Magazine article Momentum

Invitations

Magazine article Momentum

Invitations

Article excerpt

While it will be three months before I retire at the end of June, this is the last president's message I will write for Momentum, the most widely read of all NCEA publications. Over the past 23 years I've had countless opportunities to write about many issues. I've offered my own opinions, but I've generally resisted the temptation to write about my personal history in Catholic education. As I near the end of more than 45 years of work in Catholic education, "a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work," I ask you to indulge me as I offer some personal reflections.

In 1958, while I was in my second junior year of a nomadic undergraduate program, I began working part time at Nativity Mission Center on New York's lower east side. I did some after-school tutoring and coaching and ran a summer day camp. I was there because I was invited by an extraordinary Jesuit, Walter Janer, who started the parish satellite center because an invisible wall on Houston Street kept the newly arrived Puerto Ricans from reaching the old Italian parish church. The ethnic boundaries and invisible walls in lower New York provided the inspiration for "West Side Story."

Father Janer wanted professional commitments, something greater than periodic drop-ins by well-intentioned volunteers, so he insisted on mutual commitments-20 hours a week from me, and $10 a week in "salary" from Nativity. I continued on that basis for 10 years. Across the street from Nativity was a Catholic Worker Center run by Dorothy Day. I began my career in Catholic education in the company of saints and giants.

When I graduated in 1960, I took a full time job teaching mathematics at Loyola School, in addition to my work at Nativity. In an effort to build a bridge between New York's upper and lower east sides, I brought some Loyola students to Nativity to help with tutoring and coaching. In 1965, I was invited to speak about service programs at the NCEA Convention in New York. I was part of a three-person panel-the others were Msgr. George Higgins and Father Lou Twomey, SJ. And so I continued my unplanned association with saints and giants.

In 1968 I was invited to serve as Loyola's first (and U.S. Jesuit education's first) lay headmaster, a decision that meant the end of my part-time work at Nativity. …

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