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The Rev. Tim Shillcox (left) returning the long-lost medal to his friend Dave Parker at St. Norbert Abbey.

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 St. Mary in Bear Creek, Wis.

Enter Mike Counter M.L.S. ’14. Counter, media relations director at St. Norbert College, is an avid metal-detectorist who has been prospecting the abbey grounds. He unearthed the medal along with other finds this summer. When Shillcox saw Counter’s trove on the local news, 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 the item to its rightful owner.

The medal has great sentimental value, says Parker; it was a gift from his parents to mark his entry to the Norbertine order. The day of its return coincided with a planned knee surgery (to repair an old football injury!) and the deacon planned to take it with him for the procedure.

“It’s very cool,” Parker told the diocesan newspaper, which featured the find. “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.” 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 at the abbey, 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 discoveries 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.


Oct. 31, 2019