This was a lovely affair with over 225 people attending. Fr. Eugene Lauer of the National Pastoral Life Center provided after-dinner comments and accepted the Gaudium Et Spes Award on behalf of the deceased Msgr. Phil Murnion and the center.

Jesuits Joe and Vin Novak were glowng and Dr. Jack Nelson, his wife Kathy and the rest of his family looked genuinely touched and honored. Nelson and the Novak’s received the founder’s award…and the award henceforth will be given in their name.

The mass beforehand was first rate liturgy, thanks in part to the liturgical planning of Dr. Marilyn Kravitz, a recent grad of the school. Possibly the most beautiful offertory procession I’ve ever seen. As the choir played “One Bread, One Body” those in procession lifted high the gifts that came forth from the community.

The dean of the school, Fr. Tony Sciorra gave a very moving homily based on the selected readings, weaving in the fact that “we indeed are standing on the shoulders of giants, not merely from our school, but from our faith. And that all begins with Jesus and the 12 he chose to lead us. When Jesus ascended into heaven, I’m sure all the saints and angels wondered if Jesus had a ‘plan b.” But those 12 simple men truly were the right people for the job…and we are indeed here today in this church because of them. And their gifts were all of different varieties.”

I was proud to have proclaimed the 2nd reading…and really felt the appreciation of many who thanked me to proclaiming the word well.

One of the highlights of my evening was meeting Zeni Fox, of National Catholic Reporter and other publications fame. She was the epitome of grace and class and made my wife (who often knows nobody at these things) feel remarkably comfortable. I hope I have the honor of spending more time with her again soon.

A second highlight was seeing Fr. Joe Constantino, Sj. When I was still a young radio producer, a priest-friend encouraged me to talk to Fr. Constantino about possibly working with his retreat center as a volunteer and working towards changing my career to directing retreats. He gave me about an hour of prime direction and allowed me to see that I had plenty of experience and gifts to be able to venture on my own in retreat ministry. While he had no positions on his staff available, he did invite me to keep in touch and encouraged me to look to other places to find a place to serve in this capacity. The Paulists, not long after this, found a job for me and I confidently came forth to land the position. So I owe Fr Joe big time.

In all…a fine evening. Next year on October 20th at Fordham! Be there!

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