Outside the front door of the Viatorian Province Center, next to its flagpole, is a stone marker that sits prominently in the same place where it was dedicated, nearly 20 years ago. It contains 15 names and honors their military service, dating back to the early 1800s.
Visitors and residents alike have passed the marker countless times, but it took this week’s installation of a new flagpole to draw renewed interest in the memorial.
Fr. Charles Bolser, CSV, who watched the work unfold, instantly recognized the names. “They are all members of my extended family,” Fr. Bolser said. “I had forgotten all about this plaque.”
It turns out the marker commemorates an even larger gift: 80 acres of farmland outside of Champaign, IL, owned by Fr. Bolser’s mother’s cousin, John O’Connor, who gave it to the Clerics of St. Viator as an annuity, in 1997.
In legal documents recorded at the time of his death in 1998, it explains that O’Connor made the gift to support the Viatorians’ programs relating to “the education of seminarians for the priesthood” and their overall efforts in faith formation.
He wanted the plaque to commemorate the gift — and the memory of his family members who had served in the military, and exhibited “such pride of country and patriotism.”
The new flagpole went up without a hitch — and the stone marker remained untouched. Fittingly, the two Bolser brothers — Fr. Charlie and Fr. Bob Bolser — who had first drawn their cousin’s interest in the Viatorian Community, both moved back to the Province Center this year.
What’s more, the O’Connor farm in Champaign County, continues to produce grain and is still owned by the Clerics of St. Viator. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.