By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
Friends see lessons in the poetry of Father Michael Bassano.
A native of Binghamton, Father Bassano previously ministered in the Diocese of Syracuse. Now he serves as a Maryknoll missionary in South Sudan, which has struggled with civil war. He is under coronavirus-pandemic restrictions in the UN Protection of Civilians (POC) camp outside the town of Malakal. So he makes radio recordings complete with song and prayer for his parishioners in the POC, and he also writes poetry.
Recently, in response to an email from the Catholic Sun, Father Bassano consoled by phone one of his former CYO participants at St. Anthony of Padua Church in East Utica, Diedra “Dee” (Burghard) Freedman, an Avondale, Ariz., resident whose 19-year-old son, Andy Freedman, died March 4 after suffering from multiple illnesses.
The Sun asked Freedman and another friend from their Utica days, Maryanne (Panaro) Grady, of Cumberland, R.I., to give their view of Father Bassano’s Easter poem “Cocooning” (see right), which he said “speaks of the mystery of Easter and our rising to new life with Christ each day.”
Freedman wrote: “Fr. Mike’s poem ‘Cocooning’ describes the journey of life for those lucky enough to open their eyes and hearts to Faith, Love, and Hope. Amid the chaos and uncertainty of life, those lucky enough to rely on Faith feel safe within the Love of God and each other optimistically clinging to Hope for a brighter future. It is what happens when you live your Faith; just as Andy did.
“By the way, for 9 years Andy attended Chrysalis Academy where all students were encouraged to fly as high as possible. The butterfly is very symbolic of amazing individuals like Andy who often are underestimated but have much to share with the world if given a chance.”
Grady wrote: “Father Mike’s most recent poem ‘Cocooning’ relates much to the memory of Andy. Andy, Dee, and Frank [Dee’s husband] were a family in a cocoon defined by time, space, and situation. This safe haven created strength and resilience. The resilience had many levels. Each is carried through Father Mike’s poem.
“Dreams are adjusted by reality. It’s natural for dreams to change. It’s how you handle the change that makes the dreams achievable. All of our realities are our own cocoons. In them, we put our hearts, vulnerability, focus, faith, and love, and gain learning. Our cocoons can change or we can have multiple cocoons. Each cocoon can be for one individual or it can contain other groupings of people in your life.
“Oddly in the cocoon is where you can be the most free and can consider all things and all people. There is no judgment. The question becomes is the cocoon the vehicle for learning before evolving to a surprising new meaningful life or is the cocoon the place to be introspective and assess where you define the next birth of the butterfly.
“Since each cocoon is unique, so is what emerges from it. Whatever the answer is, with faith and humanity, a tranquility can envelop you as you emerge from your cocoon and move to the next. It’s a continuum constantly changing as the levels of a soul advance. I believe Andy now is soaring.
“Whether in the poem or the recent homage to Andy’s life, the main points defer to the power of connections, value, memories, care, transformation, and the responsive speed of the Catholic Sun.”