An album by Chris Yakopcic ’09.
A musician’s life vacillates from hours of solitary work to roars of au-dience appreciation. Blues writer and guitarist Chris Yakopcic heard quite a roar earlier this year at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. He was one of 10 finalists in the solo competition, performing four tunes, including “Sweet Time Blues.” Yakopcic plays fingerstyle acoustic guitar, drawing from both Delta and Piedmont blues. His first CD, Done Found My Freedom ’fore My Technique, will be followed this fall by a new release. Yakopcic plays several venues in the Dayton region; he can most often be found at Dayton’s Tumbleweed Connection and always at chrisyakopcicmusic.com.No Comments
A film by Glenn Gebhard ’72.
The United States has just restored relations with Cuba, but Glenn Gebhard has visited and filmed documentaries there for nearly two decades. Gebhard studied Spanish at UD. “I was interested in what a socialist country looked like,” he said. This year’s Cuba: The Forgotten Revolution is the fourth Cuba film by Gebhard, professor of film production at Loyola Marymount University. He worked with UD history professor Juan Santamarina on 2006’s Lifetime of Passion, which looks at people in Cuba and in the exile community in Miami. The other titles are Dreaming a New Cuba and Crossing Borders: A Cuban Returns.No Comments
A book by Patricia Skalka ’68.
When Patricia Skalka stepped through the Flyer News doorway, she knew she was walking into life as a writer. Now she’s stepped away from nonfiction to create mysteries set in Door County, Wisconsin. Her protagonist, Dave Cubiak, is a displaced former Chicago homicide detective. Critics have praised Skalka for details that convey a sharp sense of place. They also admire the puzzles of her mysteries and her treatment of characters. Her first mystery, Death Stalks Door County, was published in 2014. Her second book, Death at Gills Rock, was published earlier this year, and the third is in the works.No Comments
A blog by Christine Smith Grote ’79.
Christine Smith Grote writes to connect with people. Her blog, “Random Thoughts from Midlife,” started in January 2011 as she was publishing a memoir about her beloved sister Annie, born with severe brain damage. She also has shared her father’s experience with Alzheimer’s and her mother’s death from cancer. Readers respond, and Grote loves the connections. “You really can establish a support community online,” she said. Grote tackles more than 30 categories, ranging from publishing to gardening. Posts about her husband’s bilateral knee surgery are particularly popular with readers hungry for such information.No Comments
In a social media-centered society that hungers for the next post or tweet, Pope Francis’ argument for a new partnership between science and religion to combat human-driven climate change quickly spread around the globe.
But while world leaders, scientists and presidential candidates alike continue to weigh in on the pope’s urgent appeal for dialogue about the global problem, the impact his words will have nationally is uncertain.
“Given the political climate and presidential campaign underway, it is very unlikely that the pope’s encyclical will precipitate any federal government action on climate change,” Michelle Pautz, director of the Master of Public Administration Program and associate professor of political science. “The political dynamics are such that other than some responses – be it speeches or press releases – to the Pope’s visit and documents, the encyclical is unlikely to have any significant impact on U.S. policy on climate change.”
While Pautz thinks the papal message might raise awareness among some subsections of the population, the likelihood of it translating into policy action is unlikely.
“Climate change has become far too divisive in American politics in recent years; indeed, it’s increasingly a litmus test for political affiliation,” she said. “Political behavior research has little to suggest that voters base their decisions at the ballot box on environmental positions.”
Marianist Sister Leanne Jablonski, Scholar In Residence for Faith and Environment at UD’s Hanley Sustainability Institute, believes there is potential for policy change. Congregational, local and state initiatives – from conserving natural areas to renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions – are creating healthier air, more jobs and addressing climate change.
“Out of the faith community’s work at reconciliation and change came the end of apartheid and the rise of the civil rights movement,” Jablonski said. “The faith community spans the political spectrum and if we act together, for justice, we can make a difference over time.”
The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception means something special to each of us for different reasons. Senior Ryan Phillips — the face of Red Scare, one of the longest-tenured student workers at the RecPlex and a Eucharistic minister — sat down with us to talk about his chapel moments.
Squint at first sight
I didn’t plan to attend the University of Dayton, but in the fall of my senior year, my family and I visited anyway. It was the stereotypical college day. As my tour passed through the center of campus, I squinted in the sun to look up at the blue dome of the chapel.
Breaking up is hard to do
There would be certain times when I would just go and sit in the chapel. I was there with my brother and one of my best friends a few weeks after my breakup with my high school girlfriend. There weren’t many words, but there was that comforting feeling of “I’m here with you.”
You go to any church back home, and a lot of people are just sort of sitting there. They’re doing their “hour of the week.” When I go to the chapel 10 minutes before Mass here, everybody is sitting there laughing and hugging and talking about
their weekends. That was the first time I saw and understood true community.
Center of it all
After returning from the UD Summer Appalachia Program, I realized that everything at UD is focused on the Marianist charism. It’s at the core of every decision we make. Brothers live in the middle of the student neighborhoods, and the chapel is in the heart of campus. The blue dome is so prominent because it is so symbolic of what
the University is based on: our faith.
Friends in faith
As a first-year student, I sat in the chapel with 40 other students for the Callings Christian leadership program. It was centered around the
Marianist tradition. That day, I met a lot of people with whom I have led retreats, and we’ve stayed friends. This year, I’m even living with three of them.
Brothers who pray together …
I just sat there and talked to my brother for an hour. That conversation wasn’t just between me and my brother, but between me, my brother and God because we were sitting in front of the Eucharist. Even in the moments when we sat in silence, we bonded over that.
Elvis. Aerosmith. Elton John. Frank Sinatra.
The greats all performed at UD Arena, on the same floor that also welcomed boxers, comedians, gymnasts and other entertainers, said Gary McCans ’68, the director of event services at UD Arena.
The Arena opened in 1969 to entertain men’s basketball fans excited by the team’s 1968 NIT victory and 1967 NCAA Tournament run to the finals.
“When the Arena opened, we were the largest privately owned facility in Ohio,” McCans said.
McCans started working in the ticket office at the Arena immediately after it opened. Every time a new act came through, his staff would have to set aside tickets for a year, in case the IRS or a promoter needed an audit.
After a year passed, McCans grabbed a few tickets from each event and started placing them in a box.
He now has hundreds of tickets, colorful mementos of a bygone era — when a night watching the Beach Boys cost less than $10. It turns out there was an event at the Arena for just about everyone.
“We’ve gone from Lawrence Welk to ZZ Top to country and western — Kenny Rogers and Alabama,” McCans said.
The Portland Trailblazers and Milwaukee Bucks played an exhibition game Oct. 4, 1974, featuring Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was the first time in their Hall of Fame careers that the former UCLA centers had faced off.
A post about McCans’ tickets on Facebook brought out more memories.
“My very first concert was at UD Arena — Def Leppard’s Hysteria Tour 1987,” wrote Michelle Brooks.
“(I) think I was paid $20 to be a student usher for Queen. Great show,” wrote Tom Didato in another post.
While the Arena still hosts the circus and WGI Color Guard World Championships, many other acts now choose larger venues in Columbus and Cincinnati, where promoters can sell up to 20,000 tickets, compared to UD Arena’s 13,455 or fewer, depending on stage configuration.
Back when the Arena first hosted concerts, acts would bring three or four semis of equipment. Now, McCans said, acts can have 20.
“We can’t fit the shows into our building anymore, they just got so big,” McCans said.
Concerts at the Arena may be a thing of the past, but they live on inside McCans’ ticket box and our memories.
What was your ticket to the stars at UD Arena? Share your story below in comments.2 Comments
The clamor of pep bands still echoed around the emptying arena where 7,686 fans had cheered on a game that showcased the best of women’s basketball, including lightning passes and sprints across the centerline that had even the mascots in a sweat.
But outside, it was quiet on the Flyers’ idling bus. Six-foot-4-inch center Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova shuffled down the aisle carrying a 3-foot poster board of her head. Screaming fans had waved it an hour ago. Now, in the dim light of the bus, it was an anachronism.
Players sat alone, faces in cell phones, waiting for the long trip home after the team’s largest loss of the season.
Whether it was from exhaustion or dejection, coach Jim Jabir wasn’t having it.
Listen up, he said. You need to hear three things:
“Coach [Geno] Auriemma just told the whole world and me that we’re the best team he’s played in the last five years.
“UConn assistant coach Chris Dailey came running back to me and said, ‘I don’t know what you do, but every one of your kids looked us in the eye when we shook hands. That’s special.’
“And a member of the ESPN crew went out of his way to tell me that, in his 35 years, he’s never enjoyed being around a group as much as my team.”
Two weeks later, Jabir sat in his Cronin Center office reflecting on his team’s historic run to the Elite Eight, including its first-half lead against top-ranked and eventual national champion Connecticut, something no other team accomplished this season. He was so proud.
“I think we ask a lot of them,” Jabir said of his players, “and when they get it right, they need to hear it.”
The women’s basketball team got a lot right this season. The regular season saw the Flyers go 28-7 overall and win the Atlantic 10 regular-season title with a record of 14-2. The team’s four-year seniors topped 100 career wins during their fourth — and the program’s sixth — consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
And then there was the NCAA Tournament run and the game that impressed UConn’s coaches and the rest of the basketball world.
The season was defined by teamwork and hard work, locker-room dances and goofy jokes, skill and perseverance. Most of all, the team believed it could win, so it did, over and over, along the way becoming one of the eight best women’s programs in the nation.
When the cheerleaders jumped in unison, it made your stomach do a little flip. Several hundred fans packed into the Time Warner Cable Flight Deck with the pep band and cheerleaders for the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Selection Show March 16. At every syllable of D-A-Y-T-O-N, the cheerleaders bounced, and the floor suspended above the UD Arena swayed just a bit.
That feeling of having your feet not firmly planted under you — whether from excitement or uncertainty — was familiar to Flyer fans this season. At the selection show it was butterflies of anticipation, just as it was at the very start of the season. Returning were seniors Ally Malott, Andrea Hoover and Tiffany Johnson among a talented cast that included Jenna Burdette, a freshman point guard who would help direct the team’s winning offense.
But the season started with trips west that had the Flyers losing three of their first four games. Inexperienced players fouled and sent opponents to the line. Slow rotations left the opposing players with wide-open shots. UD’s bigs got beat on the inside.
Making mistakes — and learning from them — was what the Flyers were there to do, Jabir said after a 90-83 loss to Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
And learn they did. After a 77-33 win at home Jan. 21 over the Rhode Island Rams, Hoover told the Dayton Daily News that depth and consistency had become hallmarks of this year’s team.
“You can’t focus on just one player,” she said of her opponents’ strategy playing the Flyers. “If you do, the other four on the floor can hurt you. We got away from that a little at the beginning this year, but we’re getting back to it now, and it’s making us a better team.”
Losing, it turned out, made them more motivated.
Three times this season, the Flyers met George Washington on the court. Dayton played — and lost — both home and away, and then faced the Colonials again in the Atlantic 10 tournament final.
The Flyers adjusted their game to contain 6-4 forward Jonquel Jones — but instead of succeeding, they broke everything they had built. They didn’t get beat by just Jones, Hoover said; the Flyers got beat by the entire Colonials team. Final score: 75-62.
“A lot of people doubted us because, how can you guys lose to the same team three times?” Hoover said, noting she heard rumblings that the Flyers didn’t belong in the NCAA Tournament. “It made us kind of angry.”
Anger can be a strong motivator. So can feeling slighted, like when the team received a lower-than-expected No. 7 seed on Selection Monday.
First up for the Flyers in the round of 64 was 10th-seed Iowa State, a game played in Lexington, Kentucky. Another slight came from President Barack Obama, who filled out his NCAA bracket and picked the Flyers to lose to these sharpshooters. The Flyers beat Iowa State, 78-66.
“We busted his bracket,” Hoover said.
Next up for the Flyers in the round of 32 was No. 2-seed Kentucky on March 22. Media coverage before the game all but ordained an eventual Elite Eight meeting between Kentucky and UConn.
But being discounted didn’t dampen the Flyers’ conviction. In fact, players said it was this second-round game — played on Kentucky’s home court in front of 3,300 fans in blue surrounding a small section of red — that solidified the Flyers’ belief in themselves.
The game was a scorcher, with nine lead changes and nine ties. Going into a timeout, the Flyers were down 10 but never felt out of the hunt.
“I was never scared, even though it was so close,” said Malott, who ended the game with a team-high 28 points and 13 rebounds. “In games in the past, I could feel it slipping away — you try to do something about it, but you can’t.”
This time, she said, everyone stepped up.
Eight Flyers played, necessitated by five fouls that sat Hoover on the bench for nearly half the game. Cornelie-
Sigmundova and Burdette also fouled out.
Jabir said that every time someone was needed, she stepped up. Sophomore Saicha Grant-Allen came in for Cornelie-Sigmundova and scored six. Junior Amber Deane added 23 points in 28 minutes played, including a 3 with 24 seconds left that put the Flyers up by four. Senior Tiffany Johnson sunk all four of her shots from the free-throw line late in the game. Junior Kelley Austria scored 17, including a 3 that gave the Flyers the lead for good.
In the second half, Dayton made 64 percent of its shots and five of its eight 3-point attempts. For the game, the Flyers were 28 of 31 from the free-throw line.
Final score: Flyers 99, Wildcats 94, and UD’s first ticket to the Sweet 16.
In the locker room, freshman JaVonna Layfield danced. Cornelie-Sigmundova jumped from floor to bench, head thrown back in a victorious cry. Sophomores Christy Macioce and Andrijana Cvitkovic hugged teammates. When Jabir entered the locker room, Malott and then the rest of the team swarmed him and rubbed his close-cropped hair. Jabir broke out in a laugh.
It’s funny, Jabir said. You go to the tournament five years straight and don’t make it out of the first weekend, and you wonder what you’re doing wrong. And then you have a season where everything goes right.
“For 30 years and for all this season we’ve spent trying to get here,” Jabir said to his players in that locker room. “And then we try to get you to believe — we want you to believe. …
“And we believe.”
That belief is what carried the program to its first Sweet 16, in Albany, New York, March 28. The opponent, No. 3-seed Louisville, had experience — five other Sweet 16 appearances since 2008. This would be Dayton’s first — big game, national stage, and focused media attention on the players, the coach and the Sweet 16 tattoo he promised he’d get to commemorate the big day.
The game’s first half was plagued by lead changes and turnovers, including two Flyer passes to the red Louisville Cardinal mascot instead of a red-jerseyed teammate. Dayton led by only a point at halftime, but the second half couldn’t have been choreographed any better. A 3-pointer from Deane capped an 11-2 run. The Flyers made 21 of 25 free throws. At one point, Hoover dribbled and drove to the basket, pirouetted past a defender, and stopped a nd popped in a 2.
This is why they call it dancing.
The final score over Louisville was 82-66, with the Flyers winning a spot in the NCAA Elite Eight, another first for Dayton’s program.
During a press conference Sunday before the Elite Eight game, Jabir had an answer to the question everyone was asking: Does your team have a chance against No. 1 UConn?
Well, he said, it would be really dumb if we didn’t believe we did.
“I think lots of people thought we were going to Kentucky and lose, and I think a lot of people thought we were going to come here yesterday and lose” to Louisville, he said. “And our kids didn’t. I don’t know what it is — maturity? — but when we’ve been in the huddle in the last two or three games, there’s a different look on their faces, a different look in their eyes, and they really, really believe that we’re going to get this done.
“So who am I to tell them that they’re not?”
Malott believed, but she credits the coaching staff for believing first. It’s easy to tell
when a coach is just saying something to get you to work hard, she said. That wasn’t what was happening here.
The night before the UConn game, Malott stood with her teammates waiting for a table at Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse. Life-sized caricatures of Frank Sinatra, Al Pacino and Madonna beckoned from the walls behind them, but the players focused on the television in front of them. No. 1-seed Duke was beating No. 2-seed Gonzaga in the last men’s Elite Eight game of the season. Earlier that day, No. 7-seed Michigan State won a Final Four slot; it would be the only low seed to compete.
“If they win,” Malott said of Duke, “it will be like the women’s Final Four: one-seed, one-seed, one-seed, seven-seed.”
If No. 7-seed Dayton beat UConn.
It was a big “if,” by all accounts. The Huskies were 35-1 going into the Elite Eight, beating their opponents by an average of more than 44 points. Nine-time NCAA national champions since 1995, the Huskies were coming in on a roll, having won championships in both
2013 and 2014.
Being the No. 1-ranked team in the nation for so many seasons lends a certain mystique, one that usually intimidates opponents and puts the Huskies up by an easy 20 early.
No one on Dayton’s team was going to let that happen. As they took the court, Dayton controlled the pace, with freshman Burdette sinking the first field goal of the game. The first half was fast-paced, with an average of 15 seconds ticking off the clock between shots. The lead changed 15 times and was tied 10 times, one score balanced by another at the other end. Austria had 11 points in the first, including a zig-zag-zig around UConn defenders for a 2.
And then the halftime buzzer rang, and the audience exhaled for the first time in 20 minutes of play. Dayton was up by a point, 44-43. It was the first time UConn had trailed at the half this season — and the first time an opponent had scored so many points against UConn in a first half since March 1, 2008.
“I wanted to run right past the locker room and get on the bus, go home,” said Jabir, his characteristic crooked smile revealing the truth in his wisecrack. “I did. I don’t know if we could have played better, and I knew [UConn was] going to make adjustments. But in those 20 minutes, it was ideal.
“We were fearless; we were not intimidated — the whole NCAA Tournament, we were never intimidated; we were never fearful. We didn’t have to get them mentally prepared for the inevitable. [Our players] thought they were going to win every game they played — that was so cool. Then to catch and shoot and drive, and it was so — including Connecticut — it was so pretty just running up and down, such freedom and flow. It was a beautiful thing to watch.”
In the locker room at halftime, the Flyers went about their normal routine: while the coaching staff discussed strategy in another room, the players analyzed their own performance. They gathered around a whiteboard with Malott as scribe and ticked off what they needed to improve:
• One-on-one defense
• Keep attacking
• Get on (Kaleena) Mosqueda-Lewis — stop her
“He puts a lot of the decision-making on us,” Malott said. The point guard is expected to survey the court and call the plays; the players analyze their performance and anticipate their opponents’ next moves.
Coaches and players finished the halftime with this certainty: UConn would adjust to regain control. That’s how the Huskies came to be No. 1 — skill, intensity, adaptability and killer 3-pointers from senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. The Flyers’ goal: maintain pace and keep UConn from going on a run.
It worked for the first 10 minutes, but then a one-point gain fell to an eight-point deficit that grew through the half. Mosqueda-Lewis kept her footing from beyond the arc, setting an NCAA career 3-point record with 395 baskets made.
The Flyers never regained the lead.
And they never gave up. Buried in the final score of 91-70 is a first half for the record books — and memory books.
“This is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Malott said, “and it’s the way to go out.”
Malott’s memory may be long, but basketball’s is not, despite the Flyers receiving much media attention during the weeks around its NCAA Tournament run.
“The cynic in me understands that this is temporary,” Jabir said. “If we have a losing record next year, no one will remember who I was. So you try to do the best you can now to gain as much from it and enjoy it, understanding that you never stay the same; you either get better or you get worse. My whole point of being right now is to get better.”
That includes answering calls from recruits who this winter never bothered calling him back. It means vetting 12 potential transfers, all interested in playing for that team they saw on TV. His coaching staff watched hours of video, talked to coaches who played against the prospects, met the women to get a feel for their personal and professional goals. Would they be a good fit with the Flyer basketball family? Would they be part of the UD community? Or were the players simply shopping for a shinier jersey with a more successful school?
“I rely on my gut a lot,” he said. “Is the kid being sincere? Sometimes your judgment is right, and sometimes it’s wrong. You try your best.”
One of those Jabir added to the roster was junior Madeline Blais of Marist College, who will bring both
shooting and league tournament experience to the team. As a transfer, she’ll sit out until the 2016-17 season.
While it’s all about making the program better, he’s also a pragmatist and understands the limits of what he can do. You can teach good players to play the game well, he said. But that small pool of really great players? They’re still all headed to UConn. And Stanford. And Notre Dame. And Tennessee.
“It’s difficult to do what we did this year — it’s very difficult,” Jabir said. “… I don’t know if, in the real world, Dayton should aspire
to be more than a first- or second-round team — I don’t know.”
The success of recent years was enough to make Tim Wabler ’74 smile as he sat in Albany after the Sweet 16 game. The vice president and director of athletics said the University made a conscious decision to commit resources to both women’s and men’s basketball programs, and it’s paying off for the school, the players and the fans. Case in point: the growing attendance at the women’s games and the good show fans see at UD Arena.
He’s also excited to see both the women’s and men’s teams playing so far into March each year.
“On a national level, it reinforces that the Dayton community and the University of Dayton are about basketball,” he said. Pointing to the depth of the current women’s roster, Wabler added, “Basketball in Dayton is going to be real exciting in the next three years.”
Dayton isn’t the only women’s program that benefits from the UConn-UD match, characterized by sports reporters as an athletic game between upstanding players in front of supportive fans who travel well.
Former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman released a white paper in 2013 about how to grow women’s basketball throughout the country. Her findings included speeding up women’s games, cultivating fan support, and focusing on vision and
Check, check and check.
“This is what it is supposed to look like,” Jabir said of the Flyers’ Elite Eight first half. “It was so fun to be a part of it on a national level.”
And the national exposure continues.
This spring, Malott and Hoover became the first Flyer women to be drafted into the WNBA. Malott’s first-round pick by the Washington Mystics was the third-highest draft pick of any Dayton student-athlete. She was picked eighth. (Jim Paxson ’56 went third in the 1956 NBA draft, and John Horan ’55 went sixth in the 1955 NBA draft.) Hoover was chosen 31st by the Los Angeles Sparks.
The two teammates were scheduled to become opponents when the Mystics and the Sparks met in Washington, D.C., June 23.
Both Malott and Hoover said it will be strange to be on opposite coasts. For four years, these roommates have been just a bed or a bus seat or table away. At team dinners, Hoover would be talking — saying something completely serious or making a joke — and in the next moment, Malott would fall off her chair, laughing. Any topic is fair game for a ribbing, from Malott’s compulsion with putting ketchup on all meat to Hoover’s obsession with peanut butter.
Watch them talk together, and you’d think they were family. You’d be right. (See story, Page 38.) Jabir said his program’s dynamics are a lot like his family’s. It works, he said, because of the Marianists and the University and their focus on mission and values. Community isn’t just a catchphrase — it permeates his team, too.
An Elite Eight year like we had, he said, does not happen without this campus.
“I think that’s why I’m comfortable here, because the values of this school reflect my values and the program’s values,” said Jabir, who is starting his 13th
season at Dayton. “There’s this synergy that works really, really well, and that’s why we’re
“It’s not just our Elite Eight. It’s everybody’s Elite Eight — because we’re all a product of it.”
Michelle Tedford played basketball in middle school. In high school, basketball conflicted with newspaper paste-up. That was the end of one story and the beginning of many more.No Comments
‘My fondest wish for each and every one of us is that we will find something in our lives worth fighting for because, when we do, we will have found a way to unite the will of the spirit with the work of the flesh, and the world would discover fire for the second time. Then may the light and the heat from that fire confirm our purpose with every thought, every word, every action to help heal a broken world wherever we may find it.’ —Martin Sheen, actor and honorary degree recipient
In the tunnels under UD Arena, one new alumnus was so proud of his degree he couldn’t stop smiling. He greeted every robed and tasseled figure with a hearty hello, a handshake and a congratulations.
While those he greeted likely took four or five years on their UD journey, his took more than 50.
Actor and Daytonian Martin Sheen, 74, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Dayton under his given name, Ramon Estévez, during undergraduate commencement May 3. Like the other 1,441 graduates being honored, he shook hands with President Daniel J. Curran, received his diploma and smiled for the cameras. And then he spoke from the heart in a confluence of emotion and memory:
“It’s a pleasure to return from whence I came for such a special occasion. …
“It is the absolute necessity for justice, healing and mercy that really unites us. …
“We are not asked to do great things; we’re asked to do all things with greater care. …”
The day before, Sheen attended a family reunion in Dayton. Estévez siblings, children and grandchildren gathered around to watch a video created by Sheen’s brother John. It featured photos of their parents, Francisco and Mary-Ann Estévez, immigrants from Spain and Ireland respectively, who raised 10 children in a home along Brown Street. That evening, Sheen attended Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Second Street, where his parents were married in 1927.
“I wasn’t prepared for the deep, emotional crack it made in me,” Sheen said after receiving his degree. “This was about my dad. I had to come here. I had to celebrate him. I had to recognize him.”
And so, the night before the commencement, Sheen rewrote his brief remarks into a speech both funny and heartwarming, one that stoked the fires of social justice — to which he has dedicated himself these last 34 years and for which he was being honored the next day — and gave tribute to his father.
“He was my first hero; he was the best man I ever knew, and I’m honored to remember him this day with thanksgiving and praise,” Sheen said from the stage.
The graduation ceremony was a fulfillment of Francisco’s dream for Sheen — to be a University of Dayton graduate. The dream started at the moment of Sheen’s birth, Aug. 3, 1940. Doctors used forceps to deliver the baby boy, crushing his left shoulder and leaving Sheen with limited use of his left arm. His father was also crushed.
“He thought I was a cripple,” Sheen said, recounting the story to a group of students after the ceremony. And so Francisco, an NCR factory worker who Sheen says likely made no more than $147 a week during his life, saved enough money for his son to attend UD.
It was not a dream Sheen shared, and he punctuated his desire to be an actor by intentionally failing his UD entrance exam. The men eventually healed their rift, and Francisco gave his son his blessing to move to New York. Known for the roles of President Josiah Bartlet in television’s The West Wing, a serial killer in the film Badlands and a troubled soldier during the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now, Sheen said his most nourishing role has been that of social activist. He has spoken out against war, abortion, genocide and capital punishment, and he has been arrested for his protest of the School of the Americas. He supports environ- mental sustainability, workers’ rights, human rights and an end to gun violence.
“Acting is what I do for a living,” he said, “and activism is what I do to stay alive.”
His activism exemplifies the Catholic, Marianist mission present at both UD and Dayton’s Chaminade High School, where he at- tended as a boy. Sheen has said the teachings of the priests and brothers of the Society of Mary helped shape his commitment to social justice, human rights, service and peace. “Remember this, above all: One heart with courage is a majority,” he said at graduation.
“Over the entire history of the human race no one has ever made any real contribution without personal suffering, self-sacrifice and sometimes even death.”
At a post-graduation lunch reception, Sheen greeted family and friends, including sons Ramon and Emilio. He also gathered with other special guests, including UD’s Chami- nade Scholars, who were leaving in two days for a pilgrimage to Rome. He shared with the students his role as a pilgrim in The Way, a 2011 movie by Emilio about El Camino de Santiago, “the way of St. James” in the northwest of Spain.
Sheen ended by inviting them to sing with him his favorite hymn, “How Can I Keep From Singing?”
“If you start your day with that, you’re in good shape,” he told them.
It was his interactions with students — both gracious and deeply personal — that revealed the depth of his passion for social justice and the energy he absorbs from the activism of others.
When he sat later in the day with faculty and students from the Human Rights Center in Raymond L. Fitz Hall, Sheen balanced his chin on his right hand, leaning forward to engage the students in conversation.
Sophomore Leena Sabagh talked about her work with Students for Justice in Palestine; Sheen offered her contact with director Ellie Bernstein of Ghost Town, The Hebron Story, for which Sheen served as narrator. Sophomore Rosalia Stadler talked about her research in uncovering human trafficking in the consumer supply chain; Sheen shared stories of work- ing with Father Shay Cullen, who has fought trafficking in the Philippines for more than 30 years.
As Sheen learned about the Human Rights Center’s use of evidence-based strategies to help NGOs, he shook his head in amazement that students would volunteer to travel to developing countries and learn from the people about their challenges and dreams.
“I’m very encouraged, and the fact that it’s here, it’s amazing,” Sheen said.
After another round of autographs and selfies, Sheen walked out to his waiting car — two hours later than scheduled — and thanked his UD entourage again for the wonderful day that connected his roots to his personal passions.
In the parking lot, he met new graduate Lori Claricoates. She set down an armload of drawings she had just cleared from her locker in the Department of Art and Design to offer him a handshake and thank-you for his inspiring speech. He countered with a hug and a hearty congratulations, asking questions about her new job, her family and her hometown.
Standing there in the sun, they were simply two forever-Flyers in the process of realizing their dreams.
The days begin early at Annunciation House. The four women here rouse themselves from sleep and pad their way to the chapel for the 6:25 morning prayer and then Mass. Twice a day they gather for prayer, and several times a week they share meals together. In between, it’s household chores and jobs out in the community, jamming hymns on guitars and, yes, sitting around talking and eating ice cream.
For people exploring a religious vocation, Annunciation House in Kettering, Ohio, a few miles from UD’s campus, offers a temporary home to see for themselves what it might mean to live a consecrated life — a life of religious community devoted to Jesus Christ, each person publicly professing the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability.
In today’s Western world, they are not easy vows, but ones Pope Francis has called attention to during this Year of Consecrated Life. He asks us all to be aware of the gift of the lives and work of consecrated people in our communities. He also challenges these religious “to wake up the world,” “step out more courageously” and discover “perfect joy.”
Again, not easy. But at a time when the number of vowed religious is falling, it is this call to a joyful life in community young people may well find attractive — young people who will ultimately be the future of the Church.
It is not enough to simply create attractive recruitment programs, says Pope Francis: “The consecrated life will not flourish as a result of brilliant vocation programs but because the young people we meet find us attractive, because they see us as men and women who are happy!”
Gabby Bibeau ’11 sure does. The 26-year-old has lived at Annunciation House since December 2014. “The individual brothers and sisters here [at UD] are very Christ-like. Meeting them and knowing them has made me want to be like them,” she says. “Living here is a good path to holiness.”
Religious community and continuous discernment shepherd everyone who’s on the path. Their journey is called formation, several years of living the spirit of the vows with the freedom to step out at any point and choose another direction.
It all begins with inquiry, which includes gathering information, going on retreats and working in ministries. Bibeau did that before reaching aspirancy, when she became a pre-novice, or postulant, by committing to a year at Annunciation House and doing full-time ministry in religious education as a pastoral associate at a nearby parish.
Next comes life as a novice, which 30-year-old Craig Irwin, n.O.S.F.S. ’07, will have been for a year, learning about the foundation of the order with other Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales novices in Brooklyn, Michigan. Community living and strictly scheduled prayer are preparing him for the step of temporary profession. That’s when, depending on the order, those in formation further their university education or return to full-time ministry work. Thirty-one-year-old Brandon Paluch, S.M. ’06, is doing the latter until he’s ready to take final vows, when he would devote himself to a consecrated life — for the rest of his life.
These University of Dayton alumni are on their journey during the Year of Consecrated Life, which began the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30, 2014, and ends on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Feb. 2, 2016. It marks the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, a decree on religious life, and Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
During this time, the pope is urging everyone to “look to the past with gratitude,” “live the present with passion” and “embrace the future with hope.”
Those considering a consecrated life examine where they’ve been, where they are and where they might be going. In Dayton, they can turn to Sister Nicole Trahan, F.M.I., for guidance. As the Dayton-based vocation coordinator for the Marianist sisters and brothers, she helps mostly young men and women determine whether religious life is right for them. If the person thinks so, she “walks” with him or her through the process to enter the first stage of inquiry. “We talk and email a lot,” says Trahan, 40. She often invites people to Annunciation House for prayer and supper.
During suppers and discernment retreats, questions come up. “Is God calling me to this life?” asks an undergrad who has yet to declare her major. The young man who grew up an only child wants to know, “What does it mean to be a Marianist sister or brother?” “Will my family understand this?” asks another student who lives with his parents. “How does one live the vows?” questions anyone who wonders, “Can I do this?”
Trahan says the path to perpetual vows is full of questions.
“Everyone answers in a different way. There’s also, ‘What if,’ ‘Am I sure,’ ‘Am I lying to myself?’ There are always going to be some doubts. We do our best to trust that God won’t let us down.”
Fewer Catholics worldwide are answering the call to a consecrated life. Internationally, since 1970 the number of religious priests, sisters and brothers has dropped 27 percent. In the U.S., the number is down 66 percent to 66,211 in 2014, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA. In the U.S., there are approximately 300 vowed religious in the Society of Mary and Daughters of Mary Immaculate, identified by S.M. for priests and brothers and F.M.I. for sisters.
Many things can attract a person to a religious life. For some young people, service opportunities give a glimpse of a life devoted to Christ.
Paluch’s journey began during UD BreakOuts, when he served in Haiti, India and the Appalachia region of the U.S. “These experiences were so enriching and only added to what I was learning in the classroom,” he says. Take the one he had in Haiti, spring 2003, working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at a home for the dying. “While I was massaging a man on his deathbed to relieve some of his pain, I remembered what someone told us as we were preparing to leave for Haiti: ‘Jesus hangs out there a lot.’ For me, this man was the suffering Jesus.”
In Paluch’s encounters with the brothers and priests he met on his travels, “the golden, common thread was they were loving and selfless,” he says. “The consecrated life was somewhat strange, but I admired these people, and that slowly opened me to seeing it as an opportunity for myself.”
During his third and last inquiry retreat, in December 2008, while a graduate student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Paluch seriously considered aspirancy. “A life totally dedicated to God and to serving others, holy and filled with God’s love, was very attractive to me,” he says. “But I was going back and forth with, ‘Is this my call?’
“Then I had a conversation with a very wise Marianist priest, Father Paul Landolfi, who was in his 80s then, and he told me, ‘I would encourage you to make a decision, because I think it will free you.’ If I didn’t try the life, I thought the idea of it would have followed me. So in 2009, I decided to join the Marianists.”
What attracted Paluch then, and still does, he says, is, “Mary’s warmth of welcome to God and others. She gathers under her mantle people from all walks of life: rich and poor, from different cultures and with different ideas. She brings us together so we might be closer to each other and to her son. This is the deep meaning and root of UD community.”
Paluch is now in his third year of temporary profession. Coordinator of community outreach at UD’s Center for Social Concern, he connects students to social justice volunteer opportunities such as serving soup-kitchen meals and assisting people with disabilities. The students give of themselves “from a faith-based perspective,” he says, “answering the question of why they’re engaged in the work at all — because that’s what Jesus asks of us. Then, through self-reflection and conversations with me, they explore how their experiences connect with
the ones they have at church and with the Scriptures.”
Paluch also counsels people during what he calls very tender parts of their journeys in life, whether it’s facing an uncertain future or the illness or death of a loved one. “Together in this community of faith, I hope to point out that God is alive and right here for them,” he says.
It’s community that provides the support for considering and committing oneself to living a consecrated life, says Tracey Horan ’10, a postulant with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. “I’m choosing to make our mission and community central to each decision that I make.”
The 27-year-old learned a lot about religious community life while at UD. The summer between her junior and senior years, in 2009, she and four other students flew to Nairobi, Kenya, and lived with a men’s Marianist community for five weeks. Every day, they went to one of the largest slums in the country, Mukuru, and tutored youngsters eager to pass an eighth-grade test that would win them scholarships, allowing an escape from the slum.
“Having that consistent, common ministry and then talking about it during mealtimes, I saw the value of living together, rooted in Gospel values, and I drew strength from that,” she says.
After earning her bachelor’s at UD in middle childhood education and Spanish, Horan lived with the Sisters of Charity in El Paso, Texas, for two years. “You can visit communities and learn from books, but to sit down at the table with women called by the Gospel, dedicated to a common religious life, and see the passion, joy and struggles they experience together, and their perseverance, was very influential for me,” she says.
Irwin’s initial inspiration came from the namesake of his order, St. Francis de Sales, a bishop and famous author in the early 1600s.
“He taught that everyone can be holy, that no matter who you are or what you do, you can live a holy life for God,” Irwin says. “I was attracted to this charism also because it doesn’t require a heavy intellectual understanding of Christian life. The Oblates are very down-to-earth, and they work with the ‘common man’ to be holy. I don’t come from a wealthy background, so I like the idea of helping the everyday person.”
In his ministry at Crossroads of Michigan, a Detroit social service agency that offers emergency assistance, food, clothing and counseling, he says, “I give myself fully and completely to the needs of humanity and the Church. This gives me a sense of accountability. I’m vowing to God, consecrating myself to God, answering to God.”
While ministries take Irwin and others who are on this path out into the world, the world doesn’t always understand the life they’ve chosen.
“A lot of Catholics, especially older ones, remember the nuns in school as angry old women,” Irwin says. “Nowadays, I haven’t met a single ‘angry old woman.’ I’m trying to change that assumption, helping people see the truth, through conversations with them, and also through our actions, by the way we live and love people.”
The consecrated life also isn’t supported by mainstream culture, says Trahan: “It’s difficult to live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in our society today, one that’s so materialistic, focusing on individualism and the accumulation of things, and somewhat oversexualized.” What helps the most, she says, is prayer — and community.
But sharing space with others isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to obedience, says Bibeau.
“I cannot make some decisions without seeing how they could affect others in the community,” she says. “This requires me to compromise. Before I was in formation, I could take a weekend to visit my family or go on vacation with a friend. Now if I want to do those things, I need to ask other people and see if it works with everybody’s schedules, because maybe I’m needed for some ministry.”
Sometimes, Horan says, the test comes from within.
“During formation, you’re asked to look at yourself, your strengths, downfalls and struggles, and why you struggle. For me, it’s my stubbornness and my resistance to compromise even on small things like parts of the daily routine. It makes you feel very vulnerable,” she says. “It’s tough to dig through parts of my past that have made me who I am and recognize how this impacts my own discernment and ability to be present in community life. It’s very humbling. I’m learning to ask for support from others, but it’s not easy.”
For Irwin, living in community requires learning to love each other, in spite of the differences. Paluch agrees. He says, “Jesus taught us to love everybody, even our enemies. It’s a tall order to love like Jesus loves, to be merciful and accepting and compassionate. It’s something we can only do with God’s grace.”
With an eye toward a consecrated life, Horan says she feels part of something bigger than herself.
“That’s motivating, and it propels me to know that we have this common mission and call to follow the Gospel and be present to others in a way that shows radical love,” she says. “I feel like this life is where I fit the best, where I can most be my authentic self, and as a result, the gifts I have are magnified. Whatever I do give becomes more because I’m part of this life. I think I have a strong, prophetic voice in that I’m not easily satisfied when people’s needs are not being met or when there are injustices and people’s voices are not being heard. I have a gift for calling that out, and asking ourselves to be more of a society as people of God and to live up to the Gospel. And that means everyone is included and valued.”
Horan aspires to be more present in the moment: “I want to be more open to learning, open to others’ perspectives,” she says. “And I hope to have the courage to respond when a ministry comes up, or some other opportunity, where my gifts would really fit.” She sees herself in an advocacy role or as a community or labor organizer.
Irwin says parishes and dioceses should take on new roles, especially as more support is becoming available to those who need it most.
“For example, the poor now have greater access to health care,” he says. “So what can we make happen there that hasn’t been thought of yet? I don’t know the answer to that, but the pope is a good example of someone who’s open to new ways of thinking and doing things.”
Who doesn’t want to make the world a better place? For Bibeau, that world includes herself.
“I want to remain open to growth and learning and become more comfortable about what it means to be a religious sister and more trusting of God and how God is working in my life,” she says. The earliest she could take temporary vows is in about two years. After that, “I don’t know. It depends on what your gifts are, and that’s something you discern with the community.”
Here’s something Bibeau does know: She’s honoring religious community, as Pope Francis asks the world’s Catholics to do, by observing the Year of Consecrated Life. It’s the people who choose that life who pulled her to the path to begin with. In their holiness, she saw the happiness the pope says young people like herself will attain, helping the consecrated life thrive.
Each day brings Bibeau closer to living it and being like the people who already do. Meanwhile, together in community, cooking meals and doing chores, talking and eating ice cream — “and especially praying,” she says — “I feel like I’m a better version of myself.”
Claire Sykes is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon.No Comments