Dominic (Nick) Cibrario has a taste for adventure. He writes about climbing the Himalayas, traveling to jungles and wrestling with good, evil, tragedy and darkness. The well-traveled author uses his personal experience as a basis for his six novels and one children’s book.
“My ideas for four out of my seven books are based upon my five trips to Nepal, located between China and India.They were written on location in Nepal,” he explained, adding that two of his novels take place on the family farm in Pleasant Prairie.
“My recently published children’s book came as an inspiration while I was teaching English at William Horlick High School, prior to the birth of our children,” he said, explaining that his creative writing class at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse taught him he should always write from experience.
The 72-year-old Racine resident, a member of St. Edward Parish, and his wife of 36 years, Geraldine, have three children — a 27-year-old daughter who recently graduated as a doctor in osteopathic medicine and sons, 33 and 31. They also have 6-year-old twin granddaughters.
Cibrario credits his desire for adventure with his decision in 1962 to join the Peace Corps with 80 other volunteers.
“We studied the Nepali language for six hours a day at George Washington University in addition to a month of mountain climbing training in Marble, Colorado,” he said.
He taught English and science at a high school in a rural area in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal, an 18-hour trek from the capital city, Kathmandu. He also worked at the Paropaker Orphanage in Kathmandu during the monsoon season when the school was shut down.
He was serving in the Peace Corps in southern Nepal when he received word President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. He was also in Kathmandu when American mountaineer Willie Unsoeld was a member of the first American expedition to summit Mount Everest on May 22, 1963.
“I visited Willie at the Shanta Bhawan Hospital when he was recovering from frost bite prior to the amputation of his toes,” said Cibrario.
Because he lived among the Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, Cibrario learned to appreciate their customs and
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religions, while at the same time growing in his own Catholic faith by attending Mass at St. Xavier in Kathmandu each time he came to the capitol.
While in Nepal, he went on a Jesuit retreat with Jesuit Fr. Thomas Downing.
“I also met (Jesuit) Fr. (Marshall D.) Moran, who worked with Nehru and Gandhi during the partition of Pakistan prior to Gandhi’s assassination in 1948,” he said.
After he returned home, Cibrario spent two years as a novice with the Jesuits of the Chicago Province at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Milford, Ohio. He left to attend UW La Crosse where he completed a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in psychology.
A few years later, he was offered a scholarship in south Asian studies at the University of Pennsylvania and eventually completed a master’s of science degree at the College of Racine.
While teaching high school, his favorite course was “Literature of Different Nationalities,” which led to additional schooling to become a certified Latin teacher.
He taught Latin for eight years, during which time he took students to Italy twice.
Cabrario has enjoyed writing since his teen years, but it wasn’t until 2005, at age 63, that he published his first novel, “The Harvest: The Garden of Kathmandu Trilogy.”
“I also like to read, travel to foreign countries, and attend sculpture class at the Mud House in Kenosha with my teacher, Gerhard Kroll, who is 84-years-old,” he said, adding, “and I study oil painting each week at the Wustum Museum.”
Along the way, Cabrario found solace while meditating and studying Sanskrit, and upon his retirement from teaching, went to the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago to study Sanskrit every Sunday morning for nearly three years.
“I found consolation in meditating quietly in the chapel and learned a great deal about Hindu religion and learned several Sanskrit prayers,” he said. “I also studied, ‘The Bhagavad Gita,’ and memorized quite a few of the poetic stanzas. I continue to study Sanskrit once a week with Ganesh Narayan from Naperville by telephone.”
His fascination with Hinduism has drawn him closer to Catholicism, though he admits he was disillusioned for a while due to the clergy sexual abuse scandals.
“I like the sacred books of India called the ‘Upanishads,’ which I find very inspiring since they are monotheistic,” he said. “I also like ‘The Bhagavad Gita,’ since numerous passages remind me of the teachings of Christ in the New Testament. Many Hindus believe that Jesus travelled to India where he studied Hinduism and Buddhism from age 12-30, during his Lost Years.”
So enthralled with an adventuring spirit, Cabrario ventured with Hindu friends last August on a nearly month-long pilgrimage to Mount Kailash in Tibet.
“The trip to Tibet was a rugged, 10-day journey through the Himalayas. Upon returning to Kathmandu, I stayed with my Hindu friend, Jagdish, whose wife, Shanti, is a Christian,” he explained. “Shanti took me on a tour of the Nepalese Catholic Church in Kathmandu that had been bombed by terrorists some years ago, but was under repair. She also took me to a Protestant Nepalese Christian service. I believe there are about 3 million Christians living in Nepal.”
In addition to Cibrario’s children’s book, “Elmer the Octopus,” his most recent adult novel is “A Desperate Decision,” a sequel to “Secrets on the Family Farm,’ which takes place in 1956. The main character in both books is Adam Montanya, a 15-year-old Catholic in love with a Jewish girl named Naomi. Their parents forbid the teenagers from going steady, which only increases their desire to be together.
A complicated plot surrounds Adam’s promise to God that he will become a priest if the Lord saves his best friend from drowning in a nearby pond where they were swimming. More suspense builds as Adam and his friend, Neil, are summoned to appear in court in downtown Kenosha after a corpse was found in the basement of an abandoned farmhouse.
Cibrario plans to write a sequel to “A Desperate Decision,” since Adam makes the decision to study for the priesthood at Saint Francis Seminary in the middle of his sophomore year at the fictional St. Mary High School in Kenosha.
“I am anxious to begin this third book of the trilogy based upon the life of a good friend of mine, who was at Saint Francis Minor Seminary in Milwaukee for four years of high school and then at Saint Francis de Sales for two years of philosophy at the major seminary,” he said. “I have interviewed him about his experiences there, which were largely positive and free from scandal.”