Monday, October 24, 2011

Ignatian discernment, God's fast ball, and the preferential option for the poor.

Dean Brackley, SJ passed away last week (read the comments under the article as well). He was a Jesuit from Fordham who after hearing of the 6 Jesuits being martyred in El Salvador... packed his bags and moved there to help fill the huge void at the UCA left by their deaths. Most people run from danger, others run towards it. Not surprising for a Jesuit though. He will be missed, and not just by those he served at Fordham, in the South Bronx, or in El Salvador. A beautiful remembrance by Genevieve Jordan of the Romero Center Ministries in Camden, NJ - Remembering Dean Brackley, SJ.

On Wednesday I picked up his book called The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola. Great read - and you know it will be when even the introduction kicks your butt.

When I was 'doing' the Exercises I had difficulty with Ignatian Indifference - I still struggle with it, and try, most times unsuccessfully, to get my arms around the principle. This from Fr. Brackley:

"Indifference" means inner freedom. It is the capacity to sense and then embrace what is the best, even when that goes against our inclinations. Indifference is neither stoic impassiveness nor the extinction of desire that some currents of Eastern religious scholars advocate. It means being so passionately and single-minded committed, so completely in love, that we are willing to sacrifice anything, including our lives, for the ultimate goal. It means magnanimous generosity, abandonment into God's hands, availability. It is not so much detachment from things as "detachability." It means being like a good shortstop, ready top move in any direction at the crack of the bat."

If interested here's an article he penned that was reprinted in America Magazine last week.

"After reflecting on these issues for some years, it only gradually dawned on me that I belong to a peculiar tribe. The middle-class cultures of the North are newcomers to world history and have only existed for about 200 years. We're not all bad people, we're just a tiny minority under the common illusion that we are the center of gravity of the universe. The poor can free us from this strange idea."
Meeting the Victim, Loving the Poor

I shared the above with a few friends and it was passed on. The following is from my friend Tim Klarich, and his friend George Limbaugh, who is a local coordinator for the Woodstock Business Conference of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University:


I had the opportunity to meet Fr. Dean when he was a visiting professor at St. Joseph's University; he came to one of our Woodstock Business Group meetings to share his experiences in Central America. He was similar in many ways to Fr. John Deeney, SJ; quiet but a very strong man.

Tim –

Thanks for sharing this. We had the privilege to get to know Dean when he was on sabbatical at SJU a number of years ago, and subsequently visit with him several times on our trips to El Salvador. He was an amazing combination of a brilliant theologian and a humble and dedicated servant of the poor. We had the opportunity to accompany him on a Sunday to the parish where he ministered in a poor community outside the city of San Salvador. And as you know from your travels, the word “poor” has a much different meaning than it does in our world here.

We were overwhelmed with the generosity of spirit that we were embraced with by his congregation, and the amazing faith and piety of these people – even without translating you can feel those kinds of things.

Since you have also made the Exercises, you will be able to appreciate this story that Dean tells. It is about his decision to go to El Salvador after the Jesuits at the UCA there were martyred. He was teaching at Fordham and working in the South Bronx, and deeply committed to both endeavors. As he heard the call for replacements at the university, he had a discernment process to go thru. Given the unique and urgent circumstances, it did not allow the usual deliberate process of Ignatian discernment. As Dean described it, sometimes you get the luxury of deliberate discernment; other times God just throws you a fast ball, and you have to decide to swing or not. Pretty profound, and pretty fortunate for the people of El Salvador that he chose to swing at the “fast ball.”



The University of Scranton presented its annual Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Award for Distinguished Contributions to Ignatian Mission and Ministries to Rev. Dean Brackley, S.J., at a University Assembly in the DeNaples Center on April 29, 2010.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thinking outside the box in North Philly...

Every once in a while the media covers a story on the good works of the Church. This was my mother's old  school, once an Irish parish called St. Columba's in the city's Swampoodle section. Not only surviving, but thriving. AMDG.

Partnership in Philadelphia could be model for inner-city Catholic schools

By Martha Woodall

Inquirer Staff Writer

St. Martin de Porres School in North Philadelphia may have found the key to survival for inner-city Catholic schools.

Through a pioneering partnership with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and local business leaders, the school at 2300 W. Lehigh Ave. has become an independent Catholic school overseen by an 18-member board but it retains ties to the archdiocese.

It is the only school in Philadelphia with such an arrangement.

Bolstered by an endowment of more than $4 million, a full-time development director, and fund-raising that covers a quarter of the school's $1.7 million annual budget, St. Martin de Porres has been able to increase enrollment and add programs without raising tuition.

"This has provided a growth and a transformation for the school and a real sense of stability," said Sister Nancy Fitzgerald, the principal. "When I register new families and I explain to them . . . that we are an independent Catholic school and that the archdiocese cannot close us, their eyes light up."

Her school has 400 students from kindergarten through eighth grade - 20 more than last year. Parents pay $2,460 per child.

The school's board, the archdiocese, and the nonprofit Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS) quietly signed documents in August 2010 making the school independent.

Officials are scheduled to publicly announce Tuesday the school's independence and its successful year-old transition.

"We're just thrilled that the group has come along to ensure that the school will continue," said Mary Rochford, superintendent of Catholic schools.

John F. "Jack" Donnelly, a business executive who is chairman of the Friends of St. Martin de Porres School Board, said the new approach shields the school from the cycle of rising costs and declining enrollment that causes several Catholic elementary schools to close each year.

"The goal is ultimately to use this as a model for other Catholic schools," said Donnelly, chief executive officer at L.F. Driscoll Co. L.L.C., a Bala Cynwyd construction-management firm.

A year ago, BLOCS pledged $4 million in matching grants to help St. Martin de Porres and six other urban Catholic schools create endowments. Although St. Martin de Porres has not yet raised the $5.75 million to qualify for its $225,000 match, the school is the first to become independent.

"We will be doing a full-court press" to get the match, Donnelly said.

Other area parish schools have become independent in order to continue serving low-income students in inner-city neighborhoods. In 1993, business leaders, the Jesuits, and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary joined together to keep the Gesu School in North Philadelphia open after the archdiocese announced it would close it.

And when the lone surviving Catholic school in Chester was threatened with closure in 2006, the archdiocese, Neumann University, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and the St. Katharine Drexel Parish reached an agreement that created Drexel Neumann Academy...

(click on link for the entire article)