Persons, places and things: Confessions of a pack rat


By Barb Arland-Fye

We’ve filled recycling bins, packed boxes of supplies, hauled away worn-out furniture and labeled other furniture as “keepers” in preparation for The Catholic Messenger’s move this week to diocesan headquarters.

But a Scripture passage from Luke’s Gospel resurfaces in my mind: “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic” (Lk. 9:3).

I imagine Jesus making the same request of me, a modern-day disciple. My response: “But couldn’t I take a couple of extra sweaters? It might get cold out there.” Or, “Would you mind if I take these extra files and books? I’m sure I’ll need them later.”

And with a sense of guilt I eye a gift box filled with dried fruit, a couple of cans of tuna and individual bags of M&Ms, just in case I get stranded in the office for days on end during a snowstorm.


I should feel guilty about the multiple copies of Catholic Messengers — dating back to my starting date in February 2002 — that fill several packing boxes. My excuse: these are historic records for posterity.

I’ve used that line with my husband Steve who, when sorting through boxes in our basement, gently asked if I really needed multiple copies of Quad-City Times from the 21 years I worked for that newspaper!

I confess: I am a bona fide pack rat. I’ve saved letters that my long-departed Grandma Arland wrote to me more than 30 years ago, as well as correspondence from people I’ve interviewed over the years. I’ve saved seashells from my trip to the Bahamas my senior year in high school and homecoming buttons from that same era in the mid-1970s. A hand-knit, infant winter outfit worn by my now 23-year-old and 15-1/2-year-old sons is tucked away in my cedar chest. I couldn’t imagine parting with this treasure.

Last week, as several of us on staff sorted through books, magazines and newspapers, I was asked if it would be OK to discard years-old special editions of the installation of bishops from other dioceses. Sure, I said, and then hesitated. “But let me keep that one from ….”

Then we unearthed several more treasures: two separate books, one on the Old Testament and the other on the New Testament, circa 1905, and a Bible from about the same era. Each book’s thick, once-sturdy covers are crumbling, barely held together. The pages have survived in remarkably good condition. The illustrations in the Old and New Testament books are elegant.

But the thing that moved me was a tiny newspaper clipping I found in the back of the Bible, tucked into the slot for a family photo. It was the obituary for a 6-year-old girl. The love of her family reached out to me from the distance of a century.

Yes, these ancient books are going into the packing boxes and accompanying us to the chancery.

Jesus may be shaking his head as I gather up one more item for the journey; I’m hoping he’ll understand.

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on