Someone had left a newspaper clipping on the floor outside of his office. Father Kiesler picked it up and read the newspaper article on Father Schmidt. It spoke of all he had done for the community and for St. Albertus Magnus, the co-ed boarding school where students were taught by both resident priests and nuns. His sudden death had been a great shock for everyone. People were still bringing flowers to the parish and sending cards.
Praises and accolades were showered on the deceased priest who had left what many called an indelible mark in so many lives. Father Keisler’s mouth tightened. Nothing but hero worship of a man whom in his opinion was weak because he was self-effacing.
He crumbled the newspaper in his hand and after letting himself into the office, he lit a fire in the fireplace and tossed it onto the embers. Father Schmidt was dead and buried. Life must go on. He was in charge now and things were going to be different. For one thing, he was going to have Monifa move into the rectory because he needed a rectory housekeeper. The one currently there was getting old and was soon to retire. While she was still there, she could train Monifa.
Having Monifa at the rectory meant he could have relations with her without the fear of being caught. And instead of her sneaking back to her room, she had the option of spending the night in his bed. Yes, with Father Schmidt out of the way, he could do as he pleased, within reason, of course.
As he sat down behind the desk, his mind went on the newspaper clipping which he had found outside of his office. Who had left it there and why? Did the person suspect something? What was there to suspect? Father Schmidt had died of a heart attack. What was so unnatural about that? Young, middle-aged and old men alike died from heart attacks.
There was no reason for them to exhume the body. The coroner ruled it as death by heart attack. And that was that. Now only one other person knew his secret. He had to find out who that was. Perhaps it was Sister Augustin. He had seen her leaving Father Schmidt’s office that morning and it was that evening when he was summoned there. Perhaps it was she who had discovered Monifa and him together in the library. He thought he had locked the door. He had to be more careful.
He would keep a close eye on Sister Augustin. The last thing he wanted was for her to disclose his secret to someone else. If word got out that he was having an illicit relationship with a minor, he would be defrocked and disgraced. He had to be careful. Later when Monifa and he were together, he would warn her again about keeping her mouth shut about their relationship.
He was determined not to let anything or anyone jeopardize his vocation. His mouth curled in derision as he remembered how Father Schmidt had pleaded with him to give up his unholy obsession with Monifa. He called it obsession. How pathetic. With all his knowledge about spiritual matters, he couldn’t even tell the difference between obsession and love. It had enraged him that his love for Monifa had been reduced to a sick and crazy feeling. Would he risk his priesthood, livelihood, reputation for an obsession? Absolutely not! What he felt for Monifa was a deep and intense love. Her age and race didn’t matter to him at all. Nothing matter except being with her and he would do anything to make sure that they were never separated. Anything.
Monifa was outside. Classes were over. It was the last day of school. She had the summer vacation to look forward to. Instead of going to the dorm to change she decided to spend sometime outside. It was a bright, sunny day. She walked across the grounds and found a spot on the grass where she squatted for a while. Life here was good. She liked the Sisters and got along well with the other students. She especially liked going for walks or attending Mass.
And she was learning German. Father Schmidt had started teaching her and then Father Kiesler. When she found it challenging, Father Kiesler explained to her that English and German are closely languages so English speaker will have some advantages when it comes to learning German, since there are many words which sound the same in both languages.
It felt good to be learning another language but she chose to learn German because she was in Germany. She liked being there. Hamburg was beautiful with a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. It was so different from Lagos. Although Lagos was a famous and glittering city which exuded affluence and glamour in addition to its natural beauty, she preferred Hamburg. She felt safer here. And the weather was very pleasant unlike in Lagos where it was is hot and oppressive for the entire year.
She enjoyed exploring the paths and surroundings. Two years ago in the Spring, she and a group of girls decided to go swimming in the lake. The water was icy and invigorating. Fortunately, none of them caught pneumonia but they were reprimanded by the Sisters. They never went swimming in the lake again unsupervised again. Sister Augustin went with them or one of the other Sisters. Sometimes, they had a picnic near the lake.
She remembered in the summer, how Father Schmidt used to organize games like the three-legged races, sack races, relay races, scavenger hunts, obstacle courses and the water bucket relay game. Those were happy times. She sighed, feeling a little down.
It felt so strange not seeing Father Schmidt around. She still couldn’t believe that he was dead. The parish just wasn’t the same without him. She missed the sound of his voice or his footsteps as he hurried down the corridor. He wasn’t going to be there to celebrate her sixteenth birthday in August.
Sometimes she went into the sanctuary and sat in the pew where she had seen him praying. He would be there for a while. What was he praying about? Whom was he praying for? She often wondered what he was doing or thinking just before the heart attack. It saddened her that he was alone when he died. She hoped that she wouldn’t be alone when it was her time.
Death was a scary thing but she remembered Father Schmidt telling her once that death wasn’t something to be feared because Jesus conquered it when He died on the cross. “Don’t think of death as a frightening thing that everyone has to face sooner or later but approach it with peace and trust, knowing that you are going to leave this life to be with the Lord. After death, is eternal life which He promised to all those who have faith in Him.”
Whenever she had that familiar uneasy feeling about death, she remembered Father Schmidt’s words and the uneasiness evaporated. And it always made her feel better when she imagined him in Heaven with the Lord.
His death had really shaken her up but Father Kiesler had been there to help her through her shock, grief and sorrow. She smiled as she thought about him. Her life changed the day he came to the parish. She was twelve at the time and when she saw him, she developed a crush on him. However, he wasn’t as approachable as Father Schmidt but he tolerated her, though and that was good enough for her.
And then, his attitude toward her changed when she turned fifteen. It was as if she had blossomed overnight and he started to notice her. They began to spend more time together, under the quiet, of course. He invited her to join him on his walks and sometimes as they walked he told her about his childhood in Quedlinburg, a northern German town known for its medieval streets lined with half-timbered houses. When she returned to the parish, she went to the library and googled his home town and was taken aback by how quaint and beautiful it was. It looked like a fairytale village.
He had two brothers and a sister. His parents were still alive. His father was a retired judge and his mother a retired school-teacher. Like Martin Luther’s father, Father Kiesler’s father wanted him to be a lawyer. The senior Kiesler was willing to pay for him to attend Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – University of Munich, the number one law school in Germany but, like Martin Luther, Father Kiesler decided that he wanted to be a priest. His father was bitterly disappointed and their relationship became strained after that but he had the support of his mother who was a devout Catholic. After graduating from Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen where he studied philosophy, theology and religion, he went to the International Seminary of St. Peter in Wigratzbad before coming to the parish.
It occurred to her that if he had chosen to become a lawyer like his father wanted instead of a priest, they wouldn’t have met. He would probably be married with children. There were times, though when she wished that he wasn’t a priest because she felt funny daydreaming about him. She enjoyed their conversations and looked forward to their walks.
One afternoon he slipped her note when no one was looking. When she went to her room, she read it. It was an invitation to meet him at the rectory. She waited until everyone in the dorm was asleep before she sneaked out of her room and went to the rectory. He was waiting for her. After letting her in, he took her to his room and that was the first time they had sex. It was the first of many times they met at the rectory and they were careful not to get caught.
Many times she felt funny about what they were doing but he assured her that they were just expressing the feelings they had for each other. He said that it would be wrong for them to deny those feelings. Yet, he made her swear to secrecy that no one would ever find out about their relationship.
She had better head on in. Rising to her feet, she slowly made her way back to the dormitory.
Sources: St. Michael’s Academy; Britannica; Babbel; Travel Start Blog; The Art of Dying Well; Biography; the Culture Trip; Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter Canada; Learn.org; Kiwi Families; Mumlyfe; Top Universitities