“Chuck’s Last Deal, ” by Dr. Glenn Arbery
To many people in the contemporary world, meaning can never be given by God or nature but only imposed, willed, chosen. What they might miss is the sense of wonder that comes from discovering a design larger than any one person’s intentions. Sometimes it takes a while for events to take on their true contours. A case in point is an offer last March to purchase a building at the corner of Third and Garfield in Lander, just a block away from our main offices in the Baldwin Building.
For several years, we have had our eye on this property. It used to be the Catholic church in town before the new one was built up the hill on the southeastern side of Lander. The old church is not a big building, certainly not suitable for a whole parish, but it looks very appealing as an oratory for the college—and there is just something satisfying about the prospect of restoring the building to its original use. What could be better than to revive it, now in the context of our vibrant Catholic college, which is itself still something of an upstart in Catholic education?
Until this year, we had not made much progress toward buying it, but at a board meeting back in March, our newest board member, Chuck Guschewsky, offered to make sure that we had the building for our future plans by buying it and letting the college pay him back over time. Moved by this gesture, the board thanked him and let him begin to negotiate for the purchase. In April, he met several times with the owners, and on April 30, a Friday afternoon, Chuck sent the last documents to them for their acceptance.
The next morning, after a walk on his beautiful ranch near Sinks Canyon, Chuck lay down, not feeling well. He never regained consciousness.
His sudden death shook the whole community, the whole state—everyone who knew him. He was only 64. At the College, it moved us in a special way, because we realized that the last of his countless business deals was acquiring the chapel for us. On the very day of his death, Chuck’s wife Cathy told our chairman of her intention to follow Chuck’s powerful desire to do this for the College. At Chuck’s funeral, hundreds of people from all over the state and beyond gathered at the Guschewsky ranch to honor this forthright and unassuming man. Near the end, after a group of local pilots honored him with the missing man formation, Chuck’s own plane flew by overhead. Down below, the servers at the reception were Wyoming Catholic College students.
A few weeks later, early this summer, Cathy closed on the old church. It was just two days before allegations of fraud concerning a $10 million donation to the College first reached us. In the following weeks, the story of the disappearing gift made the news and shook our community, and our plans, at least for this summer with the Baldwin Building, faded.
But there were beautiful ironies at work here. The old church had nothing to do with our plans for Baldwin, and this week we took possession of the building a block away that will become our new oratory. Already, we are working with the Diocesan Building Committee to get this real gift ready for the first Masses to be celebrated inside it since Holy Rosary outgrew the space more than half a century ago. During its secular career, it has been many things, including a funeral home, a rock-climbing shop, a theater, and—most recently—a private residence. Now it becomes once again the sacred space it was built to be.
It’s hard to state the point forcefully enough. Out of this summer comes something as solid and real as Wyoming itself: the old building down the street, now with a renewed meaning and a new congregation of students, young men and women being confidently armed by this unique education to shape the future. The reality of God’s providence stands out even more boldly against the illusion we suffered and against the illusions of the age. God’s hand was surely guiding Chuck Guschewsky.