apartment building that housed a majority of the UP students. He was the shortest guy-I was the tallest. I knew him only vaguely.
I learned more about Jimmy Nagle on a crisp late-autumn day when we rode bicycles to the south. We found a cold lake begging for swimmers. We found a rock-climbing tower, begging to be climbed. We found friendship, just waiting.
We became even closer friends that winter when one 20-year-old college student experimented a little too much. We bonded.
Then, after spending many hours staring at a charcoal drawing two friends had drawn together and seeing many things in the abstract piece of art, we grew even closer. Brothers we became.
On a three-week tour of Greece and Italy, Jimmy had pined long enough for his girlfriend at home. When we returned home to Mozart's birthplace, my best friend decided to leave the group and return to the States, and his girl. Despite my trying to talk 'better sense' into him, Jimmy did what Jimmy needed to do.
The summer between our sophomore and junior years, many made the trek to the Nagle residence for Jimmy's 21st. We met Mr. and Mrs. Nagle. We went to breakfast in the morning.
On that Island outside of Seattle our friendship solidified, but from there, we began our own journeys through life. I returned to North Portland, where I finished after four years at UP. Jimmy attended Evergreen College in Olympia, where part of his studies took him around the world on a pilgrimage. He moved to Boston. He moved to New York City. We became email friends, and talked on the phone.
Because he was like a brother to me, I was excited about his return to Portland this May. It was a short visit. Now, he is following his calling. On Saturday, Brother Jimmy entered his second year with the Franciscans at Mission San Miguel in California. For one year and one day he'll wear a brown robe. He'll have no email and no phone.
I wish him all the best on his new journey, because I know he'll be praying for me on mine.