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Faith in our future

9:00 AM  Dec 26th, 2016
by Eric Spina

When University of Dayton students left for fall break, faculty and staff played with Legos and took a stroll through virtual reality.

But they weren’t playing. They were dreaming together about the University’s future and using creative ways to express their hopes and dreams.

One group constructed a monorail that would run between the center of campus and River Campus. Another built an urban farm in a reclaimed factory as an experiential learning space. Using virtual reality, others walked through a classroom of the future and considered ways they might revolutionize teaching by supplementing their lectures with engaging, immersive experiences.

This was the scene on campus on “Visioning Day,” a series of opportunities for faculty and staff to think seriously about our future.

I am asking the University of Dayton community and our alumni to think big, even audaciously, as we create a strategic vision together. We’re a great university with a collaborative spirit, but we would be a shadow of who we are today if, throughout history, we had not had big aspirations and adapted and changed for the times.

And, quite frankly, we are better than we know we are. We are better than others know of us.

Here’s our collective challenge: We must look honestly at our strengths, weaknesses and the challenges ahead of us. As we gaze 20 years into the future, we need to develop a few powerful, transformational ideas that will provide strategic direction, help prioritize investments, spark private support at higher levels — and move the University to a new level of excellence. At the end of our strategic visioning process, everyone needs to feel they’ve been heard.

That’s why I’m crisscrossing the country — from Dayton to Chicago, New York to Los Angeles — to talk to alumni about their dreams for their alma mater.  I’m encouraged by the level of engagement and the wealth of creative ideas.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the core values of UD that resonate with you. What differentiates a UD education? What areas of excellence will we be known for in two decades? What are those areas in which we fall short, and how do we tackle the issues of affordability, accessibility and diversity so that students from all socio-economic walks of life feel welcome and supported?

Thousands have already weighed in, and you can, too, at udayton.edu/VisionUD.

Join me at an upcoming alumni gathering for a dialogue about our future. Tap into weekly online conversations as we grapple with questions about the growing influence of digital educational technologies and the significant trends in American society that will shape the curriculum of the future. Read my fall faculty and staff address, where I candidly lay out the challenges and invite all who love the University of Dayton to help shape our aspirational vision.

We teach our students to adapt and change in a changing world, still true to the urgings of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Today, we embrace that same challenge — with imagination and faith in our future.

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Walking through Warsaw

11:22 AM  Dec 15th, 2016
by Charles Wolan ’53

In 2003 when I visited Poland, as I walked around the city of Warsaw, I would see on almost every corner a small shrine of flowers and burning candles.

These were reminders of the people that have been shot and killed on that corner. One might have a marker reading, “At this place 21 people were shot by Nazis,” and as you approached another, the marker might read, “120 people were shot at this place,” and so on.

One morning as I was walking through Warsaw, I was very interested in knowing more about the Warsaw Ghetto. As I came upon a taxi, I asked the driver in German if the Ghetto was within walking distance from where we were. He said he thought it was too far to walk. So I asked him if he could drive me there. He obliged, and we were off to the Ghetto.

When we arrived there, I was surprised to see all the memorials and the beautiful parks. As I was walking around the Ghetto, it began to rain. There I was, stranded without an umbrella or raincoat. When I ran for shelter, a man approached me who happened to speak English. He was a Jew visiting the Ghetto where he once had friends and relatives confined in 1943. As I was about to leave, the man took off his raincoat and gave it to me.

“Please take this raincoat,” he said. “This is the least I can do for you since I recall what you Americans did to free us Jewish people during those depressing years here in the Ghetto and in Europe.”

As we parted, I held back tears. We said goodbye, never to see each other again. To this day, I keep the raincoat as a reminder that Jesus was also a Jew.

Who was this man?

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The unsung heroes of college life

10:44 AM  Dec 15th, 2016
by Emily Keane ’16

Two floors up, hidden in the halls of St. Joe’s, you can hear minds racing. They’re thinking, analyzing, writing. You can hear pencils tapping and witness eyes glued to the broken clock above the door. Students hurriedly finish last paragraphs while professors passionately discuss the election season or Thomas Hobbes or the role of a member of Congress. There are young minds starving to learn. As the nearby chapel bells clang, the chaotic rustle of books collected and crescendo of voices begin. Here, in a 132-year-old building, minds are expanding, opinions developing, lives changing.

There is a familiar repetitiveness in the everyday; but amidst lectures and grading and casual conversations, there is passion. Heated debates. Eyes being opened for the first time. The spirit of learning floats through the halls and beckons students to grab it and hold on tight. Professors are here, eager and willing to teach beyond borders. Genuine and kind in nature, they are ready to challenge those students thirsting for knowledge. They take them under their wings and transform their lives.

There are some self-interested professors across the country just trying to elevate their careers. Students exist to buy their books and keep their paychecks coming. Others don’t even bother to learn their students’ names, let alone meet with them. They’re there to get ahead and do their scholarly work. Teaching, rather than the primary role, is a necessary evil, a rung in their ladder to get to the top. Students become collateral damage in a professor’s self-promotion.

But “educate” means “leads forth.” Professors are meant to teach, engage and guide students. At the very least, they should recognize faces. But the best teachers don’t just stop there. The truly great teachers walk with their students, stretching their intellect and pushing their limits. They learn with their students and find joy in the journey.

This is what the great men and women do in the freezing rooms of St. Joseph Hall. The material can be dense and the lectures boring, but these professors gave me passion and purpose when I had none. My teachers, ardent about their work, honest and knowledgeable, and incredibly qualified, challenged and shaped me throughout my undergraduate career. They not only mentored me but cared deeply. Their heart-felt sincerity permeates everything they do, and it’s these great teachers that constantly kept me going.

To anyone still in college, be it bright-eyed beginners, bleary learners unsure of why they’re here, exhausted students who feel like giving up or seniors finishing up their college career, here is my advice to you: become friends with your professors. I wish someone had told me this as a freshman. Find a mentor who will challenge you and truly care. Amidst the parties and clubs and the unceasing, exhausting balancing-act that is college, it’s hard to focus on academics when you have 23,056 other things on your plate.

But this is why you’re here. Your mentors are invaluable to your learning experience. They can inspire and motivate you, help advance your career, and most of all, they can teach you. They’ll show you the intricacies of a specific subject or help you find your passion. They’ll slip in things you never thought you’d learn and along the way, they’ll teach you about life. The scholars that annoy you with pop quizzes and papers due on a Sunday are worth getting to know. Because they’ll change the way you learn, the way you think and maybe even your life.

A special thanks to my greatest teacher, Dan Birdsong of the political science department, who is a truly passionate, admirable and inspirational professor, adviser, mentor and friend. Though I was often an unwanted guest, he always answered my questions and taught me so much during those office-hour chats. He helped me become a better student and helped me understand myself. He expanded my worldview and taught me much more than how to analyze an election or the complexities of the presidency. He challenged me, motivated me, and taught me about politics and life. I will always be grateful for the lessons and advice. I only hope that the impact on future students will be as bright and magnificent as his bowties.

Thank you to all the wonderful professors who taught me knowledge, supported me, helped me understand the world and encouraged me. You all shaped and formed me through your classes, conversations and constant support. I believe that teaching is a thankless job but an essential and noble profession. The reason we can achieve anything is because of our teachers who first guide us. Thanks to the giants who paved the way and showed me what I might become.

Emily Keane is now applying lessons learned in St. Joe’s as a secondary education English teacher in the Peace Corps in Ukraine where she will be working for the next two years.

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Feels like winning

10:28 AM  Dec 15th, 2016
by Brandon Paluch, S.M. ’06

Four-year-old Chloe came from Nairobi, Kenya, to St. Louis for the ceremony. She had come with her family to witness her uncle, Brother Michael Chiuri, S.M., profess his perpetual vows, as I also was doing. Some of our fellow Marianists had come from Hawaii; they placed beautiful leis around the necks of Mike and me. Chloe was impressed.

After the vows, Chloe and her family continued their journey to our community in Los Angeles. After her initial exploration of the house, she found some Play-Doh in my room (a sentimental gift from a UD grad) that she wanted to play with, so she asked if she could. Like a good Marianist, I thought of Mary, so I said, “Yes.”

Seeing she had something, Mike asked, “Did you ask if you could play with that?”

“Yes!” Chloe exclaimed, as she continued playing.

“Who did you ask?”

“The other one!”

“Who?”

“The other one!”

“The other who?”

“The other winner!”

Chloe assumed that the Hawaiian leis around our necks were signs of victory.

Sometimes it feels like that, like winning. It was that way when I first stepped foot on this campus and knew it was home, unaware that for me that feeling was a vocational call in seed form, the gentle, persistent voices of Jesus and Mary. Perhaps coming to UD has been that way for you, too — a gift beyond price, an undeserved victory to be welcomed into this community of love where friendships are forged, gifts are realized, and passions are enflamed and equipped for transformation in our world.

And how God has blessed me not only to study at UD and be inspired by the Marianists I met but also by students, friends and colleagues.

We thank God for calling each of us, not from a distance and in general, but intimately, personally and specifically. God calls most to marriage and the beauty of family life. I stand in awe before the selfless sacrifices of parents and am so grateful for those saying yes to a faith-filled marriage. I thank God for the labor and love of committed single people who witness to the Gospel with a radical trust and generosity. I give thanks, too, because God is still calling people to Marianist religious life as sisters, brothers and priests.

Some, like me, may have just stumbled onto this campus thinking about nothing more than going to college. Others have experienced an enticing, perhaps unsettling, stirring of God in their heart. Still others may be waiting for your invitation or encouragement in order to have the courage to take the next step.

I think it’s safe to say we are all winners.

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Records smashed

10:11 AM  Dec 15th, 2016
by Thomas M. Columbus

Women’s soccer wins A-10 championship, beating No. 1 seed 7-10

The women soccer Flyers beat No. 1 seed Saint Joseph’s 7-0 in the Nov. 6 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament title game. UD has won a league-record 10 A-10 championships (1996, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016).

The first title, in 1996, and this year’s were won in Rhode Island. Mike Tucker, who retired at the end of this season, was head coach for all 10 titles.

The seven Flyer goals set the A-10 tournament record for goals in a single match.

“Soccer is an imperfect game,” Tucker said. “This one was as close to perfect as any Flyer game I’ve seen.”

The Flyers were not scored on in the tournament, defeating Saint Louis 2-0 in the quarterfinals and George Washington 3-0 in the semifinals. Goalkeeper Kaelyn Johns broke the A-10 tournament record for individual shutouts.

Junior Alexis Kiehl broke the tournament record for points (12) and goals scored (5). Senior Libby Leedom tied the A-10 championship single game record for points (7).

Kiehl and Leedom each had a goal and an assist in the Flyers’ NCAA tournament game in Columbus against Ohio State, but the Flyers lost 3-2, ending their season at 9-10-3 overall.

“I could see the team getting better,” said Tucker of the games leading up to the tournament, “but then something just clicked for them. The tournament was as good a three-game stretch as we’ve ever had.”

The end of any season, Tucker said, brings with it a total shift. “You’ve been going 200 miles per hour,” he said. “You’re on the field every day.”

This year, with retirement, the shift is permanent. He said he won’t miss the sleepless nights, an occupational hazard of coaching.

“I will miss,” he said, “the players, the coaches, the interactions.”

He talked of the players as a father might talk of his children.

“It’s hard,” he said. “But you just have to let them grow up. Let them make mistakes. But you give them the information hoping they don’t. The best days for me are when alums come through the door. Makes you feel you’ve been doing something pretty good.”

He also observed that coaches tend to dwell more on the agony of defeat than the joy of victory. But that 7-0 championship win will bring him joy for many years.

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Alone in the Rec

10:04 AM  Dec 15th, 2016
by Jeremiah Bonsu ’17

In 2013, my freshman year at Dayton, I went to our gym, the RecPlex, every day. I’m talking every single day.

Classes were done? Off to the Rec.

Friday night? Rec.

Saturday morning? Rec.

I probably spent more time hooping than I spent in my dorm room. I think other kids noticed. But not like, “Oh, that kid’s really good at basketball.” Nah, it was more like, “Oh, that Jeremiah kid down the hall? He’s a weirdo. He never goes out.”

I remember spending my first Halloween on campus alone in the Rec, where the only sounds in the whole place were my bouncing basketball and my sneakers screeching on the waxed hardwood floor.

All the hours I spent there — I kept telling myself they’d be worth it. If there was one thing I had learned, it was that I should never give up. And after freshman year was over, I went back home and continued to work hard in the gym.

I was determined to get a chance to play on a D-I squad, and I was going to do anything to make that a possibility.  At the beginning of my sophomore year, a few days after dropping off my résumé and cover letter at Dayton’s athletic department, I received an email from a graduate assistant that said I would get a 10-minute tryout. It didn’t sound like much, but I was intent on making the most of it.

At the tryout, I ran around some cones, put up a few shots and showed the graduate assistant my handle. When my 10 minutes were up he blew his whistle and called me to the sideline. I could tell by the tone of his voice that I hadn’t made it.

“I love your heart, Jeremiah,” he said, “but all the spots on the team are filled. We do have one opening on the bench for a team manager. Is there any chance you would want to fill that role?”

I was sad, but getting a spot at the end of the bench sounded like the next best thing to actually making the team.

“Yeah, I’ll gladly do that.”

Before I left he gave me one piece of advice.

“Always bring your basketball shoes to practice,” he said. “You’ll want to be ready to impress someone.”

He was right. At practices, the coaches would play me in scrimmages. I’d get right up into a starter’s face, call out picks and do all sorts of little things to show my attention to detail. After practice ended, I’d stick around to clean up and then shoot around for an hour or more.

Early on in the 2014–15 season, something crazy happened. Three players suffered season-ending injuries, and two more were dismissed from the team due to an off-court incident. That left us with only seven scholarship players.

I was sitting on the bench with a ball in my lap after practice one day when Bill Comar, Dayton’s director of basketball operations, sat down next to me.

“Hey, Bonsu, I’ve got a question for you.”

My heart skipped a beat, but I didn’t say anything.

“You know the situation we’re in with losing all these bodies. How would you like to be …”

“Yes!”

We both laughed.

“You didn’t let me finish!”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!”

I was going to be a walk-on for the Dayton Flyers.

I haven’t played a single second yet. But I know my time will come. It always has. It’s just a matter of how much effort I put into the game.

I want to be a coach. And not just any coach — I want to lead a top-tier D-I program. Trust me, I’m going to be putting in the work to achieve this dream. I don’t know any other way.

See The Players’ Tribune at bit.ly/UDM_Bonsu for the original, longer version of Bonsu’s essay.

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New coach, fast transition

9:44 AM  Dec 15th, 2016
by Thomas M. Columbus

But new women’s basketball coach knows her team well. 

On Sept. 7, Shauna Green was beginning her second year as an assistant coach for the Northwestern University women’s basketball team. On that day in Dayton, Jim Jabir, head coach for women’s basketball at Dayton, announced, “I am resigning today from the best job I’ve ever had. … I feel it’s now time to take care of my family and my personal health.”

On Sept. 11, it was announced in Dayton that Green, an assistant at Dayton from 2012 to 2015, would be the new head coach. As a player at Canisius, Green became the only women’s basketball player in school history to score more than 2,000 points. She also ranked second there in career rebounds (910).

“Basketball is my passion,” said Green.

But she did not set out to be a coach. “I was a business and marketing major,” she said. “I first thought about coaching in my junior year.”

After graduation, she planned to play overseas. An injured ankle derailed that plan. Instead she took an assistant’s job at Loras College. After three years, she was Loras’ head coach. Then followed stints at Providence, Dayton and Northwestern.

On Sept. 14, she was back in Dayton to be introduced as head coach at a news conference. That night she was making an in-home visit to a recruit.

“The timing of the change was hard,” Green admitted.

Rules allow teams to practice two hours per week during the month of September. While taking over those practices, Green had to pick up on recruiting because September is a contact period. She spent most of the month on the road. She was familiar with recruiting for Dayton, however, having recruited many of the current team’s players.

“I recruited or coached all but two of them,” Green said.

Having those relationships established has eased the transition. Green believes coaching “is about relationships. It used to be that, as players, you just listened to the coach. Now, the players have to know that you care about them.”

Players have to know that they must work hard. But also important, Green said, is that “we

show them there is a reason for what we want them to do, a purpose to it, a reason why we do something. We need to say, ‘Here’s what we expect and why.’”

She’s been happy with the team’s mentality in practice. About early preseason practices, she said, “Only one practice did they start slow; they were not at the energy level they need.”

She did add, “It was at 6 a.m., though.”

 

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Distinctive

4:11 PM  Dec 9th, 2016
by Thomas M. Columbus

What’s at the heart of being a Marianist?

We asked that of Father William J. Meyer, S.M., provincial assistant for religious life of the Marianist Province of the
United States.

The distinctive trait at the heart of anyone or anything which is “Marianist” is probably the combination of two characteristics: zeal and mission. Look at the dynamic statue of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Marianist Family, which graces the plaza behind UD’s Kennedy Union to notice that Blessed Father Chaminade is represented as filled with a zealous energy, a person definitely on a mission. (See video of the statue below.)

From where did this concern for “zeal and mission” in the Marianist tradition emanate? In founding the Marianist Family — the first lay groups of the Sodality of Bordeaux (1800), the Marianist sisters (the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, 1816) and the Marianist brothers and priests (the Society of Mary, 1817), Blessed William Joseph took inspiration from the Rule of Saint Benedict. In what many refer to the crowning chapter of his Rule, Benedict speaks of the importance of “good zeal.” Like Saint Benedict, Blessed Father Chaminade liked the word “zeal” — a powerful word that is used in the Scriptures. And there is something about Benedict and Chaminade that is zealous. As I look at the UD statue of Chaminade, I see energy, a fire burning within, the fire of the Holy Spirit — the good zeal of God’s grace.

Marianists encourage one another and others they encounter using our saintly founder’s words: “The essential is the interior.” If we pay attention to the interior life of God’s graceful promptings, the direction of the Holy Spirit will help each of us do our part to bear Jesus, as Mary did, to a waiting world. Blessed Father Chaminade believed that we could best be attentive to this presence and movement of God within by being part of a community, religious and lay, as mission-driven members of the Church. Chaminade believed that all Marianists and indeed all baptized members of the Church are in a permanent mission of responding with zeal to this grace of bringing about the Kingdom of Jesus.

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Powder-blue jerseys and dental plates

9:00 AM  Nov 29th, 2016
by Doug Harris ’79

It was about more than hockey.

Walt DeAnna ’62 didn’t expect many perks for the fledgling hockey program at Dayton when he became coach in 1963-64. But he believed the school could at least provide the bare essentials, and he wasn’t afraid to push for them.

Instead of having the Flyers wearing second-hand uniforms donated by a local pro club, DeAnna sought out Harry Baujan, the athletic director then, to see about getting jerseys in the traditional UD colors of Columbia blue and red.

“I asked him, ‘Do you have any old football jerseys?’” DeAnna recalled. “He took me down to the stadium, and there was a bunch of old jerseys: powder blue, red numbers, and red-and-blue stripes on the sleeves. But they were the kind with the tails that you buttoned underneath you to keep the jersey in.

“I got all the tackle and guard jerseys I could, and we cut off the tails. Those were our jerseys the first couple years.”

The Flyers often had to make do without top-of-the-line gear, even after transitioning from a club team to the non-scholarship varsity level in 1964-65.

But DeAnna still managed to build a winning program by providing structure, attracting top talent and developing bonds with his players that have only grown stronger with time.

“I tell people all the time, ‘If you don’t have a Walt, you don’t have a hockey program,’” said Bill Bommarito ’77, a four-year captain. “You need people like Walt DeAnna to make that happen.”

The program had an unlikely pioneer. Although DeAnna was from Windsor, Ontario, he wasn’t a hockey buff like most native Canadians, playing only sporadically at the youth level.

But he picked it up again when he attended college, choosing Dayton after hearing about it through his high school vice principal, Paul Donoher, who was the brother of UD Hall of Fame basketball coach Don Donoher ’54.

Playing in the school’s first hockey games as a freshman in 1958, DeAnna would become the team’s leading scorer each of his four years. One year after he graduated, the team needed a coach, and he was urged by younger brother Mario ’65 and other players to take the job.

“I told them, ‘If we could ever get it to be a varsity team, I’ll spend some time with it,’” DeAnna said.

That wasn’t an easy sell. Before securing varsity status, DeAnna had to get the blessing of Baujan’s successor, Tom Frericks ’53.

“I told him the guys were scrounging around for $10 or $25 to rent the ice and pay the referees,” DeAnna recalled. “He said, ‘I tell you what, you run it one year the way you’re running it, and you report back with your financials and all the things you’re doing. If I think it’s worthwhile, I’ll take it to the athletic board.’”

One year later, DeAnna and the Flyers did enough to win Frericks’ support. The board was also swayed, approving a $1,500 budget.

“Frericks never asked how many wins or losses I had. He just knew we were taking care of 25 to 30 kids who wanted to play hockey,” DeAnna said. “And we had some interest on campus from people who wanted to see us play.”

DeAnna had a career record of 211-107-16 in his 22 varsity seasons with four conference championships while playing mostly against other college programs around the state.

He routinely corralled seasoned players from hockey-mad cities such as Boston, Detroit and Chicago as well as about a half-dozen prospects each year who had Division-I scholarship offers.

The recruits fell in love with UD and liked DeAnna’s balanced approach.

“I’d say, ‘If you come here, your big game each year is going to be Oberlin. But if you want to be a doctor or lawyer, if your parents want some grades from you, you can’t say hockey is going to interfere with your school. You’ll graduate with a 3.2 instead of a 2.1 and play 18 to 19 games and keep your interest — rather than playing 60 games and practicing every day for a couple hours,” he said.

“Surprisingly, a lot of the kids decided to come to the school because of that.”

They certainly didn’t come for the amenities. UD paid for the ice time for twice-a-week practices and home games at Troy Arena or wherever a rink could be found, while also ponying up for uniforms, refs and a modest $3.50 per diem on the road.

The players had to shell out for their skates and padding. And they were careful not to break their hockey sticks because those came out of their pockets, too.

“We knew we weren’t football players. We knew we weren’t basketball players. We knew we weren’t scholarship players in any way, shape or form,” said Bommarito, a St. Louis resident. “But I think the thing we always had on our mind was that our jerseys said, ‘The University of Dayton.’ We had a chance, maybe not with the brightest of lights, of representing the University with the something we loved doing.”

Though the opposition was also of the non-scholarship variety, games were fierce. The Flyers embraced physical contact and sometimes even initiated it.

“I’ve got a (dental) plate. I lost a couple choppers,” said former player Peter King ’77, a Philadelphia product. “Some guy put the butt end of his stick down my throat.”

Under DeAnna, the Flyers were tough. They finished under .500 only twice and went 18-1-1 in his last season in 1985-86.

The program is still going strong though it reverted to the club level again in 1990 when UD joined the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

The news of the program being de-emphasized was a sad day for the varsity alumni, but they still take great pride in having been Flyers and are grateful for DeAnna’s lasting impact. They affectionately call him “The Mentor.”

Since many are now too old to suit up for the annual alumni game in Dayton, they have begun a fall tradition of spending a weekend playing golf and swapping stories with the 76-year-old DeAnna near his home in Port Charlotte, Florida.

“Walt was all the things you’d want in a father without coming down super hard on you,” King said. “He was the kind of guy you could talk to when you made a mistake. He stood up for his guys. He made it fun, but he never put up with our juvenile behavior.”

DeAnna, whose annual coaching salary topped out at $150, worked full time as a salesman for E.F McDonald in Dayton and stayed with the company after it was sold. He and his wife, Marilou, raised three children (all UD grads).

He traveled for work, but he always made time for his players.

“When I think of the Marianists — because I was fortunate to go to a Marianist high school and then a Marianist university — I always think of how their No. 1 asset is an ability to create community and make people feel part of something very special,” Bommarito said.

“That’s what Walt did.”

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The mess we’re in

9:00 AM  Nov 23rd, 2016
by Phil Aaron, S.M. ’54

When I was a secondary school principal, I dreaded the visit of my provincial, Father William Ferree, S.M. He had elaborate solutions to all my problems. I thought he didn’t understand the reality of the situation.

He was, however, a genius.

True, an absent-minded one: He once came out to celebrate Mass without a chasuble; the server had to remind him to complete his vestments. He was intense, whether he was giving a tennis lesson or tackling large social problems, classifying Marianist historical documents or clearing a road with heavy equipment.

He never met a situation that was too big or too difficult to address. He addressed not individual problems but the big picture. He expected the same from others.

And he did not like whiners.

That is evident in his influential book, Introduction to Social Justice. He did not see complaining about institutions as a good beginning to changing them. To him, social charity requires us to give unconditional love to the institutions that we have created just as we would to another person, whether or not that person is perfect. This “mess we’re in” (as he phrased it) is our global reality, the imperfect, untidy and developing gift from God through which we achieve ever higher and higher levels of human flourishing.

The mess is a gift from God. Our first task is to accept it as a gift of love.

According to Ferree, the act of social justice, that is, what one does to practice virtue, requires us to join with others to reconstruct all institutions from the family to global organizations like the United Nations. Drawing on the social encyclicals of popes, he taught that all virtues have a social dimension because humans were made to be in relationship.

They are wired to work together.

Our obligations will vary, he taught, based on our relationship to the institution, our family being our first obligation. He stressed the need for competence and professionalism in working to reconstruct the social
order.

To merely protest that an institution is not perfect, according to Ferree, alienates one from efforts to reconstruct it. He admitted that social reconstruction is a complicated, gigantic problem, one that never would be completely solved. He preached, however, humans are continually finding new tools with which to address the complexity of the problem and that our responsibility was to manage change and reorganize continually.

One of his “laws” — Cooperation, not Conflict — presents particular problems for social activists who see a duty to protest an unjust situation without understanding its complexity and the good that may exist alongside the injustice in a complex organization. Ferree did not advocate destructive revolution but creative collaboration.

The “mess we’re in” is made up of institutions that humans have organized. Ferree sees this work of humans, this mess, as an image of God, the means God has chosen through us to deliver his grace. These institutions — from the UN to the church to the family — are imperfect. We need to accept them in their imperfection and to continually reorganize them.

As a young principal, I was trying to solve particular problems. Father Ferree was trying to alleviate their causes; he was trying to change the world.

“Introduction to Social Justice” by William Ferree, S.M., can be found at bit.ly/UDM_Ferree_introsocialjustice.

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