Vatican II marks 50-year anniversary
Diocese of Dodge City to republish historic
daily journal by SW Kansas’s second bishop
In celebration of the Year of Faith and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City is going to republish Bishop Marion J. Forst’s “Daily Journal of Vatican II,” first published in 2000 and currently out of print.
The 192-page text recounts the daily experiences of the second bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City as he attended Vatican II functions in Rome from October 1962 to December 1965.
The book should be ready for order before Christmas. Following is a review written soon after the journal’s publication.
CYPRIAN BERENS, O.F.M.
Bishop Marion F. Forst, author of this journal, was consecrated bishop of Dodge City, Kansas, in 1960, appointed auxiliary bishop of Kansas City, Kansas, in 1976 and resigned in 1986. He has resurrected the personal notes he wrote more than 35 years ago, not to explain the documents of Vatican II, not to teach the new trends that originated with the Council, really not to teach anything, but only to share the human experience of one American bishop in those historic meetings.
The result is a brief and very pleasant book, sometimes funny, often inspiring.
“As one of the younger attendees,” he writes in the Prologue, “I decided to take brief notes of each day’s activities. Never was there any intention of publishing this journal.” A few close friends, however, read his jottings and thought they should be made public. These reflections bring the reader into experiences of beauty and depth. Every page discloses warm and generous relationships as Bishop Forst, with other bishops, seeks out religious sisters who have their roots in their native Kansas, entertains parishioners from Dodge City who came to Rome during the Council, or invites U.S. seminarians in Rome to lunch or to a circus. It is clear Bishop Forst likes circuses.
On weekends, surfeited with long sessions, he would rent a tiny Fiat and, with other bishops, drive to Florence, Tivoli, Naples, etc.
Sometimes, almost unwittingly, he shows deep emotions, as in the entry for November 22, 1963. “We had finished dinner and were awaiting coffee when someone announced that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.... Italy’s radio and television went off the air until 10 p.m. in mourning—something that certainly would not happen in the United States. The Latin American bishops with whom we had eaten not only expressed their sorrow, but also the love that had been felt in South America and Mexico for Kennedy.”
In another poignant entry dated November 24, 1965, Bishop Forst sums up a trip north to the family home of Pope John XXIII. “If there was one thing that our visit to Sotto Il Monte meant for me, it was to reflect on the virtues of Pope John XXIII. His simplicity reflected in the people and surroundings he called home, and a charity spelled out in his love for his family, his friends and the town.”
After Cardinal Cushing addressed the Council on the Church and Jews, media people asked what was said. Cushing replied, “How should I know? I had to say it in Latin!” A number of humorous episodes are mentioned, and stories that were passed around at the refreshment counters—“Bar Jonah” and “Barabbas”—delighted the bishops.
Regularly, the American bishops gathered for conferences by experts on the Council material under discussion. The journal exudes excitement with regard to the documents about religious freedom and on the liturgy. The bishops never wanted to vote as a bloc, but they did want to compare notes and be well informed.
A private journal is not written to impact other people, and so it is not surprising to find a few repetitions, some casual spelling errors of Italian names, a bit of trivia—“the day is miserable and rainy,” “Got my first Italian haircut.” He laments the hours of listening to long speeches in Latin and yearns for simultaneous translation.
On Dec. 11, 1965, as the Council ended, Bishop Forst made the final journal entry, breaking away from his “just the facts” style, “And thus into history—for me the most eventful involvement of my life—goes Vatican II.”