Catie Jo’s life was gradually changing. She was not just another little girl in the crowd. She was a girl that people looked twice at wondering what she was thinking. Rumors about her moved quickly through Helena. Most of the rumors reported that she had courage and that she was outspoken for a girl her age. She had unusual ideas but she seemed to be down to earth. People hinted that she was prayerful and that her prayers were often heard.
The other rumors suggested that she was not healthy, that she needed help and her parents refused to get her that help. In a small town, it was easy to spread lies and so some people took it on themselves to make up stories about her. One of the most vocal in claiming to know things about her and her mental instability was a young man named Tom Bowers, who was one of the college student confidants of the Bishop. The Bishop had thrown out a wide net when he had first come to Helena to identify young men at the college who would be interested in the priesthood. He had invited anyone who fit his criteria for future priesthood, which seemed to have something to do with being interested in woman and yet willing not to be at the same time. These criteria did not seem to allow for a wide pool of participants. Therefore, the Bishop had taken to inviting male students over to his house for dinner. These dinners revealed the potential of a satisfying life in the priesthood. Good food and alcohol mixed with talk of a variety of career potentials in a service that was short on volunteers. So the women at the college started to gibe the guys who were involved by asking them if they had been over for “cocktails and confession” at the Bishop’s house.
The Bishop took aside those young men perceived to be prime candidates. A pitch was made to them showing the potentials for future power that once were only available to the few were clearly available for almost anyone who was interested in a priestly vocation. The Bishop presented himself as a prime example. His faithfulness to the Pope and his superiors had brought him to the Episcopal Chair and young men who followed his example could reach the same place.
Tom Bowers was one of the young men who had responded eagerly to this invitation. He was a senior at the college and he was vulnerable to being attracted to clerical power. He had grown up next to a seminary in Seattle and had worked in various jobs there throughout his young life. The prestige that clerical position brought to a man intrigued him. He longed to achieve the status that he felt would be his if he became a priest. Several religious orders had discouraged him, but now he found himself being courted by the Bishop. He was not the Bishop’s first choice by far in the search for vocations, but he was at least a willing candidate. He became a regular at the Bishop’s table and found ways to ingratiate himself there. The primary way was reporting to the Bishop about what people at the college said and did. He soon learned that the Bishop was especially responsive to information that revealed students, faculty and staff as being unresponsive to the hierarchy.
As a future seminarian, he soon was given a job at the Cathedral and was one of the main servers whenever the Bishop said Mass. His specific job was unclear. He understood that he was to insert himself in any aspect of parish and college life that might allow him to get information to report to the Bishop. The full potential of future power came when he was between his junior and senior year and was appointed to be the Bishop’s aide at the summer retreat center in the Seeley-Swan lake country of western Montana. The Diocese had inherited one of Montana’s oldest lake estates built by one of the Butte Copper Kings. The Diocese renamed it Legendary Lodge and ran an active summer camp there each year. Off on the perimeter of the estate the Bishop took up summer residence, inviting friends and candidates to spend time in this beautiful place. Tom became the “gofer” of the Bishop’s cabins and loved the responsibility and the access to meeting other episcopal men like the Bishop.
When he returned to Carroll, the sense of authority he had developed over the summer came with him. He took it upon himself to make Catie Jo his special project. He sought out information about her. He became involved in working with the religious education classes and groups in which she was a participant. He watched her comings and goings with Fr. Hugh. He even tried to listen at the door when she was talking to the nuncio’s representative.
Catie Jo always made a point to notice him and ask him what he was doing. It seemed innocent enough on her part, but it drove Tom crazy. He tried not to be noticed. Anonymous skulking has always been a more attractive proposition. So when Catie Jo approached him, he always became annoyed. She made him feel like she was gathering information on him. She asked him about his favorite saints, and he had found himself telling her about his devotion to Thomas More, his patron. Later he regretted even mentioning it to her. She had seemed too interested.
When Catie Jo left the second visit with the Fr Ferro, Tom had almost been caught leaning against the door as she opened it. He quickly moved down the hallway pretending to be reading bulletin boards. Catie Jo stood there staring at him for a moment. She had a sad look on her face.
“Tom,” she said, “it is too bad we can’t be friends.”
“Friends, with you?” he blurted in response.
“Yes, friends,” she replied. “We could be friends and you could see the future is brighter and better than you imagined it.”
Tom was mortified to have this girl telling him anything about the future. She could not understand the world he was learning about with the Bishop. “What would you know about it,” he responded.
“Not much. I only know what Tommy More says.”
Tom Bowers started to gasp, “What are you talking about.”
Catie Jo smiled and said, “He worries about you. It’s like he said once, ‘What does it profit to lose one’s soul for the whole world, but to lose it for Legendary Lodge.?’”
At that moment, Tom Bowers made a decision. Part of him felt an attractive humor in the comment and he could have laughed. Instead, his face turned red and his heart turned cold. He looked at Catie Jo and he became angry as she turned from him. How dare she insult him and the Bishop. He felt justified in seeing her as his enemy and he promised himself he would do something to stop her. He turned to the open office where Fr. Ferro was on the phone. He carefully walked to the door and heard Fr Ferro talking to the nuncio. He was shocked and excited. He almost broke his leg running to his car to get quickly to the Bishop.