Unsworth's Tales of the Community

By Roberts, Tom | National Catholic Reporter, May 16, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Unsworth's Tales of the Community


Roberts, Tom, National Catholic Reporter


His career in journalism began with a letter that contained the combination of charm, empathy, humor and sharp wit that characterized his work for the next 24 years. Tim Unsworth, who died April 30 at age 78 after a long illness, was, as much as anyone in the Catholic world, our community's storyteller for more than two decades--from the early 1980s to just beyond the turn of the new century. Unsworth, whose columns appeared regularly in NCR, understood that our faith is inextricably tied to our stories, that we are raised, as religious people, on stories. As our storyteller, he showed us a full reflection of ourselves, our heroic, cowardly, saintly, scoundrelly selves. And it was clear he loved us all.

If he lampooned something, he did it with a certain affection: "The biretta represented ecclesiastical testosterone. It was the clerical magician's top hat from which all manner of mysterious love, forgiveness and stern direction came. A man with enough faith to wear one of those funny-looking pomponned caps had to have gotten a call from God."

A native of Ohio, he became a member of the Christian Brothers of Ireland, but left the order in 1970 and married Jean Morman, an artist and former member of the Sisters of Mercy. In their latter years, the two traveled widely, he lecturing, she collecting art and creating work of her own. They talked about each other and their interests in ways that made you wish you could listen in on their conversations.

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