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Deacon Dave Parker, right, is reunited with a long-lost treasure that was found on St. Norbert Abbey grounds. His old friend the Rev. Tim Shillcox (left) was the first to recognize the recovered medal.

What Once Was Lost and Now Is Found

When a seminarian lost a devotional medal 37 years ago, he never expected to see it again. But when the sacred object was recently unearthed, it was immediately recognized by a friend who remembered the day it was lost. 

It was August 1981 when Dave Parker and his teammate, both then in the novitiate, set out to play football on the St. Norbert Abbey grounds. Some four decades on, Parker, who left the order before ordination, is now a deacon of the church living in Pulaski, Wis. His friend, the Rev. Tim Shillcox, went on to profess solemn vows and now serves as pastor at Resurrection Parish in Green Bay. 

Enter @St. Norbert contributor Mike Counter M.L.S. ’14 (Media Relations), an avid metal-detectorist who has been prospecting the abbey grounds and unearthed the medal along with other finds this summer. When Shillcox had the chance to look over Counter’s trove, he immediately noticed the once-treasured object. The Norbertine recognized the design of the medal and reached out to his friend. Parker confirmed the identification and was able to visit the abbey, where Shillcox happily restored it to its rightful owner. 

A gift treasured twice over
The medal has great sentimental value, says Parker; it was a gift from his parents to mark his entry to the Norbertine order. 

“It’s very cool,” Parker told the diocesan newspaper, which featured the find in its September issue. “It looks like it’s been in the ground for 37 years. I’m surprised there is this much left of it.” 

Shillcox told local TV station WBAY-TV, “I just remember thinking that it was sad at the time that a memento Dave’s family gave him when he entered [the abbey] got lost, that someday that’s got to be found.”

’Tis better to give
The experience was unique and gratifying for Counter as well. “Most things, you have no way of returning,” he explains. “You have no idea who lost it or how. Being able to give [Parker] back his medal was really special. It meant a lot to him. That was a neat feeling.” 

Counter, who sought permission from the abbot before metal-detecting on the abbey grounds, is working in collaboration with the Rev. Jim Neilson ’88 to create a work of art that will include items found during his explorations. His finds to date include a variety of coins, medals and rings of various ages. The artwork created from his finds will be displayed in 2020 as part of celebrations for the 900th anniversary of the Norbertine order. 

With one find now returned to its rightful owner, Counter is continuing his exploration of the grounds and expects to uncover additional interesting finds. 

Oct. 3, 2018