Pope to Visit New York as well as Philly and D.C.

As rumored, Pope Francis will likely make a trip to New York as well as Washington, D.C.

Newsday has the scoop, quoting Joe Zwilling, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese.of New York.

Zwilling said a visit to New York makes sense for a number of reasons. This year is the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s address to the United Nations in 1965, when he was the first pope to visit the United States.

One of the more exciting things in this story is that Pope Francis may be making a trip to Fordham, my alma mater.  Some have said that the Pope wants to visit some areas where people struggle with poverty.  The Bronx is certainly an area where poverty is evident and I spent a good deal of time at POTS, the Fordham soup kitchen called Part of the Solution which serves many of the hungry in the borough.

So pack your bags.  I’m planning to try to be there.

Petey Griffin vs. The Fordham Ram

So I’m a proud graduate of Fordham and now work at another Ignatian institution, Canisius here in Buffalo. World’s are colliding as my colleagues from BustedHalo.com put together the Catholic Mascotology Contest this week, featuring all kinds of Mascots from various Catholic Universities. Mascots like The St Joe’s Hawk and the SLU Billiken (pictured).Unknown-2Unknown-3

Now many of you know my affinity for large muppet-like characters at stadiums. The Pirate Parrot is one of my all time favorites. Slider in Cleveland is another good one with the Indians.

But Petey Griffin (Named after St. Peter Canisius and not the Family Guy character–though that makes this a lot funnier) is my absolute favorite mascot these days. Check him out.

And then see how quickly he redeems himself:

UnknownProps to our hockey coach, Dave Smith, for playing along here. But seriously, who wouldn’t like a half-Eagle, half-Lion for their Mascot. And for years I’ve been saying that I don’t like the new Fordham Ram’s look.

Now that I am at Canisius, I am more and more appreciative of the people here and Petey represents that as a Mascot. His wings allow us to soar. And if nothing else, Buffalo is not one of these mid-sized cities that has a chip on it’s shoulder. So for once, let’s help the humble city beat the big, bad urban king of the world. I love Fordham and I love NYC. But I also love my new adopted home and more importantly, my students and colleagues here at Canisius who welcomed this old Ram and gave him Wings and a Roar and allowed him to be a Griff.

So vote early and often! And Go Griffs!

She Changed the Way Americans Ate Italian Food

08marc.1.184I was a producer for Arthur Schwartz’s Food Talk Show on WOR and I was at one of the many soirees that would be thrown by New York foodies. These parties were always magnificent but never gluttonous or ostentatious. “The good cooks keep it simple.” Arthur would remind me of this constantly. He’d always prefer to talk with cooks he knew well and had no problem conversing with, rather than the Star Chefs who seemed more style than substance.

I went to get a glass of Prosecco from the bar and an older woman came over to me and her kind eyes met mine. She frowned and said, “So hey! Who are you? I have never met you before!” She extended her hand. I took her hand in mine not knowing who this woman, with a deep rich Italian accent, was.

I stammered a bit and said “I’m Mike Hayes. I’m Arthur Schwartz’s producer at WOR.”

And before I could ask who this woman was her eyes opened wide and she smiled, “Oh thank God, you are with Arturo!” as she called him. “I am Marcella Hazan. You are with someone who actually knows how to cook! Where did you go to school?”

I knew her name well. Arthur sang her praises as one of the many great cooks he admired. Today’s NY Times captured her style intimately.

Mrs. Hazan embraced simplicity, precision and balance in her cooking. She abhorred the overuse of garlic in much of what passed for Italian food in the United States, and would not suffer fools afraid of salt or the effort it took to find quality ingredients.

Her tomato sauce, enriched with only an onion, butter and salt, embodies her approach, but she has legions of devotees to other recipes, among them her classic Bolognese, pork braised in milk and her minestrone.

When Mrs. Hazan arrived in New York in 1955, Italian food was still exotic, served in restaurants with straw-covered Chianti bottles and red-checked tablecloths.

She was a newlywed who did not speak English, transplanted to a country whose knowledge of her native cuisine was not much more than spaghetti covered with what, to her, tasted like overly spiced ketchup.

Armed with what little I knew about Marcella, I said:

“Well, I didn’t go to cooking school if that’s what you’re asking, Mrs. Hazan.”

“Mrs. Hazan? I am Marcella. And I didn’t go to cooking school either! The best school is in your own kitchen. I meant what college did you go to to learn how to run Arturo’s radio?”

“Ah!” I said. “I went to Fordham…in the Bronx.”

Marcella asked, “You ever eat in Arthur Avenue?”

Arthur Avenue, for the uninformed, is known as the “Little Italy of the Bronx.” It’s a wonderful little step into a place where Italian food becomes an art. I replied eagerly as I loved going there when I was at Fordham.

“All the time. When I could afford to eat a meal out!”

She smiled. “What’s the best place to eat there?”

She was testing me. “Well, I love Roberto’s, which is a bit off the beaten path on 186th and Hughes.”

She smiled and said, “That is the ONLY place to eat on Arthur Avenue. The place has gone downhill lately.”

She was right. There were dozens of restaurants but Roberto’s was true Italian food and I have never ceased to go there when I visit my Alma Mater. It’s tiny, but wonderful. The food literally falls off the bone. The risotto is to die for. Everything there is simple but precise.

“I kind of like Dominick’s too, for the experience…”

Dominick’s is a hoot. You walk in and there are long communal tables, so you eat with people you don’t necessarily know. There are also NO menus. The waiter asks “Whattya want?” You ask, “Whattya got?” Those that aren’t a pain in the butt to the waiter and order well are the ones who get charged a lower amount. “Let’s see you had the chicken and the fresh vegetables…eh..$12.”

Marcella said, “It is no Roberto’s, but yes, good. It is not what it once was, but still very good and it is good to eat with people, if they even talk to you these days.”

I said to Marcella, “Let me tell you a quick story! I took a date there once and she said that the food was too fresh! She said it was like they just killed the chicken in the back yard. I looked at her like she was crazy and said, ‘That’s exactly what they SHOULD do! THIS is food! Not whatever processed crap you’ve been eating.'”

She smiled and said, “Arturo has taught you well. And you should break up with that girl…she know nothing about the food.”

I said, “I did and that was a big reason why.”

“Your bill at Dominick’s must have been $500 with that one!”

I laughed and told her it was something like that.

We had Marcella on the show with her husband Victor. Marcella didn’t speak English when she came to the United States and Victor served as her translator often. He was very precise. He translated all of her books. He would come to the radio show and talk with his beloved wife who he came home to for lunch every day of their marriage.

Marcella, died this week at the age of 89. I simply remember her as a brusque woman who had strong opinions. For instance, Mario Batali told this story in today’s NY Times:

…the exacting and sometimes prickly Italian-born cook told Mr. Batali he was all wrong. In no uncertain terms, Mrs. Hazan told him the only proper way to make risotto was in a saucepan. He did not agree, but the two became friends anyway, sitting down over glasses of Jack Daniel’s whenever their paths crossed.

“I didn’t pay attention to Julia Child like everyone else said they did,” Mr. Batali recalled. “I paid attention to Marcella Hazan.”

He’d better, or he’d get an earful and some of it in Italian.

I was simply blessed to share a moment or two with her. Rest in peace, Marcella.

I Needed a Date…And You Danced With Me

When I was a sophomore in college we had a tradition where your roommate would set you up on a date for the residence hall’s annual dance. My roommate and my R.A. knew I had a huge crush on a young lady named Maria, who my R.A. actually had dated for some time. So, they went and asked her and she agreed to be my date.

Until the night before the dance and then she decided that she had too much homework and had to bail.

They didn’t know how to tell me…so they tried to scramble, but by that time…everyone had a date already and it seemed as if I would have to go “stag.” Both my roommate and R.A. broke the news to me. To be honest, I was touched that Steve, my R.A., would even ask his ex-girlfriend for a favor so that I might have a date with her. My roommate, Joe, went the extra yard and tried to find a suitable replacement. Finally, my phone rang.

“Mike, it’s Steve DiSalvo.” Steve was the Resident Director in my old freshman year dorm and is still today, a close friend. “I heard about what happened. Come on over here and we’ll talk about it.”

So I went over. I was upset about this but also I was really honored that these three guys would go through so much trouble for me. I was shy and not very confident in these days. I didn’t really date and thought that most women weren’t all that interested in me. My roommmate was very confident and it didn’t help that I shrank in his shadow often around women.

Regardless, Steve met me at his dorm and said, “Let’s see, who might we know that you might like to go with to this dance?”

Just then, Melissa Morrissey entered the lounge we were sitting in. I had been a freshman advisor to her and had helped her register for classes.

“Hey Melissa,” Steve said. “You remember Mike, right?”

“Of course!” Melissa replied. “You helped us at registration and we saw each other at the movie in the grass.”

389651_10150340002544117_1275123817_nMelissa was one of those girls who I really liked. Not in a “I-want-to-really-really-date-you” way, but rather, I enjoyed her company when I was around her.

“So Melissa, you want to go with Mike to the Sesqui Dance tomorrow night?”

Melissa didn’t hesitate. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled a beautiful big smile and said “Sure! Why not? Sounds like fun!”

“Pick you up at 8?” I said. And she readily agreed.

“I have a great dress too! Thanks for asking!”

She darted down the hall and Steve just looked at me and said, “YOU are going to owe me, BIG TIME!”

I picked Melissa up at her dorm and she looked like a thousand dollars. Her long blonde, curly hair made her look like she could play the lead in a production of “Repunzel” the fairy tale of the girl with the long blonde hair. She had the perfect little black dress for the occasion. And she met me with a smile and a kiss on the cheek.

We had a wonderful time. We danced every dance. And hung out with friends. We grabbed a beer or two with friends later and in general just enjoyed each other’s company. There was no pressure and everything just seemed free and easy. For a “last second date” Melissa made me wish she was my date for every dance.

It was a weird time at Fordham. A student had murdered a local Bronx resident and the campus was on lockdown for fear of retribution. So there were all these activities in the late evening to encourage us not to go to the bars. That night we went to an on-campus movie after the dance and just laid out on the couches with friends. It was sweet and wonderful and in general, outside of my wife, Melissa was the best date ever.

Melissa didn’t know I was really struggling to feel accepted that year. Friends from freshman year had kind of faded. My roommate and I were good friends but started to get on each other’s nerves. I began to question if I wanted to go into the media that year and in general I was feeling lost. My grades were better than year, but still weren’t the stellar marks I was used to getting. I didn’t date and wasn’t sure that anyone would be interested. My confidence was at an all time low and then…when I found out about not having a date for the dance, I was probably at one of the lowest points of the year, perhaps even one of the lowest points of my life.

Enter Melissa. And she turned it all around in a single evening. And I have treasured the memory of that evening for more than 20 years now. It was an evening that didn’t end with a brief hook-up, nor even a passionate kiss.

It was, however, an evening that ended my loneliness. It may very well have been a major turning point for me.

Today I have shed many tears. This Friday, Melissa suffered a major heart attack and died at the much too young age of 42. We had kept up just a bit over the years mostly through facebook. She had started a business and had done some extensive traveling. I’m seeing a lot of posts from people who said Melissa mentored them and that was no surprise to me.

She was a great friend to all and will always be beloved my me as that great friend who very well may have lifted me up just when I needed it by a single act of kindness.

It may very well be a corporal work of mercy…”I needed a date…and you danced with me.” It seems too trite to say that perhaps God needed someone to dance with too, especially since she died much too young, but I may very well picture her doing that today…and remembering.

Scripture writes:

“Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” -Jeremiah 31:13

There seems to be no amount of dancing that can ever end my sorrow at Melissa’s death, but then I remember that she danced with me in the first place, when nobody else would. And in remembering that my joy is restored. Let us celebrate her life each time we dance, especially with a beloved and remember her as a beloved and treasured friend.

The Annual Telling of My Favorite Christmas Story

I’ve told this story many times before including here on this blog. It’s from my Fordham days and it never gets old. My classmates Joe Squillace and Tracy Crimmins who are both still friends today were the community service types in college and they ran the annual “Give a Child a Christmas” campaign.

Honestly it’s a pretty thankless job. It takes a lot of energy to get college students to do anything much less, running out and buying a gift for an inner city kid that they’ve never met. But Joe and Tracy were great at this. They were both well connected and they got lots of gifts donated, so much that they had gifts left over and they travelled by subway to deposit them at a local shelter. On the way back they encountered a little girl, cute as could be, on the subway.

They decided to make conversation with her and her mom, a rarity on the NYC Subways.

“Ya getting ready for Santa to come to your house?” Joe asked.

“No”, said cute little girl.

“NO! Why not?”

“Because my mommy told me that it’s two far for Santa to come all the way to the South Bronx.

Mom starts to look nervous. And Joe and Tracy calmed her with a look that said “No worries. We’ll keep the story going.”

But then the little girl said,
“But it’s OK, I already got my present.”

“Wait a minute!” Joe said. “Everyone knows Santa doesn’t come until Christmas Eve! How’d you get a present early?”

“I told you! It’s too far!” little girl said. “So Santa sends my present to this place called Fordham and we go there every year and get it from his helpers.”

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up!

Fighting back tears…Joe and Tracy both said…”Did you get what you wanted?”

And the little girl said…”I always get what I want…every year.”

And so did Joe and Tracy.

Perhaps that’s the lesson of Christmas. What gifts do we give and get that are worth far more than gold–and don’t we give and get those gifts all year long? The truth is that God gives us all that we need, if we, like Joe and Tracy, simply do all that we can with all of our gifts and talents for others.

In this season of giving, maybe it’s time for us to recall what we already have given and how much more there is for us to give? Because God came and lived as a vulnerable little baby and many people still don’t believe that this was enough. God came and died for us with the wood of the manger becoming the wood of the cross and yet, we often think we should hunger for more.

But then we meet little girls on the subway and we realize that the best gifts in life come from a place of love for one another. And that springs from God’s boundless love for each one of us.

And it is more than enough!

Merry Christmas, Joe and Tracy and all those who inspire me each year, especially my students, my colleagues and my loving wife and that cute dog who is happy to be huddling next to me for warmth.

Fordham Hosts Hilarious Colbert and Dolan and Martin Too

Proud as a peach of my alma mater today after hosting the illustrious Stephen Colbert of the acclaimed Colbert Report and the esteemed Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan for an evening on Catholic Humor, which at times turned serious.

The animation pictured above is awesome and was created by Fordham Senior, Tim Luecke. Awesome job!

First the humor from the NY Times:

Cardinal Dolan introduced Mr. Colbert’s wife, Evelyn, who was sitting in the audience, and brought her up to the stage. The cardinal put his arm around her and gave her a kiss on the cheek, and when Mr. Colbert feigned offense, the cardinal said, in a remark that brought down the house, “I can kiss your wife. You can’t kiss mine.”

Mr. Colbert used his time onstage with the cardinal to air his complaints about the new English translation of the Mass, which was just introduced in American parishes this year.

“Consubstantial!” Mr. Colbert exclaimed, using a particularly cumbersome word that is now recited in the Nicene Creed. “It’s the creed! It’s not the SAT prep.”

The audience sent in questions by Twitter and e-mail, which Father Martin pitched to the two men. Among them: “I am considering the priesthood. Would it be prudent to avoid dating?”

Cardinal Dolan responded that, on the contrary, “it’s good” to date, partly to discern whether the celibate life of a priest is what you want. Then he added, “By the way, let me give you the phone numbers of my nieces.”

Mr. Colbert said: “It’s actually a great pickup line: ‘I’m seriously considering the priesthood. You can change my mind.’ ”

Later the evening turned a bit more serious when a question came forward concerning ….

“So many Christian leaders spread hatred, especially of homosexuals. How can you maintain your joy?”

Cardinal Dolan’s response talked about his ongoing dialogue with Muslims and some thoughts on talking with picketers outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

But the Times noted:

But Mr. Colbert’s response was quick and unequivocal. “If someone spreads hate,” he said, “then they’re not your religious leader.”

The constant live tweeting from Grant Gallicho of Commonweal Magazine gave people a blow by blow account. Some additional tweet highlights:

Q: What’s your favorite beer? (Relief applause.) Dolan: Why don’t u take me out and see? #Dolbert Colbert names Old Style WHICH IS AMAZING.

Agreed on Old Style and I can’t seem to picture Dolan at The Jolly Tinker or The Lantern which have been famous Fordham haunts (I believe the Lantern still exists). I could picture him at Clarke’s, a great old bar which once was right on Fordham Road and then moved to Webster Avenue. But alas, it no longer exists.

Additional Banter:

@StephenAtHome If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor I’m in huge trouble.
@CardinalDolan He does. He chose me to be a priest.

@StephenatHome: Do you want to do this evening thing w/ @CardinalDolan? @StephenAtHome said “Hell yes.” Could be next pope. think of all the indulgences…

Fr. Jim Martin, SJ had some comments before the event with the Washington Post including that the event was only a bit less complicated than planning the Second Vatican Council and then when asked what Stephen Colbert is really like, a question Fr. Martin probably hears twice a day, he responded:

JM: He’s very devout, you can tell he knows his stuff. There are real questions he asks under the guise of humor, under the cloak of his character. People don’t realize they’re being invited into thoughtful questions about religion in a humorous way. He does great evangelizing. . . . We were discussing the recession, and whether or not people are more open to experiencing God in times of suffering, and he asked: Why is lack of money equated with an increase of faith? That’s a great question.

So congrats to Fordham, Fr. Jim and Charlie Camosy who was one of the two Fordham theology professors who came up with the idea to feature these two in this kind of forum.

And to Stephen and Cardinal Dolan…keep laughing.

Screw Your Roommate

I was going through old notes and pictures and other paraphernalia recently and began to tell some old stories of the college days. This one from my sophomore year is one of my favorites.

We held a dance in each residence hall at Fordham each year called the “Screw Your Roommate Dance” which essentially meant that your roommate was supposed to set you up with someone for the dance. Sort of a “Sadie Hawkins meets the devil” kind of thing. If your roommate liked you you’d probably get set up with someone nice, or possibly even your crush. If he or she hated you…well…you might not get set up at all.

So my roommate at the time was Joe Patane who I wrote about the other day. Joe had this penchant for well…procrastinating. He’d wait until the last minute to try and find me a date. But this year was different. Our resident assistant, a great guy named Steve Breton, knew I had a crush on (of all people) his ex-girlfriend. So he suggested that he call her and ask her if she’d go with me. Maria, the ex of Steve, was someone who I indeed had a crush on after meeting her on a retreat the year before. We were friendly, but she was attached to someone so I couldn’t pursue a relationship. Steve didn’t have the best relationship with her, I mean they did break up for a reason, after all.

But nonetheless, she agreed to go with me and Joe was off the hook. For the first time, Joe had actually done something before the last minute. he was quite proud of himself. He’d throw hints at who I was going with for weeks. “Oh man, you are going to be so happy when you open that door!”

So the night of the dance approached. I had no idea who he could possibly have set me up with. The day before the dance a knock came on my door and it was Steve Breton, the aforementioned R.A. He asked to come in and we sat down. At first, I thought I was in trouble and started making a mental list of dorm violations that I could have participated in. While the list was probably numerous, I couldn’t imagine that Steve knew about any of them.

Steve gingerly approached the topic at hand:

“Well you know how Joe’s been bragging that he got you a great date for the dance, right?”

Mike: “Sure. I have no idea who it is though.”

Steve: “Well, I was in on the set-up.”

Mike: “Oh, ok! Thanks!”

Steve: “Ok I’ll just say it. It’s Maria. But don’t get too excited because she just cancelled. She’s got a midterm and she’s got to get studying for it. She’s freaking out about it and look man, I’m really sorry, but she can’t go with you. We tried. Shit, we did more than try she said ‘sure’ but now…NOW she cancels at the last second. I’m so pissed at her!”

Mike: Well, thanks for trying, anyway. Guess I’m just going stag because I can’t imagine who I could ask at this late juncture! No worries, dude! Not your fault.

To make a long story short, my good friend, Steve DiSalvo (now President of Marian University in Wisconsin), invited me over to his residence hall where he introduced me to Melissa Morrissey, a wonderful young woman who I had helped with her freshman scheduling as a Sophomore mentor earlier in the year. Steve just bluntly asked her to go with me and she agreed. And we had a ball. We were just friends, but we had such a great time, much to the relief of my roommate and R.A.

Months later I went on a Peer Retreat on the weekend of my 20th birthday. Steve DiSalvo had invited me directly and truth be told, I’m a minister in the church today because of that moment. We had all received “palanca” letters on the retreat–a letter of support. The word palanca in spanish means “A lift” and that’s what the letters were supposed to provide.

One of my letters was from my aforementioned R.A., Steve Breton.

“I hear you’re on a retreat. Must be cool. Having drinks out poolside, some fat guy diving off the board. I can see it now.

One of the things I really admire about you, Mike, is how you never get too down on things. Like when Maria cancelled on you for the dance, you didn’t worry despite your disappointment. And you went out and got yourself a great date and probably had a better time than the rest of us! You’re really great like that.”

He added a few more personal touches thanking me for friendship and help around the dorm. But my takeaway was always his kindness and his generosity. It’s not everyone that would call up their ex-girlfriend and ask for a favor–and for the likes of ME! That went a long way.

Steve DiSalvo also sent me a brief note the day after that dance that simply said “YOU OWE ME BIG TIME. Hope you had a great time!”

Ah, the jocularity!

The truth is that Fordham was a great place to be in the late 80s and early 90s. I hope that its maintained that “family feel” at the Rose Hill Campus. But it was these special people who have helped me become who I am today and pointed me in the direction of God continually awakening me to who he has called me into being. I pray that the two Steves, Melissa and my roommate, Joe indeed know how special they were and are.

I lost touch with Breton some years ago. DiSalvo and I somehow follow each other around, finding each other on boards and conferences together. Melissa and I are Facebook friends and drop an occasional note to each other. And that dear roommate and I keep tabs through Facebook and email and the occasional visit to New York, California or Buffalo. It’s all good and all grace. Friendship is often like that…even when you’re trying to screw your roommate.

Coming Your Way Soon to the Small Screen

This is an amazing effort by Joe Patane, of MTV’s Real World: Miami fame. Now a social worker and a licensed therapist, Joe has built a foundation and started Dream Camps for teens who have been through many traumatic experiences in their lives. He’s worked hard at finding a production company that won’t exploit the teens for ratings and I think he’s finally zoning in on a completed project that is sure to be inspiring. Check out a clip:

Full disclosure: Joe is my college roommate and has been a friend for nearly a quarter century. He’s amazingly creative and has a real heart for the youth he serves. He’s gained tremendous support from some big names like Steve Wozniak, Drew Carey and Charles Schultz’s family (creator of the Peanuts comic strip, better known as Charlie Brown and Snoopy).

So keep you eyes pealed, while I’m not a fan of reality TV, this show will not be like watching a train wreck, as way reality TV often is. It’s sure to inspire.

How do I know? Because Joe has inspired me for nearly 25 years now.

Well done, my friend.

Where Did 20 Years Go?

20 years ago today, I graduated from Fordham University with a B.A. in English. Pictured above from left to right is ME! (with hair), Joonmo Ku, Joe Patane (of Real World Fame) and Steve Fahy four of my close friends from my class.

Two things to reflect on today: the first is that graduation day is weird. Often one gets separated from their closest friends—as I did during our graduation exercises–where John Brandemas, a former NYU President spoke for 27 minutes in the rain on a topic that interested nobody: Politics. The day itself was a disaster. It rained and our graduation was outdoors. We had a lovely baccalaureate mass and then headed out into the midst—an Irish day—as I believe our board of trustees President noted from the podium. We were cold, wet and frankly, bored. We didn’t want to go inside and get diplomas as they had scheduled. We wanted to walk up those grand Keating Hall stairs to get our diploma.

One problem, staff had already sent parents into the various alternate sites and my parents missed my name being called and the reception of my diploma. (In five days I’ll recall my graduate school graduation–which was much nicer).

Perhaps it was an omen? The next 5-10 years of my life were tumultuous in radio. Good and bad but not as passionate as I am today about life. I wasn’t a great student as an undergrad, spending far too much time at the radio station and a good deal of time in Campus Ministry as well. When did I study? The answer is rarely. I didn’t get to know many professors but, ironically the President of the University, Joe O’Hare, S.J. was a great friend to me and still is.

I had doubts about my future and about going into radio and was too scared to name that and to think more deeply about that.

Boy, what a difference 20 years makes.

Which brings me to my second reflection:

Graduation days should allow us to define what we were most passionate about during the past few years and then to think about how to fuel that passion. Had I done that, I might have become a campus minister right then somewhere–or at least headed to graduate school because even as an undergrad that’s where my deepest passions would have been found.

But most often, graduation looks forward, forgetting about the past and looking to an all-too uncertain future.

20 years is a long time. Some of my closest friends from that time are quite distant now. Some of those whom I didn’t know well then, are closer friends now. And some are no longer with us. Dave Connors, Sue Costello and Tom Cullen come to mind quickly this day. Sue didn’t even make it to graduation. Dave died at 25 after a long illness. Tom was a firefighter who died heroically in the towers on September 11th. Today I remember them all in prayer.

I’d also like to remember my campus ministers. Fr Jim Hentges a wonderful director and someone with a profound respect for liturgy. Sr. Anne Walsh, who still works at Fordham today as an academic advisor and who cared for as as if we were her own children–and in many ways we were. Fr. John Mullin, SJ –or “Padre” as we called him who ran our popular Emmaus retreat program and who gave me a ministry. He was amazingly sensitive to all kinds of people and led me into a deep discernment about who I was becoming. Sr. Jeanne Hamilton, OSU, was probably my best friend on the staff. We’d spend hours talking in her office or after masses. She once wrote me a letter asking me if I was satisfied with my accomplishments–and I still have that letter today and it reminds me to ask myself that question often. Robert Minotti was our music director and he still holds that position today amazingly. And the incomparable Ann Orsi was the administrative assistant—she was a tiny spitfire Italian woman–and she was clearly the boss. Her son, Bob Orsi is a famed professor of religion today.

And lastly, Dr. Mary Erler once gave me a big fat F on an exam in Medieval English. When I went to her office to talk (or beg), she said something to me that I still hold on to.

“Mike, there’s no reason for you to get a grade like this. Some of the comments you make are some of the most intelligent ones in the class. What can we do going forward?”

I somehow managed to pass her class and to date, I still hate medieval literature. But what I love is her Fordham spirit, that cared for the whole person. She gave me confidence and inspired me and made me realize many years later that because of my own gifts I indeed, have much to offer.

So today, we pray in gratitude for ye olde alma mater, Fordham, for the Jesuits and lay teachers who make it a special place. We also pray for my friends, my classmates who made the experience one to be remembered for a lifetime.

Blessings, friends. And 20 more years at least to come!

Msgr. Quinn, Fordham’s Director of Mission: On Kinship

Continuing our kinship theme of the week. Here’s Msgr. Joseph G. Quinn,
Vice President, of Fordham University’s Mission and Ministry Office.

A great guy. As he presented me with my award he told me that he had always wanted to meet me and that I had been a great alumnus of the school. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so honored. To be on the docket with folks like Joseph O’Hare. SJ, Greg Boyle, SJ and Elena Procario-Foley–three true superstars whose work I’ve admired for years was astounding.

Today…let’s pray that we can all live up to the ideal of kinship and that we might treat each other as brothers and sisters.