Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Looking up on Hawk Hill

Philadelphia Daily News

Patrick Swilling Jr. had choices - in sports and colleges. He could have chosen football or basketball. He chose basketball. He could have chosen Tulane, UTEP, LSU or Mississippi. The son of former New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl linebacker Pat Swilling chose Saint Joseph's.

The Hawks were very late players to the Swilling sweepstakes, but their pitch won out. So Swilling, a 6-3, 210-pound guard from Brother Martin High School in New Orleans, whose body type resembles that of Villanova great Randy Foye, will be joining a freshman class of four that could swell some more.

"The coaches, the school, the academics, the campus, the new facility," Pat Swilling said of what convinced his son. "We got a great feel for what coach Phil Martelli is trying to do as far as getting them back to when they had Delonte West and Jameer Nelson."

After the team lost 20 games last season, that seems a ways off. The road back, however, has to start somewhere. And, by all accounts, the Hawks have assembled a terrific recruiting class.

The Hawks earlier signed Swilling's AAU teammate, Langston Galloway, from Baton Rouge, La. Galloway is Hawks assistant Geoff Arnold's nephew. They also signed Plymouth-Whitemarsh big man C.J. Aiken and Paulsboro (N.J.) High swingman Daryus Quarles.

Swilling's team won the 5A Louisiana state championship. Galloway's team won the 2A state title. Aiken's team won the PIAA AAAA title. Quarles, who started at Paulsboro, went to Life Center and then back to Paulsboro, was not able to play last season due to a New Jersey rule about transfers.

Patrick Swilling was attracting serious football interest as a linebacker. He is such a good athlete that he played cornerback for the football team last year. But the success of the basketball team this season convinced him to play hoops.

"He enjoyed playing football and he's been around it all his life," Pat Swilling said. "He had a good knack for rushing the passer. This year in basketball, he just really blossomed. He put the team on his back. They were ranked No. 9 and they beat No. 1, No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5."

At the moment, St. Joe's has 10 players on scholarship. It has been no secret that one or more of the underclassmen will be transferring. Now, given the 13-scholarship limit, at least one won't be there next season. And it very likely will be more than one.

"We really felt like this freshman class could be something special and do some special things," Pat Swilling said. "Patrick wanted to be part of it. We just felt at home there."

Some recruiters apparently thought Swilling was going to play football. Others, apparently, just missed on him. One observer said he could not quite believe Swilling was still available in late April. But he was. Now, he's not. He will be on Hawk Hill this summer.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hawks soccer

St. Joseph's sees a D'Ambra comeback Philadelphia Inquirer

Don D'Ambra starred in soccer in Philadelphia, lives in South Jersey, and hopes his connections in both areas help him in his new job.

D'Ambra recently resigned as player-coach of the Kixx to become the men's soccer coach at St. Joseph's University.

A former Catholic League star at North Catholic and the only St. Joseph's soccer player to be named Atlantic 10 player of the year (1993), D'Ambra is being asked to resurrect a struggling program.

Even though he has played in the Major Indoor Soccer League for 16 years, including the last 14 in Philadelphia with the Kixx, D'Ambra has a strong pulse on the high school talent in the area.

He has maintained many Southeastern Pennsylvania connections, especially in the Catholic League, and it's vital for any Division I program to have a presence in an area boasting such top talent. In addition, D'Ambra lives in Washington Township (Gloucester County), and is executive director of the South Jersey Elite Soccer Club, which fields many boys' and girls' youth teams.

"All my roots are in Philadelphia and living in South Jersey, and starting this club really got me to know the Jersey side as well, so I have the best of both worlds," D'Ambra said.

He added that he would like to expand the area of recruiting beyond South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania. That's a noble goal, but for St. Joseph's to be successful, it will have to have an impact on high school players in its own backyard.

D'Ambra, 37, enjoyed a celebrated professional career as both a player and coach, which he added to his duties during the 2002-03 season. He was a four-time MISL all-star who played on championship teams with the Kixx in 2002 and 2007, and was also the coach of the 2007 squad.

St. Joseph's is trying to take that next step in soccer, and his hiring was a clear indication of that. D'Ambra replaced Tom Turner - his college coach - who resigned after 23 years. Turner was not a full-time coach, but D'Ambra will be.

"The program is committed to improve by hiring a full-time coach, and with the upgrade to the facilities," D'Ambra said. "It's an exciting time."

Area coaches who know D'Ambra are praising the hiring.

"I think it's a great situation for St. Joseph's and for Don," said Father Judge coach John Dunlop, who guided the Crusaders to the Catholic League title and the state AAA co-championship this past season. "I think Don has a great background as a player and a coach."

More than that, Dunlop, former men's soccer coach at Philadelphia University, knows how important it is to gain the trust of players and their families during recruiting.

"If you know Don, you know he's a great guy," Dunlop said. "Parents look to see who will take care of their son, not only in soccer, and Don has that persona."

New Washington Township boys' coach Shane Snyder is a graduate of Pennsauken and St. Joseph's, and echoes Dunlop's sentiments.

"It's great for St. Joe's," Snyder said. "With all the experience he has as a player and coach, you hope that he can turn things around."

Of course, D'Ambra and the program have nowhere to go but up after the Hawks went 0-17 last season.

St. Joseph's has enjoyed one winning season since 1995, going 10-7-2 in 2001. The best team in Turner's era was 1993, D'Ambra's senior season, when the Hawks were 12-6-1 and lost to Rutgers in the Atlantic 10 championship game.

There is a lot of work to do. And the fact that D'Ambra was hired only last week makes recruiting virtually impossible for the coming season. After all, many top players have committed already.

So nobody should expect an immediate turnaround. But D'Ambra's hiring signals that St. Joseph's is serious about attempting to return the program to the same prominence it enjoyed when its new coach was leading the Hawks as a player.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Freedom is a light...

So fortunate am I that I work a few blocks from Washington Square. On rare days when I can escape work I'll walk down to the park catty corner from Independence Hall. I feel sorry for those working in the antiseptic 'burbs.

William Penn had the foresight to create a "greene country towne", way back in 1683, by creating five squares in center city Philadelphia. Amazingly enough four are still there -- the 5th now occupied by City Hall.

Washington Square is lesser known than it's richer cousin, Rittenhouse Square, not as photographed as Logan Circle, and had no golf course like Franklin Square, but it does contain the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War.

"Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness." Let us never forget the gift that has been given to us, and those who sacrificed to maintain liberty's flame.

For more on Washington Square click...Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The tomb of the Unknown Soldier itself bears the words: "Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington's army who died to give you liberty."

An eternal flame flickers in front of a wall bearing a replica of Jean Antoine Houdon's famous bronze sculpture of George Washington. Washington's eyes gaze eternally upon nearby Independence Hall.

By 1778, Washington Square would be the last barracks for the thousands of soldiers who died in Philadelphia. Though not much fighting occurred in Philadelphia during the War, plenty of dying did. Those wounded in nearby battles, or those sick with disease would be brought to Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Hospital and the Bettering House for the Poor filled quickly. Churches became ad-hoc hospitals. And during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777, the Walnut Street Jail became a Dantesque vision of hell.

Historian Watson interviewed a survivor of the Walnut Street Jail some years after the War's end. The veteran, Jacob Ritter, recalled that prisoners were fed nothing for days on end and were regularly targets of beatings by the British guards. The prison was freezing as broken window panes allowed snow and cold to be the only blankets available to the captives. Ice, lice, and mice shared the cells. Desperate prisoners dined on grass roots, scraps of leather, and "pieces of a rotten pump." Rats were a delicacy. Upward of a dozen prisoners died daily. They were hauled across the street and slung in unmarked trenches like carcasses from an abattoir.

The Colonials reoccupied Philadelphia in 1778 and became the jailkeepers at Walnut Street. No doubt a Millgram (where prisoners became the guards) atmosphere prevailed when the prisoners got to run the jail. Suffice it to say, many bodies of British soldiers also are interred in Washington Square, sleeping far from Albion's shores.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hawktion 2010

Hawktion 2010

Tuition Share Raffle

WIN $20,000!!!

Your odds of winning a St. Joseph's Prep raffle have never been better! Only 974 chances will be sold and one lucky winner will recieve $20,000! Why 974? That's the number of students enrolled at the Prep that will directly benefit from your generosity. Your financial contribution will ensure that our boys will truly become "Men for Others."

Each day, we have highlighted some of the
live auction items. However, we have items for all price ranges and budgets on our silent auction tables. There are great dinner gift certificates, golf outings, artwork and more, including fantastic one-of-a-kind Prep items. You don't need a huge bank account to leave Hawktion with something great!

P.S. - While perusing the items, you should make a
shopping list.

For more on the Hawktion visit Beth's blog at
St. Joseph's Preparatory School - Blog Main Control. We need the support of the whole Prep community to make Hawktion, our biggest fundraiser, a success. Visit to find out ways to help.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When I was hungry, did you feed me?

If headlines from the Vatican have got you down these days, here's one that just might strengthen the Faith.

A Philly girl, a Hawk, a buddy of Bon Jovi -- a woman living the Gospel.

Do yourself a favor and click below the read the entie article. And should you be moved by what Sr. Mary and Joan have been doing for the least of our brothers and sisters... please help them at Project H.O.M.E..

Mary of mercy Philadelphia Inquirer

Sister of the streets
There was a time when Sister Mary Scullion had to shout so Philadelphia's homeless could be heard.

In 1978, at age 25, she began working at a Center City women's shelter run by her order, the Sisters of Mercy, every night taking food, blankets, and an offer of lodging to those living on the streets.

She was a smile, a kind face, and, before long, a loud voice - a persistent gadfly in a plaid skirt, loafers, a Peppermint Patty haircut, and a mantle of moral outrage, racking up arrests through the 1990s for leading homeless demonstrators into City Council chambers, setting up protest encampments at 30th Street Station, and haranguing Mayor Ed Rendell outside his office for a week.

"Sister Mary Scullion is Philadelphia's Joan of Arc," he later wisecracked, "because so many people want to burn her at the stake."

That was many decibels ago.

Today, Washington policymakers, big-city mayors, and governors (yes, Rendell) seek her counsel. Philanthropists write seven-figure checks, and celebrities fete her. Little wonder that when Time magazine put out its 2009 list of the 100 most influential people on Earth, the 56-year-old sister was in the company of Obama and Oprah.

"There are people in the world who you draw energy from, like a lightbulb in a room," said Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "She's one of them."

Sister Mary is hardly the only selfless steward of the streets, but hers is the work Donovan looks to for affirmation. In June, he expects to roll out the first national plan to end homelessness, and increase HUD funding 10 percent, or $190 million, to just over $2 billion for 2011.

"This is a good investment. It saves money and helps human beings," Donovan said. He has seen the proof in Philadelphia, in the deeds of Sister Mary, more "than anywhere else in the country."

Donovan has known her about a year, an introduction made by Bon Jovi. The do-good rocker took her on a train to Washington, where the HUD secretary was so struck by the irrepressible sister that he came to North Philadelphia in November to see some of Project HOME's biggest successes.

Trailing an entourage including Mayor Nutter, Sen. Arlen Specter, and Rep. Chaka Fattah, Donovan toured four buildings that house and educate people rescued from shelters and streets - a $20 million investment, and only a fraction of Project HOME's efforts.

When Sister Mary and Joan McConnon started the nonprofit 21 years ago, they had nothing but their own rock-solid resolve and a volcanic mountain of NIMBY animosity. Now they have an annual budget of about $13 million (more than half from private supporters), a staff of 200, and 459 filled housing units.

They also have certitude, the muscle in Sister Mary's words: "We know what works."

So here's what Washington ought to be doing, she in essence told Donovan. There is enormous expense, and no solution, in "managing" homelessness for the short term, in providing shelters, emergency services, and other temporary aid. HUD must look beyond the fiscal year, underwrite affordable-housing and job-training projects, and speed up a government funding process so fragmented and ponderous that "it's like waiting for Godot," she said.

The politicos in tow urged Donovan to listen up. "Mr. Secretary, you're never going to get rid of her," Fattah said, not totally in jest. "Use her as an example for other cities."

But Sister Mary, a distance runner, had beaten him there.

"There are so many cities across the country where her presence has been felt, directly or indirectly," said Rob Hess, who heads homeless services in New York City and held a similar post in Philadelphia four years ago.

In the week before Donovan's visit, Sister Mary was in Houston and Columbus, Ohio, talking to city officials about "supportive housing" that provides not only a roof but day-to-day guidance for fragile lives. In a few days, she'd receive British visitors curious about her nonprofit's workings.

In between, she had a sit-down with staff about teen programs at Project HOME's $9 million education center. There was a strategy session on raising $4 million for operations and capital projects, and a meeting with her 30 trustees, among whom are the formerly homeless and the fabulously wealthy, with such last names as Honickman (soft-drink bottling) and Middleton (cigars, Phillies).

"Mary can chat with queens, she can chat with a janitor, and they both get the same person," said trustee Lynne Honickman, whose family has given several million dollars.

That's the Sister Mary whom Stephen Gold met in 1983. An advocacy lawyer, he had sued Gov. Richard Thornburgh for tightening public-assistance rules in the state. Who better to testify about homelessness than Sister Mary, who "knew everyone on the streets"?

Gold asked her to wear her habit on the stand, for obvious effect. "She told me, 'I don't have any idea where it is,' " he recalled. "She couldn't find it."

But it takes more than broken-in jeans and T-shirts to connect on the streets. Her ability to move through the same plane as the forsaken is "her amazing strength, which cannot be replicated," Gold said. "My only criticism of her is that she doesn't go out on the street every night."

Only a month ago, the civic weight on her shoulders increased. Nutter named her to the Board of Ethics, a time-consuming job in which she, three lawyers, and a pastor are to keep city politicians honest.

Sister Mary is not a curious choice, according to Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor and expert on homelessness. "I don't think anyone in this town," he said, "has the moral authority that she has."

Which is not to imply she's perfect, "not by a long shot," Gold said. "Mary is not sweet, because she's driven. If she believes in something, she will do absolutely everything to fight to get it."

On occasion, he mentioned, she curses.

God knows, when need be.

Classroom without walls
Roman Catholic nuns take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Sisters of Mercy have a fourth: to care for the poor, sick, and uneducated.

That mission goes back to Catherine McAuley of Dublin, who founded the order in 1831 after using her inheritance to shelter homeless women and girls.

McAuley was a bridge to redemptive acts, leading those who had the wherewithal to help into the world of those who needed help. Hers is the model Sister Mary emulates.

She lives among once-homeless families, in a one-bedroom apartment in a Project HOME building in North Philadelphia. Her furnishings are Ikea. One of her neighbors was a crack addict.

"I've been doing this work for more than 30 years, and I've been radically changed," she said. People who have nothing "have taught me so much about life and grace, about faith and compassion."

Truth is, she had a head start.

Mary Kathryn Scullion grew up near Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia, the elder of two daughters of Irish immigrants.

Her mother, Sheila, juggled two jobs. She was a waitress at the Irishman's Cafe and a nurse's aide at Friends Hospital, a psychiatric center.

"People would often say that when my mother was on duty, people didn't need to take their meds," Sister Mary recalled. "She had such a good way with people."

Her father, Joseph, was a Council clerk with "a great capacity for believing in us as kids and telling us we could do anything."

Mary was a popular, happy child, and no worry to her parents. She went to St. Martin of Tours parish school and Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls. She was not athletic, preferring math. She held a seat on the student council, tutored parochial students in North Philadelphia, and volunteered at John F. Kennedy Hospital.

She counted the nuns at school as friends and, in her senior year, told her parents that she wished to enter the convent. Wait, they urged. But at 19, after a year as a math major at Temple University, she joined the Sisters of Mercy.

As a novice, she finished her degree at St. Joseph's College, then taught seventh-grade math for two years. But the classroom couldn't hold her.

In 1978, she went to work for Mercy Hospice, a women's shelter that the Sisters opened above the Ugly Pub at 12th and Sansom Streets.

She spent every night among the lost women of Center City. Most were older and mentally ill, fending for themselves as state hospitals were downsized and ultimately closed. Sister Mary knew each by name.

Being with them "was the most profound experience I ever had of God," she said. "There's no pretense. It's true. It's real. Maybe in times of great suffering, it's easier to connect with people. . . . Maybe I'm more aware of God's grace in that situation."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cool Jesuits for $500 please...

I had a conversation with a dear friend not long ago, one about being complimented, and about saying thank you.

Edward Gannon, SJ and I used to have the best conversations on the steps of the now defunct Gunster Memorial Student Center at
The University of Scranton. One particular day he complimented me on my shirt, and instead of just saying "thanks"... I said "this old thing, well I got it...". His response -- "learn how to take a compliment. Just say thank you."

I think of him from time to time, and keep a letter he sent framed in my office. In explaining Fr. Gannon to my friend...
He was your quintessential Jesuit, if there is such a thing. We would chat outside the student center and he would always know when a conversation should be finished... at that exact point when one might bring up, or repeat something, for the sake of continuing a conversation that would/should be over... and just say "to be continued", and walk away (this used to tick me off but I understand now!). He continued to write to me and urge me to come back to school, telling me to simply write him and I'd be back in, which I did. The last time I saw him he was bald from chemotherapy, and I made a well intentioned but poor attempt to console him. The next time I was in Scranton I stopped by his office in the library and his name was off the door, and they had told me that he died.

When I finally got my stuff together and had my epiphany to go back to school (and graduate) I applied to St. Joe's (another Jesuit school) -- and they told me there was a recommendation letter in my file from Fr. Gannon that was glowing -- one I never had asked for. I don't know how he knew. There were a few people up there -- Mr. Gavigan, Mrs. Lawhon, Dean Parente -- that looked out for me. I never appreciated it then -- not knowing how rare it was. The
Cura Personalis, in Jesuit parlance, was taken very seriously at Scranton. I hope there are people out there at colleges like that still, but I doubt it: Too corporate now, too big. No names, just social security numbers. When I did finally graduate after years of night school on Hawk Hill (my penance for being too stupid to get it done the first time) I could hear him say "finally", in his usual gruff voice.

I visited Terrance Toland, SJ this morning in at Manresa Hall at St. Joseph's University, as he will be recuperating for a few more weeks. Since he knew Fr. Gannon, at St. Joseph's and Scranton, he got a kick out of his letter. "Servus" he read, and he smiled. Of course we talked for quite some time, as is our habit, and I heard some new stories. One in particular involved him trying to get the Father-General Pedro Arrupe, SJ to attend the 125th anniversary of St. Joe's. His idea was to ask his buddy Vincent O'Keefe, SJ, (an American, former president of Fordham University, and then Vicar General of the Society) to ask Fr. Arrupe for him. Fate intervened however and while taking a drink from a water fountain in Rome found Arrupe next in line. So he asked the Father General if he could attend the quasquicentennial celebration of the school, on the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. Arrupe's response: "That would not be impossible!" Arrupe did attend the event, as well as the Eucharistic Congress, that year held in Philadelphia.

Toland also lined up Princess Grace (former Philadelphia actress Grace Kelly) of Monaco to attend the event as well. The conduit for that request was her former baby sitter, with whom he had a friendship. After 8 hours on the dais Grace asked the permission of Toland to leave so she and her cousin wouldn't hit too much shore traffic on the way down to Ocean City, NJ, where the family maintained a summer home. Most European princesses wouldn't know to avoid the AC Expressway during rush hour -- a Philly girl certainly would ;-)

Pictured are the Very Reverend Pedro Arrupe, S.J., General of the Society of Jesus; Terrence Toland, S.J., former president of Saint Joseph’s; and Rev. Edward Brady, S.J. , founder of the Faith-Justice Institute at SJU. The photograph was taken in the Presidents’ Lounge on July 31, 1976 and marked the 125th anniversary of Saint Joseph’s College and the last day of Fr. Toland's eight-year term as president.

I attended the 11:30 Mass at Manresa with Fr. Toland, in the company of over 20 retired Jesuits. Ahhh... the stories those "boys" could tell. I estimated that in that one room there were about 1,100 years of serving souls in the Society of Jesus. I was honored to be there. The first reading today was most appropriate for the assembled, coming from the Pharisee Gamaliel in Acts 5:34-42:
"So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him."
After Mass we talked about the autobiography being written by Vinny O'Keefe, SJ, which was supposed to be published posthumously but now may be out sooner. I tried in vain to talk Fr. Toland into giving consideration to writing his memoirs, or at least some short stories. One in particular on Joseph Rock, SJ. He was a legend at Scranton, and to my knowledge nothing has been written about what he did for his boys at Hafey Hall. I don't want his stories to be lost -- they are just too darn good! Perhaps mutual buddy Jim "Chang" McLaughlin can be more persuasive ;-)

We also chatted about the origin of the US News and World Report rankings of colleges. When he was president he never cared that St. Joe's was #1 -- he cared about the Magis -- making each student the best they could be, both academically and spiritually. That we were really competing against ourselves, not other schools. When I mentioned how much respect I had for the diversity program at his alma mater,
St. Joseph's Preparatory School, now under the leadership of George Bur, SJ and Jose Gonzalez, he smiled and told me about giving academic opportunities to those who had none. That he really felt we did our job when taking a chance on a 2.5 incoming freshman who turned into a senior on the Dean's List.

I guess I could share some more of his stories, like the one about where
Dan Berrigan, S.J. hid in Philadelphia when he was on the FBI's most wanted list... but I don't know if that's still a secret, so you may have to wait for his memoirs ;-) And I hope you are feeling better soon, and are able to jay walk on City Line Avenue soon, not to mention resume your duties at Chelsea before the summer closes.

To be continued?

For those who may have known Fr. Gannon (we used to joke and say his name like James Bond... Gannon, Ed Gannon, SJ) here's an excerpt from Michael Baumann's blog
Edward Gannon, SJ (one of the good guys). Seems like I wasn't so special after all... he looked out for a great many students. Guess he considered us all special.

When I attended my 25th class reunion in 2007, I walked up to Gannon Hall, as if to pay my respects to the man who talked me off the ledge. I wonder if the students living in that building now have any idea of the lasting impact that man had on generations of students.

Father Gannon was a campus legend. He was much bigger than his diminutive frame and he had a commanding, reassuring presence where ever he went. Outside or in his office he usually had a cloud around him from the ever present cigarette in his hand. This was the only vice he allowed himself. When not in his roman collar he was usually in a turtleneck and a cardigan. He was like a weird hybrid of Albert Einstein and Mr. Rogers. To say that he was intelligent would be a gross understatement. Father Gannon was granted the title of University Professor which meant he could teach in any department in the University. His classes were impossible to schedule because upperclassmen would take every available space. Given what I just said, you should not assume that a class with Gannon was an easy A. You had to work to meet his incredibly high standards. He was not willing to accept anything less than what he thought you were capable of giving. He was not just teaching us philosophy or theology, he was teaching us to think, to question, to challenge. If we learned philosophy or theology along the way, so much the better. After the “The Empire Strikes Back” hit the streets at the end of my sophomore year, many of us were convinced that Yoda was channeling Gannon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Jesuits Run a Hollywood Production Company

Rev. Eddie Siebert, SJ directing a scene in Rome, with the assistant cameraman Joe Ellingwood.

Jesuits Run a Hollywood Production Company -

It’S the end of the 15th century, and the rebellious duchess Caterina Sforza, her children kidnapped by the forces of the ruthless Cesare Borgia, stands on the battlements of her castle, throws up her skirts and screams at Borgia’s 15,000 advancing troops: “Idiots! Don’t you think I can make more of them?” Later, with her castle reduced to rubble, Catarina is seized, raped and sent to Rome, where Borgia’s father holds a particularly high office: pope.

Provocative material for a movie, certainly. Particularly when the movie is being made by Jesuits.

“The Borgia Popes” is, in fact, just one of the projects under way by Loyola Productions, a nonprofit production company in Culver City, Calif., owned by members of the Society of Jesus, a large Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers. Jesuits are a missionary order whose members, in this case at least, would rather not be thought of as proselytizers.

“When I have meetings around town, you can see that people are thinking, ‘Oh my God, they’re trying to convert us,’ ” said the Rev. Eddie Siebert, the company’s founder and president. “It’s very frustrating. I try not to say who I am till they get to know me. I don’t even introduce myself as a Jesuit priest. It tends to really frighten people.”

But only if they know what a Jesuit is. “In fact, most people don’t know,” Father Siebert said. “ ‘Oh, you’re Jewish?’ No, no, Jesuit. ‘Is that Catholic?’ Some people would say so.”

Founded in 1534 by the Basque soldier and theologian Ignatius Loyola, the Jesuits have seen their share of controversy:
Pope John Paul II cracked down on the order in the 1980s because of its independence, dedication to social action and theological questioning. The Jesuits have also been featured in their share of movies: “The Mission,” “Black Robe” and “The Exorcist,” to name just a few. But while Hollywood has a long history of affection toward Catholic priests (think Bing Crosby), doing business with them is another story.

“It’s been a really tough battle, to be honest,” said Father Siebert, who founded the company in 2000 and faces the same competition that every other production executive does. He also goes out and raises money. “Which is what I do, but without doing full-time fund-raising,” he said. “The reason we survive is because of generous people and because we work our butts off.”

Being a priest does have some advantages. “Because I’m a Jesuit, if there’s a good Catholic executive over at Sony, they’ll take a meeting. Sometimes they take you seriously and sometimes it’s, ‘Well that’s great, Father, keep up the good work.’ I’ve had to straddle this really awkward fence of being a spiritually empowered Jesuit with a mainstream entertainment production company that’s trying to do cutting-edge material. And that’s really tricky.”

Based in an anonymous office building on an anonymous block in Culver City, Loyola Productions produces some content “just to keep the lights on,” Father Siebert said. There are educational films, industrials and one of the company’s more popular series, “Who Cares About the Saints?,” which has been marketed through Loyola’s distribution system, Catholic universities, high schools and parishes, through Loyola Press and, of course, The host of that series, the author James Martin, S.J. (“The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything,” HarperOne), is a regular on “The Colbert Report.” And he says such participation in mass media is encouraged by his order.

“There’s been a push over the last few decades for the church to become more involved in the media,” Father Martin said. “The same way that Jesus used the medium of parable and St. Paul used letters and St. Augustine used autobiography and Fulton Sheen used television, priests, sisters and brothers are using the most contemporary media to proclaim the gospel. It’s actually encouraged.”

Although “mainstream” is the way Father Siebert says he wants to go (“telling stories that aren’t necessarily doctrinal or dogmatic”), there’s a moral message behind most Loyola productions.

“I hope so; otherwise, what’s the point of their existence?” asked Meyer Shwarzstein, whose Brainstorm Media recently teamed up with Loyola on a documentary series called
“Something to Talk About,” being shown at the Majestic Crest theater in Westwood, Calif., and intended as a showcase for socially conscious nonfiction. (One of Loyola’s more recent productions is a short film called “Righting the Wrong,” about restorative justice and juvenile life without parole.)
A veteran TV and mo
vie producer, Mr. Shwarzstein is helping Loyola develop its “Mercy Adjacent” hospital drama (which predates TV’s current
“Mercy”); it concerns chaplains at a post-Katrina hospital in New Orleans.

“I’m a somewhat religious Jew,” Mr. Shwarzstein said. “I don’t know how to ever characterize it when people say such things, but I was brought up in an observant background and I’m interested in religion. And what I found fascinating about ‘Mercy Adjacent’ is that while we’re very open in our society about a lot of things, we have incredible discomfort about religion. A lot of the progress we’ve made in civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, the media have been there first. But there’s this innate hypersensitivity when it comes to religion. Which is quite fascinating.”

Please click title for the entire NY Times article.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Welcome to the world Owen Michael!

CONGRATULATIONS to my buddies DC and UT... it's a baby boy ;-)

Just a quick note to let you know that Jennifer gave birth to a baby boy Monday night! Owen Michael Conroy was born at 8:18 pm Monday night and weighs 8lbs. He is 21 inches long. He and mom are doing quite well, with mom recovering from the C-section. The first picture I took of him is attached. We can’t wait for you to meet him.

Speak to you soon—I need some sleep!


Monday, April 5, 2010


I've always loved college hoops but was never a big Bob Huggins fans, for reasons that are obvious. That changed with the West Virginia - Duke game Saturday.

I've seen players go down with some horrific injuries over the years and the head coach never even bothers to give a glance. Trainer goes over, a few scrubs help to pick him off the floor, but the head coach, thinking himself a general -- is too important to check on a young man's status in person. Got to stick with the Xs and O's, right? Not for Huggins on Saturday night. Above and beyond, really. Star senior goes down and instead of strategizing on the sidelines... does what I think a coach should do -- on any level.

I hope Da'Sean is brought back to good health. And to think the kid should have been on Hawk Hill ;-(

Saint Joseph's loss is West Virginia's gain: Da'Sean Butler

It was the spring of 2005 when the Saint Joseph's coaching staff found itself in such a quandary. They were going to have several scholarships available for the class that would be high school seniors in 2006. They liked a number of players for those spots.

One of them, a junior forward from Bloomfield (N.J.) Tech, really liked St. Joe's. He had been to several Hawks games that season. He had come for several visits. He had come to know the campus and the players. He liked everything about it, including the fact that one of the incoming freshmen was going to be Ahmad Nivins, a friend from nearby Jersey City.

"Everybody was really cool at St. Joe's," that player was saying Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. "I guess they wanted me to commit right then and there. I was telling them I definitely want to come."

Still, he wasn't quite sure he wanted to commit at that moment. Even though he said he wanted to go there, he wanted to wait a bit.

St. Joe's coaches also liked juniors Darrin Govens, D.J. Rivera and Jawan Carter. One by one, in less than a week that spring, they also said yes. Just that fast, there were no scholarships left.

"When I came back, the kid from Delaware (Carter) committed," the player remembered. "I was like, 'That sucks. I guess I have to look elsewhere.' "

After chuckling a bit when reminded of that time, St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said, "You just poured vinegar into my open wound."

Da'Sean Butler would have looked pretty good on Hawk Hill these last four years. Put him in a frontcourt with Nivins for three seasons and the Hawks may have remained players on the national stage. If Butler were a senior at St. Joe's this season, there would more likely have been 20 wins than 20 losses.

Butler, however, is here - at the Final Four, the star player for West Virginia, the scorer of 2,085 points (putting him in a WVU club of three with Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley) and the maker of six game-winning shots this season, including the one that beat Villanova in the regular-season finale and the one that beat Georgetown to win the Big East Tournament.

Really, who knew?

Proving how difficult this really is, Butler's longtime friend and high school teammate, Casiem Drummond, was much more highly recruited. He was considered a terrific get for Villanova.

In his first two seasons for the Wildcats, Drummond scored 134 points in 40 games. He played two games in 2008-09 before transferring to Marist. He was supposed to play for Marist in the second semester this season. Only he was academically ineligible. Marist went 1-29.

You never know.

Mike Rice, then a St. Joe' first-year assistant and now the head coach at Robert Morris, knew the New Jersey high school scene intimately. He was the point man for Butler's recruiting. He put St. Joe's in a great spot.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter...

Dear Alumni and Friends,

In this Holy Week, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a blessed Easter. The observances of Holy Week are central to the University’s Catholic, Jesuit identity and during this most sacred season, we experience the foundation of our faith, which is revealed through the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On Sunday, Christians around the world, including our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, will join in the global celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. I hope you will spend this joyous holiday with family, friends and those most important to you, and that you feel inspired by this season of renewal and rebirth.

Happy Easter!

God’s Blessings,

Timothy R. Lannon, S.J.