When Catholics joined the American mainstream
When Paramount Pictures’ Going My Way began unspooling at movie theaters across the nation in 1944, a new, invigorated image of Catholicism was projected onto the big screen and the American landscape. The musical comedy/drama, with Bing Crosby portraying young, wise-to-the-world Father Chuck O’Malley, was on its way to seven Academy Awards, including best picture and a best actor Oscar for Crosby.
And the image of Catholicism, conveyed and reinforced through American mass media, was continuing its shift toward a cultural center stage as the nation remade and redefined itself in the shadows of the Great Depression, the New Deal and World War II.
This changing depiction of faith — reflected in film, in print, and on radio and television — began to paint Catholicism with a New World brush, said associate professor Anthony Burke Smith in his new book, The Look of Catholics: Portrayals in Popular Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War (University Press of Kansas, 2010).
Changing popular culture showed Catholics through a wider, less mysteriously ritualistic lens, moving them from society’s margins toward the middle of a shifting American culture. These new images depicted the hopes, dreams and values of Catholics as in step with a transitioning nation that was becoming the most powerful on Earth.
“Through film, television and photojournalism, Catholics during the 1940s and 1950s elaborated a vision of the nation that fused cultural consensus at home to ideological and military conflict abroad,” said Smith, who invested 10 years in researching and writing the book. His examination of Catholics in pop culture took him from film archives in Los Angeles to the Library of Congress and National Archives in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Catholic Collection at UD’s Roesch Library was also a fertile resource.
“Initially, I spent time focusing on analyzing film and media texts,” Smith explained. “However, I realized that in order to adequately understand not only these texts but also my broader subject, I also needed to look beyond texts into their contexts of production, promotion, as well as reception. Therefore, I had to access material that wasn’t readily available without getting into archives.”
The book’s 46 pages of notes and bibliographic material are evidence of the daunting research task that confronted the author. Summer research grants from UD, including one from the Forum for the Catholic Intellectual Tradition Today, helped make the undertaking possible.
“Working in these archives proved incredibly exciting and rewarding,” Smith said. “You learn a lot about yourself when writing a book, and I learned that I’m probably happiest when I’m in a library and archive. Of course, I also got to watch lots of great as well as obscure movies.”
The Look of Catholics positions readers in the midst of an America that was ripe for change. Economic collapse at home and looming war clouds abroad brought a re-examination of American values, from laissez-faire capitalism to perceptions of a well-functioning and equitable society, Smith writes. Catholic perspectives and cultural memories, as reflected in film and elsewhere, took their place at the table of public discussion as the nation sought to regroup, rebuild and redefine.
“Prior to the Depression, Catholics in America were viewed with suspicion and distrust,” Smith said. “A year before the economic crisis began in 1929, Al Smith, the first Irish-American Catholic to run for president, had to answer to anti-Catholic attacks. Until the 1930s, Catholics were perceived by many as being in America but not truly of America. But with the Cold War, the situation of Catholics really changes. Simply put, Catholic success in America is deeply embedded in the triumph of Cold War culture.”
The pre-Depression alienation of immigrant Catholics in the U.S. mirrors the experience of some American Muslim communities and other minorities today, Smith said.
“Muslims are facing religious hostility and bigotry similar to that Catholics experienced in the 19th century,” Smith said. “Like Catholics, Muslims are associated with a complex, transnational religion. For some Americans who equate the nation with certain forms of Christianity, this makes Muslims a threat to the country. It is remarkable that today the very bricks and mortar of Muslim worship — mosques or proposed mosques such as the one in New York City — have become the target of xenophobia and religious prejudice. This very much echoes the experience of Catholics. In the 19th century, Catholic structures of worship and religious practice — their churches and convents — were viewed with suspicion and attacked.”
Meanwhile, as impassioned discussions of topics such as the location of a New York City mosque play out nightly on cable TV, they push wide open the throttle of national debate, often at loud levels.
“Popular media have long played a crucial role in debates over religious and ethnic minorities, whether it be bestselling fiction of the 19th century or the Internet today,” Smith said.
“Popular culture is deeply political, an arena where images are created and disseminated to de-legitimate religious and ethnic minorities.
Popular culture also is the terrain where these same religious and ethnic minorities have in the past forged new images of themselves and their societies. Popular media is both where the ugliest, most intolerant elements of American society are displayed and where battles for a more open and just world often get waged.”
Going My Way, for which Leo McCarey — a Catholic of mixed ethnicity — won a best-director Oscar, was particularly pivotal in the acculturation of Catholics into mainstream America, Smith said. Released in the wake of films such as San Francisco (1936), Boys Town (1938) and Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), McCarey’s movie helped push Hollywood away from the bullet-riddled gangster tales of the Depression and toward a new generation of film that was riding the wave of a confident, assertive America, a nation edging toward ethnic inclusion and revitalized societal institutions. Catholic themes and imagery helped nudge film in that new direction.
Bing Crosby, who grew up in an Irish Catholic home, shattered the mold of earlier images of priests. His character, Father O’Malley, had been a jazz singer with a girlfriend before entering the priesthood. Crosby’s young, hip, energetic, confident and worldly-wise portrayal contrasted with earlier stereotypical depictions of priests as elderly and static, often uninspired and unmovable. Through the course of Going My Way, as Father O’Malley’s new way of doing business saves St. Dominic’s Parish from financial disaster and turns around a flock of youth headed for trouble, an invigorated face of the priesthood emerges. O’Malley, a younger image of an authority figure, falls in step with a future-looking America eager to shed the worn garments of the past. That O’Malley takes St. Dominic’s leadership reins from the older and largely ineffective Father Fitzgibbon drives home the point.
Helping to pave the way for such an image transformation was 1940’s San Francisco Docks, which culminated with Father Cameron (played by Robert Armstrong) bringing down a killer with a mighty and unpriestly right hook. Again, a new, robust image of the priesthood is suggested.
A number of early ’40s films advanced the message of a new Catholicism: The Fighting 69th (1940), Knute Rockne (1940), The Keys of the Kingdom (1943), God Is My Co-pilot (1943), The Fighting Sullivans (1943) and The Song of Bernadette (1943) all spoke to elements of faith.
McCarey himself went on to make The Bells of St. Mary’s (1946), a Catholic-themed sequel to Going My Way. Even his earlier romantic comedies, such as The Awful Truth (1937) and Love Affair (1939), used a Catholic sensibility to narrate redemption and change.
“Collectively, these movies marked a Catholic moment in American cinema and popular imagination,” Smith writes in his book. “The late 1930s and early 1940s saw a concentration of Catholic-marked movies, but significant differences in emphasis and theme emerged over time. Tracing the changes within these films from the ’30s to ’40s illuminates the eclipse of social consciousness in popular imagination that occurred by World War II.”
In Going My Way’s Father O’Malley, some observers see the foreshadowing of another vigorous young leader who would capture the imagination of the Cold War nation, young Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, whose sights were set on the White House.
“The global American identity that the Cold War developed gave Catholics new legitimacy. Conversely, Catholics played a crucial role in elaborating a Cold War consensus vision of the nation,” Smith said. “Keep in mind that the most dynamic, compelling face of Cold War America in its early years was an Irish-Catholic American, John F. Kennedy.”
The work of Academy Award-winning filmmaker John Ford, an ethnic Catholic and son of Irish immigrants, also drew Smith’s attention. Through vehicles such as Doctor Bull (1933), Stagecoach (1939), How Green Was My Valley (1941), My Darling Clementine (1946) and Fort Apache (1948), Ford lassoed the romance of the Hollywood western and gently wove religious imagery and perspective into the storylines.
“Ford’s films expressed a Catholicism voiced in a ‘minor’ key,” writes Smith. “Rarely the explicit subject, Catholicism lurked beneath and within familiar stories of western frontiers and small-town communities, covertly untying the bonds that sutured Anglo-American Protestantism to American identity.”
The look of Catholics in pop culture was changing in more than just film. In print media, Henry R. Luce’s Life magazine was the publication of national record during the Depression-Cold War decades, and it, too, reflected a transitioning image of Catholics. As the nation’s benchmark of photojournalism, Life moved beyond early stereotypical depictions of Catholics kneeling in prayer or pensively clutching rosary beads to a portrait that more resembled the family next door, a family engaged in the American experience.
“My work on Life magazine proved particularly satisfying since the deeper I got into researching and writing the chapter, the more I realized I was onto something important about the role of Catholics within postwar American culture,” Smith said. “That the premier popular magazine gave such sustained attention to Catholicism demonstrated that images of Catholics had national significance and not only relevance for Catholics.”
Catholicism — in the U.S. and overseas — often found its way onto the pages of Life. Luce, king of the Life-Time-Fortune-Sports Illustrated publishing empire, was fascinated by religious stories and images, perhaps even more so after his wife, politician and playwright Clare Booth Luce, converted to Catholicism. With Life’s lens fixed upon the world, Catholics had become appealing subject matter.
As America turned the calendar to the 1940s, Henry Luce began to speak of “The American Century” to describe the nation’s emergence as a world power. In a pivotal 1941 essay, he called for a “national revitalization.” Life’s focus on Catholics often aligned with Luce’s call, offering glimpses of a new cultural formation via narrative and image presentations. As a result, Life’s pages celebrated middle-class success, citing capitalist freedom and the fundamental institutions of family, home and faith as determinants.
“Life’s portrayal of Catholics in the late 1930s had a highly voyeuristic character, as if the journalists were gazing at them with both fascination and disapproval,” Smith writes. But with Luce’s belief in an American century, that was finally changing.
A new vision of America and Catholicism appeared throughout the culture in the ’40s as Catholics were portrayed as war heroes in narratives and photographs that articulated national pride and moral strength. For example, an essay about Archbishop Francis Spellman of New York was subtitled “a great American.” The fascination and disapproval of the ’30s was replaced by a shift toward assimilation, projecting Catholics as vital and compelling contributors to an American Century moving forward in search of a national consensus and a resistance to totalitarian communism.
Photo essays in popular magazines cast a positive light on the person and institution of the papacy. Stories and images also illuminated the vitality and romanticism of a Trappist monastery in Utah and a group of youthful American Jesuits. In one memorable photograph, an altar boy leaps into the arms of his proud mother after serving his first Mass. The magazine had replaced an Old World view of Catholicism with a refocused and robust representation that signified a New World melting pot.
Meanwhile, the emergence of two new technologies — radio and television — added impetus to the changes afoot. In particular, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, with his prime-time TV show Life Is Worth Living (1952-57) and an earlier NBC radio program, Catholic Hour (1930-50), became the popular face and voice of Catholicism. Sheen, once auxiliary bishop of New York and later bishop of Rochester, offered an upbeat, steady and guiding voice from the Depression to abate the growing fears of the emerging Cold War.
First on the DuMont TV network and later on ABC, Sheen spoke of Catholicism in terms that were accessible and understood, whether he was speaking about the challenges of interpersonal relationships or the spiritual implications of the fight against communism. In 1945, Time labeled Sheen “probably America’s best-known priest, with an audience of millions for his Sunday preaching on NBC’s Catholic Hour and fan mail of 3,000-6,000 letters a Sunday.” From 1953-58, Sheen consistently appeared on the list of the 10 most admired men in America, according to Gallup polls.
Sheen also was in demand outside the radio and TV studio, with as many as 150 speaking engagements each year. In 1935, he spoke to a gathering of 40,000 at the Eucharistic Congress at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. At its apex, his Life Is Worth Living reached up to 30 million viewers, and in 1952 he won an Emmy for most outstanding TV personality.
“In Sheen’s hands, religion offered psychological aid for ordinary people as they dealt with everyday problems,” Smith writes. “It gave people moral purpose and direction.”
As the nation dusted itself off from the devastating Depression and then confronted first a world war and then the uncertainties of the Cold War, Catholicism forged a new place in the American Dream through film, print, radio and TV. Along the way, a reworked America emerged — with new voices of influence making their marks within the national conversation.
“Catholic leaders responded to the crisis of capitalism during the Depression in a vigorous, intentional way,” Smith said. “The collapse of economic individualism confirmed for them the bankruptcy of modern laissez-faire capitalism. They were ready to offer alternative solutions to the economic challenge facing all Americans at the time by proposing more communitarian and cooperatist visions of society grounded in the tradition of Catholic social teaching.”
The election of Kennedy as president and the emergence of Pope John Paul II as an international media figure who helped champion the fall of communism are evidence of how national and global cultural landscapes have since evolved.
But, for Smith, this conclusion suggests another pursuit. He’s considering taking on a second research-laden book project.
“I’d like to move from The Look of Catholics into a larger project that examines Catholicism, media and politics from the Cold War to the early 21st century. This includes examining religion in film in an international realm,” he said. “European filmmakers such as Roberto Rossellini and Federico Fellini manifested great interest in religion in their projects, and the reception of those films in America raises a larger question of how those European films changed perceptions within the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century.
“This project also involves examining Pope John Paul II as the most significant religious media figure of the late 20th century and how his papacy as a media construction related to the revival of a Cold War cultural logic in America. So I’m interested in continuing to explore the inter- twining of religion, media and politics in modern culture but now more fully across national borders.”
No doubt all requiring extensive time happily spent rummaging archives near and far, not to mention watching plenty of films, popular and obscure, along the way.
Freelance writer Ken Palen lives in Butler Township, Ohio, and is an adjunct professor in UD’s department of communication.No Comments
At 15 years old, Theresa Flores ’07 became, literally, a modern-day slave when an organized crime syndicate sold the teenager’s body over and over for two years. Twenty-five years later, she’s adding her voice to a new anti-slavery movement. This is her story.
I had thought all these years that I was the only one.
I was born in Akron, Ohio, to a normal Irish, Catholic family. I grew up in what most people would consider a privileged family. I was expected to attend college; it wasn’t a matter of if but where. Over the years, I earned a bachelor’s degree at Ball State University and a master’s in counseling education at the University of Dayton.
However, none of those privileges, expectations and abilities made me immune.
I never knew the name for what happened to me. There wasn’t a word for it. In our society, we require a label for everything: our race, the part of town we live in, our hobbies and interests, our mental states of being. For 23 years, I felt I could not fully heal until I knew what to call what happened to me.
I was a bilingual social worker in my early 40s when one day a co-worker asked whether I could attend a conference in her place.
“Theresa, I signed up for this and the agency paid for it but I can’t attend,” she said. “I have a feeling you need to go to this.”
I looked at the paper she handed me. At the top of it were the words “human trafficking.” It looked interesting, so I agreed.
All that week, I kept thinking of the upcoming conference, and it weighed heavily upon my heart. The night before, I told my children that everyone had to go to school the next day because I had a very important meeting I could not miss. Sure enough, my 8-year-old son came to me the next morning and said he didn’t feel well.
“Too bad,” I said. “You have to go to school. You will be fine.”
Feeling a little guilty, I drove to the conference and sat down in the large auditorium at the State Trooper’s Training Academy in Columbus, Ohio. I listened intently to an expert in the field talk about human trafficking and read on the large overhead screen that modern-day slavery is essentially when one person uses manipulation, threats or blackmail to make another person perform a sex act in which the first person benefits financially. Within five minutes of being there that morning, I knew
why I was supposed to be there. I finally had my words.
He explained that human trafficking is the second leading crime in the world. I was immediately devastated, for I had thought all these years that I was the only one. I knew, at that moment, that it was my destiny to be at the conference and time to fully heal.
After that day, I began my journey of speaking out and sharing my horrific story with anyone willing to hear it. Because no one saved me. And honestly, who would have thought this was happening to a kid like me?
Yes, a kid like me. I had a typical family with two parents and three younger brothers. We lived in an affluent suburb of Detroit, in a home with four bedrooms and five bathrooms. I was a comfortable teenage girl with nice clothes and my own phone line in my room. I wasn’t abused, I didn’t do drugs and I wasn’t a runaway. Yet, I was vulnerable and targeted. We moved frequently because of my father’s executive job. And while it was always an adventure, we never had any extended family around, no supports and were always the new kids. There wasn’t anyone to say, “Hey, Theresa is acting different.”
At my new school, I developed a crush on a boy whom my parents had forbidden me to date. Even my friends said it was not a good idea to associate with him. But I was 15 years old, and I had a crush on him. One day, he offered me a ride home from school. I accepted, as any teenager would do. That simple decision changed my life forever.
I ignored the red flags when he turned the wrong way out of the school parking lot and again when he pulled into his driveway and invited me in “for a moment.” I ignored my gut instinct and convinced myself that everything would be OK.
Inside, he offered me a soda to drink. I accepted it. I discovered later the drink was laced with a drug. That afternoon in what I thought was a big empty house, this young man raped me. I was devastated. Here I was, a 15-year-old Catholic virgin, a suburban teen committed to saving sexuality for marriage. As devastating as that was, it would pale in comparison with what I was about to endure for the next two years.
Little did I know that this boy’s family had strong organized crime connections, and the rape was only the first step of a broader plan they had for me.
My rape was photographed by the boy’s older cousins, who confronted me with the pictures soon after my attack. I was already broken and crushed from the rape, and now they told me they would share the pictures with my family, my priest, my classmates, with anyone, unless I “earned” them back.
They threatened me and my family, forcing me into a life of servitude and debt bondage I could hardly imagine.
Over the next two years, I was watched everywhere I went, whether at my part-time job, babysitting for friends or walking to and from school. This was the arrangement: They would summon me at any hour, on any day, and I had to appear. Sometimes they took me out of class or picked me up after school. Some nights, while my family slept behind closed bedroom doors, they called my private phone line and told me they were on the way to pick me up. I was told that I would die if I told anyone and that they would kill my family if I refused. I was terrified. Saying no was not an option.
Over and over, I was delivered to very nice homes where men waited for me. I never knew how long I would be gone, where I was or even if I would ever see my home again. All I knew was I couldn’t escape until they were finished with me.
To them, I was a nameless commodity, a service more profitable than drug-dealing. One night, after being used repeatedly, a well-dressed, older man came into the room.
He looked out of place among the typical brutes.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
I knew better than to answer, having made that mistake before, so I remained silent. The gentleman turned and asked the trafficker, “What’s her name?”
The man in charge looked disgusted and replied, “What does it matter? She has no name.”
The clean-cut man turned his saddened, pity-filled eyes to me. Then he walked out of the room.
No one saved me during this time. No one offered me any help. No one said, “Theresa, I feel as if something is wrong. Can I help you?”
Except one person. The most unlikely person reached out to me. A person I normally would have looked down on. A waitress in a dingy, inner-city, 24-hour restaurant.
It was the most horrible night of my life. Normally when I was called “into service,” the same car and driver would pick me up. However on this night, something felt different. While I waited, as usual, at around midnight for the car on the street behind my house, the hairs on my arms rose up and I got a sense of dread. When this happens to most people, perhaps while walking at night or in a parking garage, they can run, scream or call 9-1-1.
I didn’t have that option.
When the familiar car pulled up, I saw there were six men inside instead of the usual single driver. They pulled me into the car and drove me very far from home. We arrived at some dirty, nasty motel in downtown Detroit. I had only seen motels like this on television, never with my own eyes. It was smelly and had broken-down cars in front of the room doors. I was dragged from the car and into one of the rooms. I can’t explain the feeling I had being in a small, musty motel room, the only female and surrounded by two dozen older men. Here I was, now 16 years old, not sure whether I was going to leave here alive. It is a feeling no child should ever have to know.
My trafficker, who had been one of the men in the car, spoke up.
“Gentlemen, here is your reward for a job well done within our organization,” he said, gesturing toward me. “Here is an incentive to others of you. If you work hard enough, this is what you can have.”
That night, I was auctioned off to the highest bidder and passed around the room. Many hours later, after passing out from the torture, I awoke all alone and in pain. I couldn’t find my clothes, and had no shoes, no identification, no money. I had no idea where I was or what I was going to do. I was in a place of the deepest despair that many adults will never even know. And I had nowhere to turn.
The only person who helped me the entire two years of being trafficked was the waitress in the motel’s 24-hour restaurant. On a night where I, as a child, came face-to-face with the devil himself and managed to live through hell, this angel came to me to help deliver me safely to my home. She saw the red flags and noticed this young girl with no shoes and in severe shock who looked out of place.
She simply asked what no one had ever asked me: “Can I help you, honey?”
She offered me a dime to call my parents on the pay phone in the lobby. And when I couldn’t muster the strength to call my parents, most likely subjecting them to a death threat, she called the police, who took me home.
Looking back, I can see all the red flags, all the times people could have suspected something and reached out to help. My nightmare stopped only when another job transfer for my father meant another move for my family. It was a miracle that it happened before the traffickers simply didn’t return me home one night. People have no idea that this is an epidemic problem in our very own country. I have made it my mission to educate others on this issue, to tell them that slavery is alive and in their own backyards.
Yet, people have a difficult time with the word “slavery.” The definition of slavery is when a person has control over another person. If we don’t see the invisible chains and the psychological bondage, we tend not to believe it.
Arrests of teenagers trafficked into prostitution are one example. When a 16-year-old is arrested for prostitution, we need to speak out about this oxymoron. The words “teen” and “prostitute” should never be used together. Ever. What child would ever want to do this voluntarily? By definition, anyone under 18 years of age involved in prostitution is a victim of human trafficking. Yet our society is not protecting the human rights of children when they are routinely arrested and jailed for prostitution. All the while, the “john” is let go. But he is the real perpetrator and a pedophile. Why do we not see this here in our own country?
Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk of being sexually exploited right here in the U.S. And in the time it takes you to read this article, the FBI confirms there are 100,000 American children being sexually trafficked, just as I was. We may think that this is a problem only in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but you might be surprised to learn that the FBI has rescued more children from Ohio who were forced into prostitution than from any other state in the U.S. They have also identified Toledo, Ohio, as the No. 1 recruitment city in the entire United States for this crime.
Unfortunately, once rescued, there are not many options for these children. These young victims need specialized care to address the psychological manipulation that traffickers impose on their minds and therapeutic interventions similar to deprogramming a victim of a cult. Many of these trafficked children are runaway youth who have no other alternatives, no other options. Currently, there are only 39 beds in the entire country to serve American children who have been trafficked. They are located at three residential facilities in Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York City. The problem of trafficking, however, isn’t limited to those cities.
I am involved in opening a new shelter in Ohio that will provide a safe place for a small handful of these young victims. It will offer them a chance to heal and an opportunity to be a kid again. Gracehaven will be a long-term, therapeutic, residential group home that houses 10 girls under the age of 18. It will be not only the fourth shelter opening in the country, but it will also be the first faith-based home. We at Gracehaven believe that a strong spiritual component is essential to the healing process. Mind, body and soul must be treated in order for the person to become fully rehabilitated from this horror. We will offer educational assistance, life skills training, medical care and ongoing counseling. Additionally, Gracehaven is currently training therapeutic foster families to provide another option for a trafficked child, so that when our home is at capacity, there will still be alternatives available to them.
People often ask how I’ve managed to heal. For many years, no one wanted to listen to my story and no one understood. A place like Gracehaven didn’t exist, and I had nowhere to turn, so at some points I stopped trying. But I desperately needed to release the trauma. The only thing I could do was to keep a journal and write. When I was done writing, I shoved it away deep down inside and tried to resume a “normal” life. I tried not to think about it, but it always seeped through as I slept. I became determined to get a counseling degree so I could help save other high school girls, so they would have someone to listen and see the red flags. All I ever wanted was to be a wife, a mother and to help those less fortunate. I refused to let my past control me any further, so for many years I had to heal all on my own. But I really wasn’t healed.
Eventually there came a point where I simply couldn’t ignore the pain and flashbacks any longer. I felt all alone. I had no one to talk to who would understand what I had endured. I tried to find counselors who could help me, but there were none trained in this issue. Things caught up with me, and I felt as if I had no alternative. Just like the girls enduring this today. It was through much prayer and God revealing His purpose for me that I started to finally heal. He brought forward the people from Gracehaven and support from others working in this field. Writing my book for others to read, being a part of something tangible like helping to start Gracehaven, and being able to give hope to others who are where I was so long ago has all helped me to finally heal. All of these things allowed me the vehicle to stop shoving away the pain and the horror, so I could now turn it into a mission called Gracehaven.
I believe that we can stop slavery once and for all. Great people throughout our country’s history have fought hard to eradicate slavery and human bondage, including Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. I have faith and hope that we can stop this oppression once and for all.
But first we need to acknowledge that it is occurring here and give hope to those trapped by it. Even in the deepest, darkest moments of my past, I never lost my faith and always held on to the hope that the next time would be the last time. These men took everything from me, physically and mentally. But I was determined that they couldn’t take my spirituality away from me. That was all I had, and what enabled me to survive and now be able to turn a hell into hope for others. I had faith and hope back then, and I have faith and hope now that slavery can be stopped. It will take more than just me, though.No Comments
The fleet of golf carts was lined up outside Kennedy Union, the University’s version of limos for alumni not accustomed to hiking the campus during a Dayton summer. We were at the start of Reunion Weekend, and six of us ’70s-era alums piled into a cart piloted by a pair of catalog-cute UD students. Bound for Marycrest, skirting a construction zone or two, we tried to get our bearings: Hey, isn’t that where the tennis courts used to be? Is that the ROTC building or photo lab? Is that Founders — or Alumni Hall?
But there was no mistaking the towering, brick wings of Marycrest Residence Complex. More construction blocked the main drive and the parking spots where our parents had helped us unload typewriters, suitcases and stereos an astonishing 37 years earlier. Now, as women in our mid-50s, we headed into the side entrance of this place where we had met, a random collection of freshmen and transfer students assigned to 1 North.
The first days of being away at college are a remarkable time of discovery. And, decades later, our own reunion-within-the-reunion last June was, in its way, equally remarkable. We rediscovered — through sharing fragmented memories — who we had been. We discovered what had become of each other during the intervening years. Most amazingly, we found that, despite all we had done, undergone and learned since leaving campus, we really had not changed. We spoke the same, displayed the same mannerisms and tendencies, approached situations the same way, laughed the same as when we were teenagers. That discovery was both eerie and comforting. UD had been paradise, and now in finding each other, we’d reclaimed that place and wonderful time.
HOW IT HAPPENED
If you all loved one another back then, why wouldn’t you now? —Regina McFadden Moran ’75
First of all, we had a blast being back on campus together. We’d hoped for a great time, but many years had passed, and who knew if we’d still click? We hadn’t exactly been sorority sisters after college, sending birthday cards and sharing the small and large moments of life. After graduation, we had scattered geographically, with me eventually landing the farthest away, in Portland, Ore. There was no Internet, just the post office’s forwarding address service and the UD Alumni Office’s alumni directory — which is only as good as the grads who update their info.
This was a reunion heightened by great mystery. Of the nine of us who gathered at UD in June, I had neither seen nor talked with four of the girls since 1977 or ’78: Doreen Dougherty, Anne Marchetta, Anne Rejent and Kathleen McCarter. (Some of our children are college-aged or older themselves, but we were girls for the reunion.)
We other five had stayed connected only lightly during our post-Flyer days. Jonelle Bindl, Regina McFadden, Lynne Bailie, Linda Lee and I had gotten together twice. In 1983 or ’84, inspired by The Big Chill, we’d spent a weekend in Cincinnati, where Jonelle lived at the time. And in 1994, Jonelle and Regina pulled together an autumn reunion weekend in Santa Fe, N.M. — attractive simply because none of us had been there before.
Fifteen years passed. Lynne and Regina — ex- New Jerseyites who now live two hours apart in Florida — were inspired by an overnight they’d spent last summer. It was time, they decided, for a reunion, and one that cast a wider net for more of the girls from our corner of Marycrest and our year at 242 College Park.
So last Thanksgiving, Lynne sent an e-mail titled “THIS IS YOUR OFFICIAL INVITATION TO OUR 37TH YEAR OF FRIENDSHIP REUNION!!!!!” She and Regina threw out location ideas ranging from Las Vegas to the Poconos, and they asked for help in finding several other girls from our group.
A couple months and many e-mails later, we’d settled on a nostalgic, budget get-together in Dayton sometime in June 2010. Linda and Kathleen, who live in the Dayton area, jumped in with a hometown welcome. Linda offered to turn her soccer-mom Odyssey van into an airport shuttle. Kathleen set up a Friday dinner at the Oakwood Club and invited everyone to her house for a Sunday afternoon brunch.
Location set, we scoured various sources for finding the missing girls. We started with the UD alumni directory then branched into Facebook, Google, Switchboard.com and the American Dietetics Association website. We sent e-mails and made phone calls. Lynne wrote letters. By the time we’d tracked down Anne Rejent in St. Louis and Doreen Dougherty in Goshen, Ky., we could announce that consensus had led to the weekend of June 11.
Linda soon reported back: June 11-13 was UD Reunion Weekend.
Hmm, good or bad? It turned out to be a beautiful coincidence, with the campus geared up for company. It was an official reunion year for only Regina, who graduated in 1975. But if you are a Flyer, you are a Flyer. When we all showed up for the tail end of the ’75 class party Friday night, of course we were all welcomed in and offered a beer. A good beer.
WHAT WE DID
I thought it was neat that we could just pick up and continue like we’d seen each other yesterday. It wasn’t weird, it wasn’t awkward, it wasn’t any of those things. It was like we were all just friends. When I think about it, we only spent nine months times three years — 27 months — together. And then we are friends after 33 years. So that to me was pretty amazing.—Lynne Bailie Buehrer ’76
The group of us approached the wide-porched house at 242 College Park a little tentatively. Were students living there over the summer? Wouldn’t it be fun to be invited inside? We headed up the front steps of our old home, knocked, tried the bell. Nothing stirred.
We’d been so lucky in the UD lottery to score this house across from the library. It was big, handsome and full of nooks and crannies, including a cubby shelf on the stairway landing where I’d once tucked an avocado pit, suspended on toothpicks, in an attempt to grow an avocado plant. We peeked through a front window: Oh, could that be the same big dining room table where we’d gathered for dinners? We each chipped in about $10 a week, filled Lynne’s VW Thing with groceries from Liberal Market, and took turns cooking and cleaning up.
Our visits to Marycrest and College Park were the pilgrimage part of our reunion. Milano’s was the first stop for the six of us who had arrived by Friday afternoon (no longer a hole-in-the-wall, but a sit-down restaurant), followed by campus. Campus and off-campus were filled with friendly students and an interesting mix of buildings and spaces intact from our era and ones we envied, such as ArtStreet and the Fitness and Recreation Complex. (Anne M. and Anne R. tried out the eight-lane pool.) The total effect was part time travel and part, “Wow.”
And wandering through KU, we loved seeing that in the age of Facebook, the wooden ride board is still matching rides and riders. (Note to President Curran: We know you have lots of renovation plans. But just as the gazebo is sacred, so is the ride board.)
The whole weekend was an amazing chance to reclaim bits of our past that had been lost in the wash of the years. We all had memory gaps and jumbled recollections, and it was awesome to be with a group that could, collectively, fill in the blanks and put things in order. Lynne had packed along her photo album, and those faded snapshots reawakened memories of Halloween parties, Homecoming dances (I loved that dress!), concerts and Flyer basketball.
It wasn’t all “Remember when … .” We did a dizzying amount of catching up: over drinks, dinner and brunch; around campus and in the Ghetto; in the hotel lobby, at parties and in our pajamas. We talked about meeting our husbands, and marriage, divorce and re-marriage. We opened up about college heartbreaks and pain that had been held private at that time, and we listened with a greater compassion and wisdom than we would have at 18 or 20. We talked about creative pursuits, careers and kids. I had to marvel at our little Boomer sample group: All of us were married, all had children or stepchildren, and the majority of our group had younger husbands, with the men being junior by as many as 15 years. Kathleen was the only person I would not have recognized. Her curly red hair was now a chic, ultra-short platinum blonde. But her voice was pure McCarter.
And we shared important stories: Regina’s reflections on her brother’s death while she was at UD. The hepatitis C that Doreen acquired through a blood transfusion after she was the victim of a devastating car crash in 1994, and her subsequent intense interest in nutrition to battle the progression of the disease. Anne R.’s gig, for 16 years and counting, as private chef to sportscaster Bob Costas, NBC’s voice of the Olympics. My cautionary tale about breast cancer screening: while regular mammograms are highly important, so are breast self exams, because some cancers — including the type with which I was diagnosed in 2003 — do not show up well in mammograms or even ultrasounds.
Anne M. had the most dramatic story, about her recent quest to find her birth parents. Through a slip-up in the Catholic adoption agency’s paperwork, she was able to trace her way to her birth mother, who had been a registered nurse overseas during World War II. Her birth father was a Franciscan priest who had visited military hospitals across Europe during the war. The nurse and the priest had told no one about their baby girl. In her pursuit of her past, Anne found welcoming relatives on both sides of her birth family — and insights into her own nature.
A lot of life had sure happened since the late ’70s.
TOUR DE DAYTON
My oldest daughter got married just before the reunion, and the family into which she married was by happenstance a big University of Dayton family. So at the wedding, I talked to a lot of people who were at Dayton or who had graduated recently or graduated a long time ago. And when they were saying how much they love Dayton, I didn’t quite get it — until I went out and saw it again. And then I said, ‘Now I get it.’ —Anne Marchetta ’76
Kennedy Union was buzzing with alumni Saturday afternoon. We registered and picked up nametags in the spot where the candy counter once stood. Thanks to Reunion Weekend, a campus tour and update on student life was delivered to us with cold beverages and snacks — and included department open houses, too. Bottles of water in hand, we joined one of the groups and caught up on renovations and construction, the University’s long-range plans for growth (with breathtaking opportunities afforded by the old NCR property), the big incoming freshman class, the internal debate about the ideal size for the student body (total enrollment now is about 11,000, with 7,700 undergrads), and the no-keg rule.
And just as the tour passed near the old campus laundry building, who should appear but Father Burns. Norbert Burns, S.M., has taught about one-third of UD alumni in the Christian Marriage class he began in the 1960s, and his “Challenge of Modern-Day Marriage” was a fixture for 25 years on WVUD. He stood for a moment to beam at our group.
A slender, dark-haired man with a Class of ’85 nametag broke from the tour to greet Father Burns and tell him, one-on-one, about the lasting impact the priest had had on his life. I took a picture of the two of them, and he did the same for me. I don’t recall his name, but I remember his happiness. When I handed him back his camera, he said that that chance to connect with Father Burns had made the whole trip worthwhile.
Those moments of meaningful serendipity, I reflected, are among the joys of Reunion Weekend. The principle was like those first days of college: Whether you go out with a group or solo, if you are there, something neat can happen. Take Friday afternoon, when my roomies’ golf cart crossed paths with a minivan — and a woman waving out the window and yelling, “Jan!”
What a kick. It was my old housemate Jan Cherry Stanley ’77, whom I’d lived with senior year with a different group of friends at College Park. I made plans to meet Jan and her husband Chris ’75 Saturday afternoon at Mass in the chapel. While I was at the chapel, Anne R. paid a visit to her former English professor Joe Pici and his wife, Anne; a few other roomies headed to Flanagan’s Pub for a beer and some World Cup. All very UD.
Fun coincidences popped up all weekend, including the middle-aged man in the lobby of the Marriott whom I had approached Saturday night after the Porch Party. Would he take a picture of us? Noticing that his name tag read “Ken Adams Class of ’70,” I decided to throw out an improbable question: Did he know Lynette Filips — my sister who was also a 1970 grad? “Shorter than you, dark hair, from Cleveland?” he answered. Crazy. Adams had known her from Cleveland Club.
The lobby of the Marriott, in fact, was like a big UD dorm lobby. Throughout the day, evening and deep into the night, the place was a happy intersection for all ages of grads. And if you happened to be there at 3 a.m., you’d find out you can get pizza delivered until 4. Now that’s the mark of a college town.
UD was so fun. —Doreen Dougherty Carlson ’78
By the time Mass ended late Saturday afternoon, the various department open houses had ended. It was time to get ready for the Porch Party, which was really a big tent with a Mexican buffet and a band. But I was craving a quiet time to retrace my younger self’s footsteps. I decided to try a couple of buildings’ doors to see if any had been left unlocked.
When I slipped inside Sherman Hall, it felt just like my roommates: the same. The tiled floors, the classic hallways and classrooms, and most of all, the building’s comforting institutional smell — was that born of decades of floor wax and textbooks?
I studied the housing notices posted on bulletin boards and the research summaries hanging in the halls. I poked my head out the back door to see the side steps from Marycrest. I pictured myself hurrying through the halls, surrounded by fellow students — and on more than one occasion, running out that door and up those steps to retrieve a forgotten notebook. On the second floor, I paused to watch the perpetual pendulum swing. It all brought a stillness to my heart.
Our getting together was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Some of us had stayed in touch and some not at all, and it was so cool that we could come together and pick up where we had left off — and open our hearts and our minds to each other. And now we don’t want it to end. —Jonelle Bindl Gilden ’77
Back at home in Kentucky, Doreen got all motivated and launched a Marycrest Mavens blog, where she posted a handful of photos from the reunion and provided a space for keeping the conversation going. And indeed that conversation has continued with visits, letters, e-mails and phone calls.
Such as: When Doreen was checking out colleges in St. Louis with her college-bound son later in the summer, she got together with Anne R., who lives in St. Louis. They met each other’s families, talked about partnering on a food enterprise, then — so lucky! — went to the Carole King-James Taylor concert.
When Regina visited family in Chicago in July, she and Jonelle met for lunch. Jonelle, who lives outside Chicago and travels constantly, had dinner with Linda in Columbus in late July and with Lynne in Fort Lauderdale soon after. And just before that, Lynne had toured Massachusetts Maritime Academy with her daughter and met up with Anne M., who lives outside Boston.
No one has made it to my side of the country since the reunion, but I arrived home one day to find a box from Doreen and her fledgling business enterprise, WellFarm Food. She’d sent everyone her WellFarm Nutri-pack — the dehydrated purees she makes from whole fruits and vegetables, mixed in with other goodies such as probiotics and oils. I was in awe as I unwrapped these foods, packaged like a cross between festive party favors and scrapbook art. Cards from both Annes have brightened my stack of ordinary mail.
And I was so touched by an e-mail from Anne R. with an idea “which you inspired and in your honor,” she wrote, for declaring the ninth of each month as breast self-exam day. “I thought the ninth because there are nine of us!” How great is that? I followed through on the ninths of August and September.
Doreen has invited everyone to bunk at her farm in 2011, with families invited. Lynne has already signed on for the country weekend. “I plan on taking a day trip up for the reunion party,” she told me on the phone. “I want to see everybody that I remember from 1976.”
And next June, many other returning Flyer alumni will be surprised by campus but be reminded, as we were: We are UD.
Janet Filips ’77, a communication major turned journalist and writer, lives in Portland, Ore. Arnica Press will publish her first book, Luscious: 100 Recipes and Insider Stories from Oregon Growers, Artisans, and Chefs, in December 2010.
REUNION WEEKEND reunion.udayton.edu
MARYCREST MAVENS marycrestmavens2010.wordpress.com
NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE INFORMATION ON BREAST CANCER www.cancer.gov/breastNo Comments
Seniors Erica Ventura (left) and Carolyn Teter (right) have talked with literally thousands of alumni since their freshman year. They’re two of approximately 60 students in UD’s Telefund program, calling alumni to ask them to make a gift to UD. Their advice for making their day:
1. Be shocked by your reunion year “I’ve called alumni and said, ‘Oh, I see it’s your 40th reunion year,’” Teter said. “And they’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh.’ They’re astounded. They can’t fathom it.”
2. Tell them you loved beating X They did too. After a win over Xavier, “We hear ‘Go, Flyers’ left and right,” Teter said. “The guys get on the phone and have a field day with it.”
3. Be a Golden Flyer “Their stories crack me up,” Ventura said. “Football was huge. The women lived off campus.” And Golden Flyers are the only ones with stories about meeting their true loves on campus 50+ years ago.
4. Give advice “Alumni know what professors and classes to take,” Teter said. “They know it like the back of their hand.”
5. Give a gift Something you might not know: The callers often play games in the calling room, and each gift earns them extra turns and such. It might even help your particular caller score a gift certificate for pizza on Brown Street with a Trivial Pursuit victory. Even more importantly, your love and support of UD’s community deepens theirs.
6. Enjoy the call “We love to just talk,” Ventura said. Teter added, “This is a great job to have. I feel I know so much more about the University. It’s going to be sad to leave.”No Comments
Mark Pulsfort ’74 oversaw the three-year planning and construction of the new Yankee Stadium, now entertaining its second season of baseball fans. Pulsfort, vice president and deputy operations manager for the New York business unit of Turner Construction, had a special interest in keeping the Bronx Bombers’ fans happy; he’s one of them.
1. Take charge Pulsfort, a lifelong Yankees fan, routinely oversees skyscraper construction. But when Turner’s business unit received the bid proposal for the new Yankee Stadium, Pulsfort advocated for the job, knowing his company could handle the schedule and budget constraints of a project that was still being designed.
2. Coordinate Pulsfort used 3D building information modeling to handle the complexity of the project. After trade subcontractors inputted their work into the model, he developed clash reports — such as identifying where a structural beam bisected a water pipe — and resolved thousands of them to reduce risk in the field.
3. Keep an eye on history Features needed to remind fans of the ball team’s history, including the arch frieze hanging from the interior roofline and Gate 4 main entrance façade of precast limestone and granite. “Knowing the history of the old stadium, what the Yankees represent, the records — now there will be new players and history going forward, and I’m very proud to be part of that.”
4. Make every seat in the house a great one Precast stadia installed by cranes and 50-foot cantilevers hinted at the final layout, which positioned several upper seating bowls closer to the field. Fans have better sightlines, improved concessions and an open concourse to enjoy the game.
5. Savor it At the home opener April 16, 2009, Pulsfort walked into the stands, sat back, and watched both the game and the success of the structure he ushered literally from the ground up. It was his favorite moment of the project: “Opening day, to be in the stadium and have 50,000 fans sitting around you and to know you were part of making this happen, particularly when it was on time and on budget.”No Comments
Father Bert Buby, S.M. ’45 professor emeritus of religious studies, is recording a CD series on apocryphal Gospels this fall. It will be released by Now You Know Media in time for Christmas.
How did the four Gospels come to be considered canonical and the others lacking in authority or authenticity (apocryphal)? —Ed Smith, Kettering, Ohio
Predominant leadership in early Christianity really separated itself from anything that seemed to be a threat to what they received from the apostles. Canonical Gospels, in general, are founded on earlier traditions. The apocryphal Gospels — literature ranging from 90 A.D. to 700 A.D. — show us the diversity in some of the outlying communities of Christianity and how they looked at leadership from a different perspective. Soon I will be working on the Gospels of Judas and Mary Magdalene, which are very interesting.
What is the difference between a Marianist and a Jesuit? —Evan Ruggiero ’13, Palantine, Ill.
The main difference is the Marianists emphasize a strong discipleship based on the mother of Jesus. They differ in that brothers and priests are on an equal level of respect, with the priests tending to the sacramental life and the brothers tending especially to the education part of our mission, with both working together for the poor and on social justice issues. Jesuits focus on obedience to the pope and are more individual in their expression of community life.
Why did God require himself (Christ) to die for our sins? —Joseph Bonanno ’72, Manchester Township, N.J.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only son” [John 3:16]. The fact that Jesus became human through his mother, Mary, shows us that someone who was human had to be part of the reconciliation necessary to unite the human and the divine, and Jesus was the one to show us the way. What has not been assumed — our human nature — cannot be redeemed.
What do you think is the future of Catholicism in China and South (even North) Korea? —Robin Smith, Dayton
From listening to the Chinese Catholics here in the United States, it will be a difficult and long journey before Catholics will be able to have the same freedom of expression that they have in Taiwan or southern Korea. Communist authorities control the Catholic expression of faith in public.
When there are significant differences between various English translations of Scriptures, do you encourage students and alumni to select the wording that they like most? —Don Wigal ’55, New York City
As a teacher, I show them what it says from the original language — the Greek, Hebrew — and then have them see which of the new translations seems to capture what was in that original text. There’s a commentary given in four English versions that’s very helpful for students —the Complete Parallel Bible. What they like would be the personal application —Scripture is supposed to have an effect on you.
In a contemporary setting, especially in a place where religion is fading into the background, what role do the church and Mary have to play in society? —William P. Anderson, Lac du Flambeau, Wis.
Dignity of human work, dignity of owning property, dignity of the individual — this is really an area in need because of globalization. The church could really help the whole of society by promoting the compendium on social justice and peace statements in a simpler and clearer format, maybe by making them available at a lower price so more people would read them. And how does Mary fit in? I have a graduate student, Laura Morrison, working on that. She’s looking at Mary as a model of the Catholic social mission through the documents and scriptural passages and applying Catholic social teachings to the life and work of Mary.
My senior year at UD, I had the best possible job — student receptionist at Alumni Hall. One of the sweetest memories I have is when you bought a new pair of running shoes and were so excited that you showed them to me. Father Buby, are you still running? —Anne Muth Orlando ’85, Pittsburgh
I started running in 1970 and was still moving at a slow jog until a few years ago. I am not running because of a hip replacement; however, I do try to run from my superiors.No Comments
When the University of Dayton welcomed the largest, most geographically diverse first-year class since the Vietnam War era, we paused to celebrate the moment.
It is an extraordinary accomplishment, but not the one by which we measure our true success. We are continually transforming the University of Dayton to meet the needs of today’s students and shape our future.
I posed two big questions to my administrative team at a summer retreat. How do we remain a vibrant, forward-thinking learning community in the Marianist tradition? How do we ensure broader recognition of the value of the educational experience we provide?
We are viewing the challenges in higher education with an inventive spirit — and an eagerness to embrace change and take action. While our retention, graduation and alumni giving rates rank higher than national averages, I believe we can do better. We must do better to compete.
We will improve the first-year experience for new students, offer more scholarships and do more to prepare all students to enter and thrive in a rapidly changing world. We will inspire greater numbers of alumni to invest in their alma mater because, having experienced the transformative power of a University of Dayton education, they recognize their important role in our mission. We can reach our aspirations only through greater levels of private support.
In a highly competitive marketplace, we are focused on improving our position nationally and globally. We will boldly communicate our distinctive identity and continue to establish broader domestic and global markets, ensuring that all students feel at home on our welcoming campus. We will assess our programs, abandon outdated ideas, and introduce curricular innovations and new technologies at a pace normally not seen in the world of academia.
This is not a new management philosophy. The Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, advocated for ongoing, adaptive thinking that responds to world conditions. He called for a clear vision of education and continuous improvement of methods. Our history brims with examples of how we have boldly transformed this campus to meet the needs of the day.
Over the years, we have built a strong campus community that educates students to link learning and scholarship to lives of leadership and service. We have never viewed ourselves as an ivory tower isolated from the urban community that surrounds us, but as a social force that must be involved in the region to reach our full potential. We have worked to create knowledge in service to the community — and the world.
These are distinctively Catholic, Marianist values that guide our work as educators every day. Our historic mission will not change. It’s as fresh and relevant today as it was 160 years ago.
Chaminade knew how to read the signs of the times and respond boldly with faith and action. We’re walking in his footsteps.No Comments
I wanted to go to new student convocation in RecPlex. Honest. But there was another new student, just down the hill from the chapel, who needed me more.
As President Daniel J. Curran welcomed first-year students and SGA president Jim Saywell told them they’ll know they’re Flyers when they spontaneously yell, “Go UD,” to tour groups of prospective students, I sat on a tiny chair in a classroom at Holy Angels School, kindergarden orientation for my 5-year-old, Gus.
He spent it on the playground outside while we adults talked very seriously of matters like curriculum and shoe-tying, bathroom breaks and bus-riding protocol. Behind the parents’ questions was a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. We each balanced them on the scales of our hearts at this moment of letting go.
Our Marianist principles commit us to education for adaptation and change. Change can prompt reflection, as it did for Janet Filips, who came to campus this summer to visit with housemates from College Park and hallmates from Marycrest, some of whom she hadn’t seen since she walked the line at graduation.
And she peeked in the windows of that College Park house and walked the hallways of Sherman Hall to see what she would feel.
Change can also prompt discovery. To keep his Blue Sky Project growing, Peter Benkendorf opted to uproot himself, his family and his arts program from the Chicago area to the University of Dayton, where his daughter had enrolled. From the move is growing a mutual revelation: what visiting contemporary artists can offer UD and the city of Dayton, and what our insistence on community can offer to usually solitary artists. Both sides have much to gain.
And sometimes change can sneak up in ways as subtle as a tiny footnote in an obscure scientific article. That happened to alum Ed Timm, and as a result he and UD researcher Khalid Lafdi are making strides toward alleviating the suffering of glaucoma patients, a very welcome change indeed. When new worlds open before us, we react to find our place in them and shape what they and we become.
Janet, Peter, Ed and Khalid are doing that, and so are our students at that convocation I missed.
Even as a kindergardener at age 5, Gus is discovering how to shape himself and our world. Over the last month my wife and I are doing the same, uncovering daily the space in our hearts to watch Gus grow in knowledge and love and faith.
And in a community that nurtures that, how can there not also be great hope?No Comments
To breathe life into a relic, inhale deeply and sing.
An intricately embellished 16th-century Spanish antiphonary revealed centuries of liturgical tradition and candle wax as 20 students and their professor surrounded the manuscript and chanted, “Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.”
“I told them how lucky they are to be at a university that allowed such access to such amazing material that is so large that our students can actually touch and sing from,” said Samuel Dorf, a new lecturer in music and musicology.
When he arrived on campus this fall, Dorf sought out hidden treasures on campus, such as the Zimmerman Collection, which includes instruments from around the world. It was then that Roesch Library special collections curator Nicholetta Hary asked if he would like to see the antiphonary.
His exclamation: “That would be awesome.”
Its 240 thick vellum leaves are stained with the oils of centuries of hands turning pages. Measuring more than 15 inches wide and 21 inches high, each leaf contains five staves of black notes on red lines. The words — from psalms, hymns and other parts of the Divine Office — written in Latin in Gothic hand begin with finely decorated initial caps surrounded by swirls and curls in red and blue ink.
In his Music History and Literature I class, students learn about the books and music first transcribed in Europe in the ninth and 10th centuries for distribution to abbeys and congregations. As they paged through the antiphonary, students encountered the unmetered notation for chanting developed in the 11th century, notation quite different than that common in today’s music.
“It was difficult to do together, as the rhythms were very obscure,” said music major Samuel Day.
Still, the students’ ability to sight read was impressive, Dorf said, illustrating both their training and skill and — along with the antiphonary — giving him more reasons to feel lucky to be at UD.
“It was a living, musical tradition, and it still is living because we sang from it last week,” he said.No Comments
We are pilgrims. Eyes hot from too little sleep. Bodies sore from too many foreign beds. And again, we pray. This time on the freeway at 100 kph, rushing past sand dunes made stationary by scrub grass where naked sheep graze.
Each day, a pilgrim leads the prayer. Today, as we head north to France after 16 hours in Zaragoza, Spain, Joe Saliba sways near the bus driver and speaks into the microphone.
“Some say Marianists are reformed Benedictines,” says the dean of engineering, pausing for our labored chuckles. “We really borrow a lot of their virtues and a lot of their habits. The difference is that they are in abbeys and we are in communities.”
He recites Pope John Paul II’s “Prayer to our Lady of Lourdes” — in preparation for the group’s next stop six hours over the Pyrenees mountains — in the style of the Benedictines. Saliba reads. Others share a word or phrase that resonates deeply. And the process repeats.
“It’s an awakening of the words of the scripture,” Saliba says.
One pilgrim offers: Teach us to build up the world.
And another: Glorious Mother.
Dawn of a new era.
Paths of the World.
“This morning, for me it was ‘first of the disciples,'” he says.
For 10 days in June 2007, we UD pilgrims followed the paths of the Marianist founders through three countries, connecting with the places and spaces that have inspired more than two centuries of education and community action in the spirit of Mary. These pilgrims are Marianist Educational Associates, lay people committed to preserving the heritage and invigorating the spirit of Marianist education. They also may be the future of the University of Dayton.
Gone are the days of a brother in every classroom. Now, it’s hard even to find a priest for every blessing. But thanks to the Blessed Father William Joseph Chaminade, who began the Marianists with his sodality of everyday Christians, the lay and the religious are equal partners in building up society for the glory of God. The 31 vowed Marianists on campus are now complemented by 25 MEAs who have undergone formation training and public commitments. The trip, part of an education to connect them with the order’s founders, allowed them to walk in the footsteps of Chaminade, visit the mission of Mother Marie Thérèse de Lamourous and meet the women who keep the work of Mother Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon alive.
To be sure, it is a costly endeavor for the Society of Mary, which is putting time and resources into people who are not bound to their commitment through anything other than dedication. It’s an investment the society is willing to make.
“The investment is really an investment for a deepening of the Marianist spirit,” said Father Paul Marshall, University rector, who joined eight MEAs, three spouses and this journalist on the trip. “It doesn’t live in ideas first. The forming of the mind, it’s not book knowledge. It’s going to the places, meeting the people. … The Marianist charism lives in people. ”
In Bordeaux, France, we walked in the footsteps of Father Chaminade and inadvertently left some of our own in the wet concrete of a city at once old and constantly reinventing itself. If a 300-year-old building needs water, simply rip up the sidewalk, insert the appropriate piping, and cover it over for another hundred years, Saliba pointed out. No fuss, no “wet cement” signs to warn spiritual sightseers.
Dogged pragmatism, a sense of making do while recognizing the future: These are familiar themes to those who know the Marianists. Simply being in the city gave the pilgrims a sense of the old Bordeaux that Chaminade called home from 1789, when the French Revolution drove him from the school where he was teaching, until his death in 1850.
Brother Tim Phillips, S.M., assistant rector of Marianist International Seminary Chaminade in Rome, turned stories once trapped in ink and pulp to flesh and wood as he led the MEAs on a walking tour of the old city. In the Chapel of the Madeleine, he showed pilgrims the door, 6-feet high and rubbed soft by centuries of hands, behind which the first Marianists took their vows in 1817.
“What we’re about is to learn and keep tradition alive,” said Steve Mueller, UD executive director of counseling and health services. “It also stirs some emotion — we’ve read the books, but it doesn’t feel like it does when you step into the Madeleine for the first time.”
The travelers stepped into the dim chapel and inhaled cool, humid air. The 15th century building, which still holds Mass daily and supports a religious and lay Marianist community, seemed to vibrate with an intensity that pricked the skin like electricity. Its cool limestone walls contrasted with the gilded statues of Mary and the angel of the Annunciation purchased by Chaminade. A relic of Chaminade lies within an illuminated altar.
The MEAs felt that same intensity in the bright second-floor apartment where Chaminade worked and died and where Father Paul Marshall said Mass at the worm-worn table on which Chaminade said Mass during the revolution.
“A lot of the letters and documents we have from Father Chaminade would have been written, dictated, thought about in this room,” Phillips said. “You can imagine the conversations they must have had.”
The simplicity of the chapel and the room struck Sandra Yocum Mize, chair of the department of religious studies. The pine floors and blue front door belie the courage needed by the Marianists to re-Christianize French society after the chaos of the revolution. Being in this place underscored the connection UD has with that first Marianist mission to educate the laity and send them out to be forces for change in their own communities, she said.
“There are people who pass by L’Madeleine every day, ride by it on bikes, and have no idea what is going on inside,” she said. “Yet people in Dayton, Ohio, have a real connection to this place. There’s something real important in recognizing the value of the ordinary, in spreading the gospel and in being one contributor to a transformation in society. … What you need is a simple room with a table and people who are gathered together who are committed.”
The simplicity of the other historic locations — the oratory where Chaminade hid priests during the revolution, the Miséricorde where Marie Thérèse welcomed prostitutes and helped them learn trades, the storefront that once served as the first Marianist boarding school, the first house of the Society of Mary — reinforced the Marianist involvement in everyday life.
It also served for a bit of weary humor that sent the tired bunch into hysterics. On a day trip from Bordeaux into Périgueux, where Chaminade’s parents lived, Father Robert Witwicki, S.M., led the pilgrims down a narrow lane. He stopped before a nondescript green door next to another nondescript green door.
“And this is where Chaminade was born,” he said with a flourish.
Looking up, the pilgrims asked, “Which one? 18 or 20.”
“Ah, 18, 20, it doesn’t matter. We say it is here.”
Father Matt Komescher, S.M., sitting on a couch in the admission office, greeted Kathy McEuen Harmon with this phrase as he began their daily chats about Flyer basketball, religion and the scholarship in his mother’s name.
One day he had a new topic of conversation: There’s this program, he said, that you’d be perfect for. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I’ve nominated you.
He knew of Harmon’s longstanding dedication to the University, which she joined in 1992. As associate director of student scholarships, she has daily contact with a special area of the Marianists’ mission: educating the whole person by stretching scarce resources.
The program was the Marianist Educational Associates, lay people educated and working in partnership with the vowed religious to perpetuate the heritage and invigorate the mission of the three Marianist universities: Dayton, St. Mary’s in San Antonio and Chaminade University in Honolulu.
Started in 2004, the MEA program has graduated three cohorts of faculty, staff and administrators from an intensive four-day initial formation program focused on the Marianist and Catholic history, Catholic higher education and the Marianist educational mission. MEAs also complete personal readings and reflections, discuss faith and campus mission in community, are invited to make a public commitment, and join the pilgrimage. While it was the second year for the pilgrimage, it was the first attended by only those from UD.
The program recognizes both the importance of the laity to Marianist history (“The laity is as much Marianist as the religious,” said Brother Raymond Fitz, S.M.) and the reality the number of vowed Marianists in North America is diminishing.
“As we move into the future, the driving force (at the universities) will remain the Society of Mary, but there will not be such a cadre to animate and sustain the spirit throughout the institutions,” said Fitz who, with Brother Tom Giardino, S.M., teaches the intensive formation program.
Each university embraced the concept and formed it with a flavor unique to the institution’s character and needs. UD rector’s council, intent not to duplicate existing efforts or create an insiders’ club, discussed for a year the idea before taking nominations, like the one from Komescher, and then applications for those willing to accept the responsibility of being an MEA.
Harmon, who is Protestant, appreciates how welcoming the Marianists are to those of all faiths, employees and students alike. So, when she was selected for the second cohort, she drew from Komescher’s faith in her and years in service to the Marianists to answer: “In the spirit of Chaminade, ‘yes.’ In the spirit of Mary, ‘yes.'”
Since the concept of partnership between religious and lay is key, it’s as important to include an admissions counselor as a dean.
“The charism should infuse every aspect of the University, who we are and what we do,” said Father Marshall. “It embraces all areas of academics and growth — nothing is outside the kingdom of God.”
Brother Michael John McAward, S.M., secretary general of the Marianists at their Rome headquarters, kept the jet-lagged pilgrims moving on the first day of the pilgrimage through St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City with the story of St. Peter, rock of the church, in seven parts. It began with history beneath the colonnade, continued with intrigue at the tomb of St. Peter (the bones are actually 4 feet to the right of the tomb, which bears the inscription that identifies his resting place), and concluded outside with humor (the archeologist who took the bones home in a shoebox for safe keeping).
Michelangelo’s Pietá and the sunlight streaming down on the marble floors provided a striking contrast to the simplicity of the Marianist sites they would see in Bordeaux. But, more than anything, Rome provided a first lesson in the people who inhabit the spaces and places that punctuate an itinerary.
McAward waved his arms as he gave running commentary around the Colosseum, through St. Peter’s and on to the baptistery at St. John Lateran, knowledge that sprang from his love of sharing history, religion and culture. Sister Marie Luce Balliet, F.M.I., who poured sugar in her wine at lunch at the Daughters general administration, told stories of joining the men in the Bordeaux grape harvest as a teenager and of preparing for South American missions at age 70.
“It’s not the places that are interesting, it’s the people,” said Brother Phillips who, with stories rooted in centuries, endeared himself to the MEAs. “It’s at these places you meet the people.”
In Zaragoza, Spain, it was Father Eduardo Benlloch, S.M., who bustled the pilgrims across town for a brief presentation on Our Lady of the Pillar, before which Chaminade prayed while in exile. In Feugarolles, France, it was Patrice and Ghislaine de Bentzmann, who welcomed the MEAs into the historic family home of very great auntie Adèle, founder of the Daughters of Mary.
In Bordeaux, it included Jean Pierre Roumaillac, whose mobile phone rang the theme to Pink Panther. He was the MEAs’ intrepid companion, offering interpretations of history based on his own experience as a lay Marianist.
As he sped past vineyards on the way to Mussidan — where Chaminade and his brother ran a school — Roumaillac announced to the MEAs in his car that it was 3 o’clock, time for the traditional Marianist prayer. Switching from English back to French, he then recited the doxology from memory.
“I found it very touching and felt this connection, this sense that he knew we knew what he was talking about,” Sandra Yocum Mize said. “He said it in French, we say it in English but, in that simple offering of the prayer, we felt a larger connection to the Marianists.”
The strong, curved, 4-foot-5 frame of Sister Marie Agnes shook with excitement. She rattled on in French, filling the cramped room with words about the ministry of Marie Therese and giving her interpreter no pauses to explain the stories to the American visitors.
“And the story doesn’t end there,” she said after a forced interruption before launching into a story about the secret room where Marie Thèrése and her followers said Mass during the French Revolution. Here, she said, is a small window to the courtyard, so the gardener could signal if the soldiers appeared.
Sisters Marie Agnes and Marie Veronique, both aged more than 80 and more than a century removed from Marie Thèrése, were ecstatic to entertain these visitors from America who traveled so far to hear their stories. While the MEAs were there to learn history — see the shepherd’s cottage original to Marie Thèrése’s family, the embroidery made for her by the repentant women she helped — they learned that the jubilant spirit that seems so familiar at UD animates people and missions around the world.
At the Hermitage in Le Pian, outside Bordeaux, the sisters run a boarding school for socially disturbed youth. They require love and attention, Marie Veronique said, much the way Marie Thèrése cared for the prostitutes who were seeking reform and reintegration to society. One of her favorite stories is of a Polish order that wrote asking Marie Thèrése to send women to establish a similar ministry in their country. Her reply: send your women here, learn from us, and take a piece of that back with you.
The jubilation was present in Agen, France, where the Daughters of Mary welcomed the MEAs with sweet wine and cakes after a tour of the property, which included Adèle’s grave and a case containing a lock of her hair, a piece of her habit, the cross she wore on her neck.
It also was present at the Daughters of Mary in Rome when Superior General Marie Joëlle Bec, F.M.I., told the story of Adele who, at age 11 in 1801, insisted to the priest she must wait and prepare properly for First Communion. Adèle again insisted, this time in 1816, that Chaminade support her call to form a community of sisters. With great pride, Bec related how Adèle described Chaminade as “working in the masculine branch of our order.”
“Because a family must have a mother and a father,” Bec told her guests in conclusion. “Now, tell me about being an MEA.”
Dick Ferguson expected his presentation to crash. While he had managed to eliminate 100 photos from his pilgrimage PowerPoint slide show, it still contained 1,100 images. It would take two lunch meetings for him to show them all to his staff at the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.
Many of his images captured everyday life of the Marianists we visited: simple table settings, beautiful flowers, sparse but comfortable sitting rooms, easy conversation.
“There’s something in the simple lifestyle of the European Marianist communities that struck me, ” said Ferguson, Fitz Center executive director. “My life is filled with stuff, both my personal life and my professional life … not just with things, but with projects, presentations, activities. … I’m not sure if it’s a written reflection, a slide presentation or a note to myself, but there’s a lesson somewhere for me and my family, my community, and our university.”
Other MEAs are making plans to incorporate their new knowledge into their work. Beverly Jenkins, associate director of admission, said she can better answer prospective students and parents who ask exactly what her own father asked 30 years ago when she was a UD student: “What do the Marianists mean to you?” While she couldn’t answer her father, she can now articulate their influence to other fathers and mothers.
“I talk with families every day,” she said. “I try to intentionally talk a little more about the Marianists. Parents do want to know what it means to be a Catholic and Marianist university. I haven’t perfected it yet; each time I tell it, it has a little different tone, depending on the families.”
Steve Mueller hopes to share his knowledge with student development employees — who in turn touch all the students — thereby using the Marianist philosophy of learning and sharing to exponentially build understanding.
But just because this is UD doesn’t mean their task is easy. At dinner one night, they talked about the barriers to their work. These include people who see the Marianist influence as nothing more than a friendly hello or a door held open. Others on campus would prefer religion stay in the chapel.
Associate professor Shirley Wright found the MEA formation and pilgrimage personally rewarding and as having tangible benefits to the classroom.
“I see great opportunity for science to be enriched by the Marianist traditions,” she said. “It was an incredible, magnificent experience.”
The MEAs are already making an impact on the University’s path. This year, they joined the vowed Marianists in interviewing candidates for vice president for student development, asking questions related to the University’s mission to find a candidate compatible with the Marianist philosophy of education.
The MEAs have created a strong personal community that has allowed them to probe the role of faith in campus life. This community has also supported each other through illness, professional struggles and uncertainty.
“If this is going to succeed,” Brother Fitz said, “it’s going to be an action of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has had in mind a lot of surprises.”
One of those has been the MEAs’ willingness to live a life that embodies the Marianist spirit. “There is an amazing depth of commitment and amount of energy people are willing to put into their work,” he said.
And the need for the commitment will only increase. The MEAs will be asked to offer suggestions about how changes in general education could enliven the Marianist goals and contribute to transformational leadership.
They also will be asked to take on additional responsibilities as the number of vowed Marianists decreases.
“There are not going to be clerics to do these things — bless your house, give the opening prayer,” said Joan McGuiness Wagner, director of Marianist strategies in the rector’s office. “If we want those things, we’re going to have to step up.
“Most will say the Marianist part of UD is what they like and what makes us distinctive. If it’s something important, what is each one of us willing to do to keep it going?”
The journey continues, and so pilgrims we remain.No Comments