He Was…Marshall

When the movie, We Are Marshall, starring Matthew McConaughey came out, I immediately heard several of my Paulists priest-friends mention that, one of their own, Fr. Bob Scott, CSP was the Marshall football team’s chaplain. For those not aware, the story of the movie concerns the events surrounding the plane crash that involved the entire Marshall University football team in 1970. That crash took the lives of not only an entire team, but several of Hunington, West Virginia’s leading citizens, who were big boosters for the team. It was devastating for the entire town, a college town that the university plays such a major role in.

Fr. Bob was the team’s chaplain and had been traveling with the team. But he had taken the previous week off from his parish duties to be with the team and thought better of taking a second week off to travel with them. That decision saved his life and he ended up ministering to a town overcome by grief. Injured players who didn’t travel, girlfriends of players, wives of coaches, parents…all were met by the kind eyes and empathy of Fr. Bob Scott, CSP. It was indeed tough for him as he dealt with his own survivor’s guilt, but he soldiered on and eventually became a big help to the new head coach Jack Lengyel, who converted to Catholicism with Fr. Bob’s help.

Yesterday, Fr. Bob went home to God at the age of 91. He not only served at Marshall but was a long-time presence at the University of Texas where he served well into his 80s.

I interviewed Fr. Bob for BustedHalo® some time ago and he was just a wonderful joyful man. The audio of that interview can be found on this podcast—and there’s just something about hearing his voice today that brings me comfort. But a summary of the interview is found here as well.

Rest in peace, Bob. I’m sure the Marshall and the Texas football players are lining up for a tunnel at the pearly gates for you to run through!

And here’s a great clip from the movie:

Day 17: Lenten 50 Day Giveaway: Something New

I’m on a Delta Flight to San Francisco, connecting through to Honolulu where I’ll be speaking at Chaminade University, the Island’s only Catholic University.

Last night I attended the 10th Anniversary Celebration of Busted Halo as I mentioned yesterday and I was thinking of my wife’s grandmother all night. I went to the family Christmas party one year and my wife’s grandmother, 90 years old sat with her husband, 96 years old, and looked at the hundred or so people in the room and said, “Louie! Look at what we did!” She beamed all day. And I did the same last night.

Video screens dominated the room with various displays of the work that Busted Halo does. It was very impressive and in a room full of high powered donors, it was exactly what was called for.

Stephanie Manowski who directs the Paulist Office of Media Relations came over and asked me my feelings about the evening. I replied, “Good Lord, I was here before we had office furniture!” I lowered my voice and humbly whispered, “Look at this now. Amazing!”

Unfortunately, Fr. Brett Hoover and Bill McGarvey were unable to attend. My two colleagues were big parts of Busted Halo’s® success and have, like me moved on to different ministries and jobs.

But we all saw. We saw what could be, what was needed and what our gifts and talents were. Those visionary moments continue with Fr. Dave Dwyer and Joe Williams and Barbara Wheeler now at the helm. And that vision is worth celebrating and continuing to give to others.

I am filled with gratitude today because others were able to “see me.” Fr. John Mullin, SJ saw my pastoral gifts as my campus minister at Fordham and after graduation, I started attending St Paul the Apostle where Fr. Eric Andrews and Fr. Brett Hoover continued to see much in me that I probably didn’t even see in myself. They started me on the road to ministry, to Busted Halo®, to Charis Ministries, to Googling God, and now to Buffalo where writing and they always enabled me to see and highlight my pastoral gifts–where I now so clearly see myself, especially in spiritual direction with others.

They’ve given me that gift of vision and now I’m able to pass that on to others.

The highlight of my evening last night was seeing a former directee of mine who I’ll call Susan (to protect her anonymity). She looks amazing. She’s lost over 50 lbs, she runs an amazing non-profit and she stands tall and confident. She’s amazing and she always has been. She came to me when I first started to do direction with people. I’m sure I made some mistakes early on, but I was able to help her see her need for silence and contemplation–to see her need to be herself with God, so that God could show her the gifts and talents she possess and how she longed for more meaningful work in her life. While I was there at the start of this thing called Busted Halo®, I think I’m a lot prouder of all the people like Susan who allow us to be there at the start of “something new” for them.

Also, Joe Williams, who now occupies my old office at Busted Halo® met me in a similar way and I was happy to be able to hire him initially part-time, to help us with producing videos, when he was looking to use his amazing skills differently. Joe now is a superstar. He produces all of those great videos that Busted Halo® is well known for, more now than ever. I’m so proud of him and of his work. And I’m glad I was a small part of his “something new.”

Whether that’s because they watched a video that inspired them, or listened to an engaging podcast or radio show, or read an article that moved them one step closer to God. Perhaps some go a step beyond the pre-evangelization that Busted Halo® provides and spends some time in spiritual direction, or on a retreat, or an alternative break we enable people to meet God. Maybe they give a year of their lives in service or simply come to mass, whatever it might be we need to be mindful that we stand on the precipice of an awakening, an awakening to what God has waiting for them in their lives.

And it is more than enough and it our purpose for being alive.

For today, my gift is gratitude for both my former colleagues in ministry but even more, I am grateful, for those who we have been blessed to journey with to awakening, those who were brave enough to let us see them in all their raw longing for “something new”, to live through the growing pains and to awaken to a new day.

Where we are able to see each other and all of God’s glory reflected in each other.

And that indeed is a “something new” worth waiting for.

Day 16: Lenten 50 Day Giveaway: A Celebratory Visit

Happy 10th Birthday to my child, BustedHalo.com. Sniff, Busted Halo is now 10 and, sniff, is all grown up looking and stuff.

Marion and I are in NYC for tonight’s gala celebration fund raiser for the website that started me on the road to becoming an author, an expert in the church and gave me the opportunity to serve young adults in many ways and I am deeply indebted to the Paulist Fathers for taking me under their wing and allowing me to develop and flourish as a minister.

Fr. Brett Hoover, CSP and I started this thing back before we even had office furniture and look at it now. Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP and Bill McGarvey came along and we furthered the mission into books and then podcasts led to the Sirius radio show all the while the site was still the crown jewel.
Barbara Wheeler has entered now and has gotten Young Adult Ministry in a Box launched and continues to hold the helm of the site together admirably. Joe Williams is an unsung hero. He slaves away at much of the video entries the site produces including the sacrament 101 videos and You Don’t Know Jack which are some of my favorite segments.

So tonight, I’ll sit proudly and remember the early days and take some pride in what God has created through all of us and what God creates in other young adults because of the inspiration that the site provides.

May it continue to flourish and grow and inspire for many years more.

But to do that, they need some help. So if you’ve got a shekel or two, drop them a small donation. You’ll be making a worthwhile investment.

Naval Officer, Marine Commander, Bishop…He Did it All.

I’ve had the pleasure to get to know a few Bishops in my career. And at a time when Bishops are criticized and critical of many things, I’d like to take time out to remember one Bishop fondly.

Bishop Joseph Estabrook was an auxiliary Bishop of the Military Diocese and I was proud to know him and call him a friend. He was a great colleague, serving as the Episcopal Moderator for NCYAMA the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association and was a rising star in the Church before cancer slowed him and eventually took his life at the much too young age of 67.

He was a great companion to our men and women in uniform. He once told me that he spent a great deal of time listening to “tough Marines cry” and that it was his ministry to be a companion to them in their time of need.

“I’ve seen so many Marines cry and it’s made me realize how tough they really are…especially after I hear what they are going through.”

He was always insightful and practical and a rabid supporter of my work at Busted Halo. He loved a video I produced, “Is Evolution Making a Monkey Out of the Catholic Church?” and spent a lot of time talking to me about what the marines on one of the bases he visited had to say about it.

“It opened a large conversation for us and it helped them see our church as an intellectually solid option.” I could think of nothing more honorable that anyone could say about our efforts.

Bishop Estabrook was also a very funny guy. He regaled us with stories over dinner and he would tell them with such a straight face that it would just become funnier and funnier.

For example: “I worked for the Bishop in Albany and he refused to wear the white vestments at funerals when the changes came down. One day a very public official died and we laid out the white vestments for him. He came in and was furious. ‘What are these?’ We then proceeded to tell him that he needed to wear them. He replied, “Give me five good reasons why I should put these on!’ We replied that this was what the universal church was doing and that the mass would be televised and that he needed to put these on as a show of unity. The church had decided on changing to focus on resurrection and he had move with the church and accept change–even if he was set in his ways.”

He continued with a wry smile:

“So he puts on the white vestments and then the time for the homily came. He starts out, ‘Well, Jim (the deceased) was a great public servant. And there’s one thing about him that always impressed me. Jim was never afraid of change! He always despite his fear, was able to accept change for the better. And so in Jim’s honor, I’d like to announce something. You see these white vestments, I’m instituting them in the diocese today. It’s a new change that we can’t be afraid of, that we need to move with the rest of the church into changing times.”

Bishop Estabrook reported that the Bishop them went on to enumerate all the reasons that they had given him just five minutes before the mass started.

“I looked at him and said, ‘I can’t believe you just did that!’ And he replied, ‘I’m just doing what you guys tell me I should be doing!’ He was a crazy guy, but was really a sweet man who we all loved down deep.”

I learned that he had cancer this past summer through some colleagues and some contract work I was doing for the military diocese. Mark Moitoza, the director of young adult ministry for the diocese said, “He’s a tough old marine. He’s on some kind of crazy chemotherapy that’s supposed to knock all the hair out of your head the next day. It’s nearly a month in and he hasn’t lost a hair. Amazing.

I think it must have been vanity, as the good Bishop was always well-coiffed. He was a good looking man. One colleague once said that she had “A Bishop crush.” Unbeknownist to the Bishop, he was a part of the greatest practical joke that I ever pulled off.

I called said colleague and disguised my voice and said:

“This is Bishop Estabrook, and I hear you have some kind of crush on me. We need to discuss that immediately.”

I went on and on…and finally revealed my identity. Much to the relief of the said colleague who had begun to dial the Bishop’s office on her cell phone. She then called me, half-laughing and half-furious.

As a funny guy, himself, I think the Bishop would have approved.

A priest of the Albany Diocese, he entered Military Chaplaincy in 1977 and served on several Naval bases before ending up in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor where he served as command chaplain in 1997. He later would serve in the same capacity at the Marine Corps base in Hawaii as well.

In 2004 he was named a Bishop and retired from the Navy. It was then that I met him in Cleveland at a conference and our friendship began.

I will miss you, Bishop. Thanks for helping us put young adults on the agenda of your fellow Bishops. Thanks for taking time for so many young adults throughout your career, on both land and sea, uniformed and civilian. But most of all, thanks for simply being my friend.

Rest in peace, Joe.

Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May Bishop Estabrook’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

A Church Magazine of Forgiveness

Well…not really. But America Magazine shows that they can laugh at themselves this holiday season with a blooper reel:

Almost as good as this one from a few years back that’s gotten me all nostalgic:


Fr. Dave and I are the last two standing at BustedHalo from this group and I, a mere part timer now from Buffalo. A secret, I was Santa in the first few shots with Fr. Jack Collins, CSP playing Santa at the end. I could never get the finger tapping down right in the scene with Jarred. Secondly, I do not shampoo with ground beef. My dog is creepy and he does that to me daily. I no longer fight him and my vet says it’s his way of saying that I’m part of his pack—like a mama dog would do to her pups. Awwww.

Regardless, I’m a bit nostalgic for NYC today and for some old colleagues. I went to spiritual direction at America Magazine for a few years with Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J. and Fr. Jim Martin, SJ is a good friend. So to all of those “old colleagues” in the greatest city in the world. Merry Christmas.