Friday, December 31, 2010

Prep Senior reflects on service trip to the DR

Will Bankhead, Prep senior, made this presentation at the Senior Mother-Son Mass in December. He relates his experience as a member of a Prep service trip for the purpose of building houses in a rural area of the Dominican Republic.

Hello, my name is William Bankhead. I’m a senior here at the Prep and I’m here this morning to talk to you about one of the most important experiences of my life, my 10 days in the Dominican Republic this past summer.
When I was asked to speak here today, my first worry was at what point in my story I should begin. Well like many great movies and books, I’ll start at the end. What I read now is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent Ligia Bailand on June 21, four days after I returned from the DR, I wrote:
“It’s nice having all of those swell comforts of home back, but there IS something missing. If there is one lesson that I can take from this, it's that despite how much we all missed toilet seats and hot showers, nothing gave me the kind of satisfaction as my days in the DR. No food ever tasted as good as our meals after work; no sleep ever felt as good as our sleep after a hard day's work. I envy you and your current students because you still have those days ahead of you.”

With that in mind, let’s go back to the beginning. It all started when the wheels touched the tarmac at the Santo Domingo Airport. With me were close friends, kids I didn’t know, the head of the English Department and an old Jesuit. Most of us didn’t know what to expect, and minutes after landing, we piled into a large van and started out on a six hour drive to the retreat center. As we drove, the cities got poorer, the conditions rougher. Buildings went from large facilities to tenements to shanties, and eventually there were no buildings at all, and we all faced the beauty of the DR, the sprawling farms, the cascading mountains in the distance, and the endless horizon. It was like this for hours, and suddenly we arrived at the retreat center… where the electrical power promptly went out. Surprisingly enough none of us had a problem with this, we were all just so happy to be safe, with each other, and in close proximity to food and a bed. This was truly our calm before the storm.

The next day, it was out the frying pan, and into the fire, we awoke at sunrise and went down the mountain to begin our first day of work. There was no time for tutorials or learning curves; it was time to start pouring foundations and it was essential that all hands were on deck, willing and able. Work was back breaking, but satisfying. When things seemed bleak, or hands got tired, the realization that what we were doing made a difference was enough to help us push forward. At the end of the first day, the reality of our situation sank in. Chuck Palahniuk said in the preface of his book Fight Club, “Being tired isn’t the same as being rich, but often it’s just as nice.” On the way back at the end of each day, we’d look at ourselves and each other and see the dirt, concrete, and mud caked on our bodies. All we could do was smile and laugh. We were welcomed home by cold showers, and hot coffee. And to us, this was the lap of luxury. For the first four nights, we lacked electricity save that of flashlights. We went to bed when it got dark and woke up when the sun came up.

Around the fifth day, while laying cinder blocks, Ligia told us to drop our tools and follow her; she would take us on a tour of El Manguito. During this walk, the kids followed us, as they did everywhere during the entirety of our stay. At one stop, one nine-year-old boy following us at the time leaned against a motorcycle that had just pulled up. Little did he or any of us know, the exhaust pipe where he chose to rest his leg was still red-hot. When Ms. Bailand went to examine his leg, the burned skin was a sickly pink-white color, the smell haunting, the burn contrasting tragically against his brown skin. It was two days later that we found out this kid’s leg had gone unattended to in our absence; no one cared enough to take this kid to a hospital, or even wrap up the leg. The burn was becoming infected and had Ms. Bailand not given our driver $50 and told him to take the kid to the hospital, I doubt the child would still have that leg.

It was on the sixth day, Ligia took us to see a waterfall and the local beaches, to enjoy the paradise that is the DR. It’s this day however that rings as the most striking in my mind. From that day, the Dominican Republic was a terrible beauty. The entire country, beautiful enough to be a resort, but simultaneously stricken with poverty.

I’m not standing in front of you this morning to tell you that all the money in your wallet will solve all of our problems; all of their problems; it won’t plug up the wounds, cover the scars, or erase their history. But each dollar more we have is another vat full of concrete; another truck load of wood; more sheets of roofing; another entire house or two, or three; another DR trip all together. On July 11, the last day of the final DR trip, 10 more houses stood than at the beginning of the summer.

On the wall in my English class reads a quote, “At the end of my life, I’d like to think that I won’t be remembered for the size of my house, or the car I drove, or the number of toys I had. But by the things I left behind. The people I touched, and the difference I made.” Thank you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The "north rose window" at St. John the Evangelist in Morrisville.
A dynamic and explosive universe!

The north rose window at the Cathedral in Chartres.
An ordered, contained universe!
Feast of the Immaculate Conception December 2010

Five hundred years ago when Ignatius of Loyola was a teenager (if they had teenagers then!), the Blessed Mother held a position of great honor in the popular European imagination. In tribute and devotion to her, cities all over Europe had constructed and were still at work on the great cathedrals. These public works projects in every major city created community energy and developed the talents and skills of all kinds of people from stone masons to architects to glass makers to those who worked in tapestry.
The great spaces of the cathedrals embodied the very place where the virgin gave birth to Jesus and provided the security, the peace and the promise that sustained and comforted the faithful.
This effort at creating these beautiful tributes was in reaction to the anxieties that beset these communities often visited by devastating plagues, by wars that resulted in pillage and mayhem and by the usual uncertainties about crops and livestock. Our Lady was accessible both in the community effort to create the Cathedral and in her presence as symbolized by its central place in the community. Our Lady provided her personal guarantee of stability and confidence.

Here in Philadelphia we are no longer subject to plagues that we do not understand, though for a short time HIV wore that mantel. We do not have wars, though we do have a living memory of civil unrest. We are not worried about what we will eat today or in the years ahead. We have lingering anxieties, of course, about the safety of family and friends just as people did five hundred years ago.
But we do have a new anxiety, unimagined by Ignatius and his peers. They imagined the universe, then, as contained and ordered. Today our science tells us that the universe is dynamic and explosive. The number of stars is unimaginable and the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in this universe that we struggle to measure is almost certain. Our anxiety today is about our place on this tiny, fragile speck of earth sustained by a sun that will one day die.
In this contemporary context we need Our Lady just as much if not more than the Europeans of five hundred years ago. She comforts us in the vastness of creation by her witness. Willingly she bears the first born of all creation, Jesus. God in the Lord Jesus, with some power inaccessible to us, rules with divine love over all that we know and do not know in our physical world. But Our Lady remains as accessible to us as our own mothers and gives us confidence by her presence. Just as she did among the disciples in the anxious time after the calamity of the crucifixion, she now offers a posture of comfort. She can see us through our calamities as well.

In approaching Mary it helps us to be humble like the young Mexican couples in Mexico City who bring their newborns, sometimes so young that their skin is still wrinkled and red, to the Virgin of Guadalupe, to present them to her for her blessing and protection. In any joy or sorrow, but especially to ward off useless anxieties, we go to Our Lady and let her love of her son help us to be in love with his changing world with all its uncertainties.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

After forty years and literally hundreds of soccor victories as head coach of Prep soccer, Jim Murray '59 (my classmate) this year coached a team to the Catholic League Soccer Championship for the first time. Senior Pat Kardish scored the two goals in a 2-1 victory over Archbishop Wood. Pat told the press that he and his classmates made a promise as freshmen three years ago to one day win the title for Coach Murray.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just yesterday a slight-built boy is walking along the corridor nearly dragging his school bag with one arm. His other arm is in a cotton sling. I assume his collar bone is damaged.

"How did you do that?" I inquired.


Will you go back to playing rugby as soon as you heal?

My mother has other ideas!

Well, you need to stay on good terms with your mother.


I am sure that you have many other talents.

I like to think so!

Every now and then one takes a picture that needs no caption and can stand entirely on its own!

The smiling guy in the middle is Tom Burgoyne, the Phillie Phanatic, out of costume. His mother is with him. He spoke at the Mother-Son Communion Breakfast. He had a dozen pratfall stories to tell including the one about his first interview.

When the Phillies decided that they wanted a mascot they placed an ad for a mascot in the Inquirer. Whether or not Tom realized that the employer was the Phillies, he sent his resume to the post office box listed. On his resume, of course, was the fact that he had been the Hawk at the Prep.

So the Phillies called him to an interview. Tom talked about his growing confidence during the interview when he was asked to dance and to make funny noises. "Usually," he said, "at interviews the employer is trying to eliminate the idiots. But in this case an idiot was what they wanted and I knew I had a chance."

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Gabriel (Gabe) Infante, Prep football coach, awards the victory pigskin to quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg after the Prep team beats public school powerhouse George Washington in its season opener, 36-25.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

I am sorry to be absent from the blog for the balance of the summer. The pictures are of Bar Harbor taken from Cadillac Mountain and of some of our class of 2014 being welcomed by the class of 2011. It was a great summer for me, out of the city for a number of reasons:

  • June trip to Jesuit Secondary Education Association Colloquium at Santa Clara University. I was with a dozen faculty and staff members from SJP and we joined over 400 participants from over 40 Jesuit high schools in North America

  • July trip to Maine with three sisters and brother in law. We spent time on a beach, fished for mackerel that obliged us as usual by jumping on to our hooks, made a collection of beach glass, visited Acadia National Park, watched movies, steamed lobsters and hosted our Maine friends, Peter and Kathy Watko and their sons, Brian and Pete.

  • August trip to Germantown Philadelphia with seven of our seniors on a service trip to the Vincentian ministries in that part of the city. Terrific young men that confirm the mission of the Prep.

  • August trips to Avalon and Margate for Masses with Prep grads and friends.

  • August trip to Wernersville for retreat

  • August trip to see the Phils lose to Houston during their nervous August slump

  • Back to school now with 987 boys, 275 freshmen of whom 63 are from Philly and Camden.

Some summer photos now available on picasaweb!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This is Kevin Smith-Fagan and his son Eamon. Both were daily present at Gesu School when Eamon was in kindergarten and Kevin was the Director of Development. They now live in Sacramento, CA but came east to visit Kevin's dad, Dennis, in Wilmington. Eamon is a junior at the Christian Brothers School in Sacramento and plays baseball, especially third base and sometimes pitches for the school team. His dad pitches as Vice President for Development at KVIE, the PBS station in Sacramento. I neglected to picture Nancy, and younger brothers Brendan and Aidan, their other family members.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fifteenth Sunday of the Year. July 11, 2010

Mass with the Medical Mission Sisters in Fox Chase

Reading from Luke's Gospel of the Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan story encourages us to be generous of spirit like the Samaritan and, when we conduct ourselves in the way that the Samaritan conducts himself, to expect also the admiration of all of history. Sometimes I am sure, you are like me and you wish you were as lucky as that Samaritan and that you had two silver coins to distribute to every needy person that you meet on the street. Such activity would certainly gain some admiration and affirm a status even among those who don’t like you.

Father, I hear you say, be careful. This story is among the best in the Christian canon. Please respect it and don’t question the circumstances or the motives of the Samaritan. He certainly acted out of generosity of heart especially in contrast to that ignorant priest and Levite who passed by the groaning man in the ditch.

I do remember a first experience of generosity when I was very small and playing in the backyard of my home. A hobo came to the kitchen door and asked my mother for something to eat. I bashfully watched from a distance while this hobo sat on the back steps, exchanged conversation with my mother and ate some of the food that I thought belonged to me. It was my first lesson in selfishness seeing myself in contrast to the generous spirit of my mother.
Jesus establishes the Samaritan in this story as the ideal, the unexpected stranger usually shunned who quietly reaches out across ethnic and religious boundaries to exercise basic charity, identifying himself as a remedy to human misfortune and suffering.

In the light of the teachings that come down to us in the gospels I think of this story as evidence of the generosity of the pre-Christian Jewish law. Certainly in the story Jesus expresses his discontent with the religious establishment by ridiculing the conduct of the priest and the Levite but the respect for Jewish law is clear. The story suggests a broader way of considering the Jewish law. But the story falls short of a deeper understanding of the place of Jesus among us.

We find a deeper understanding in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25. 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

I experienced a vivid illustration of this on my visit to Calcutta some years ago. We visited the original of the hospices for the dying poor that Mother Teresa had established. There were two large dormitory rooms in the hospice, one for men and own for women. Those dying and they literally were so, were clothed in green smocks and resting quietly on low cots. The rooms were overseen by hovering sisters. Some young men and women volunteers sat with the dying, holding their hands, feeding them or giving them drink.

Everything was peaceful until suddenly I heard horns honking outside on the busy street and there was a bustling at the street door. Two volunteers, young men who appeared to be from Korea, made their way from the street and through the door; between them they carried an emaciated and street-soiled man, hardly alive. They passed by me and their thin burden accosted my sense of sight and smell. He looked little better than a piece of trash. He had been brought to the hospice by someone who knew he deserved a more dignified death than one on the curbside.

I had already seen the bathing room where the volunteers were taking this man and I knew instantly that they accepted the responsibility of carrying this poor dying man there because of what they had learned from Mother Teresa. Written in big letters over the bathing area, Mother Teresa had placed the words, “The Body of Christ.”

With a full understanding of Christian teaching we complete the story of the Good Samaritan by considering Matthew 25, by considering the identity of Jesus and by considering his brutal reception by the powers of religion and government. It is he who is left to die in the ditch, ignored by the priest and the Levite.

As Luke introduces the story of the Good Samaritan, the scribe who occasions the story speaks of the law of the love of God and neighbor. Then Luke has the scribe question Jesus in this way: Because he wished to justify himself the scribe asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Should questions about the law of love of God and love of neighbor arise today in the context of

today’s world, young thoughtful persons might ask the same kind of question. But I suggest that, when they wonder about justifying themselves, their question will not be about the neighbor. They will ask rather “Who is my God?” “Who is my God?” How would you respond? Perhaps you would tell the same story that Jesus told, knowing that our God is present in the spirit of all those in need as well as in the spirit of the one who reaches out in response to that need.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

These two photos illustrate the July 4th celebration at Independence Hall. The drum and bugle corps was a big hit.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

====================(Pictures: Mayor Nutter speaking at Independence Hall. View of Liberty Bell)
Give God the praise and blessings to God’s People!
Brothers and Sisters gathered here on this the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, we gather in the same spirit as those who first heard it proclaimed. In our prayer we read the words of George Washington when he resigned his Commission as Commander in Chief of the Army in 1783. This prayer asked the guidance we needed as a Nation in 1783 and continues to ask what we need in this different world of the 21st Century. It echoes the words of the ancient prophet Hosea.

Washington spoke in 1783: “I now make it my earnest prayer,

that God would have You (leaders of the various states), and the States over which you preside, in his holy protection,

that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens
· to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government,
· to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field,
· and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”

Washington prayed to our God who has ears to hear us and eyes to see us and we pray in this season in particular for those with the duty of governance, our President and those in Congress, our Mayor Nutter and City Council members. We pray for the unemployed, for those beset by disasters such as that on the Gulf Coast, for parents, especially the parents of children who require a special love, for the homeless, for immigrants, for the safety of those guarding our public places, for those serving in the Armed Forces, for volunteers who extend their helping hands.

Send us, O gracious God, your Spirit so that we become more clearly a beacon of freedom, justice and peace for our suffering world. Let us say: Amen.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

At the Jesuit Secondary Education Colloquium June 20-25 at Santa Clara University, we wined and dined. The campus grounds provided a comfortable bug-free site for our meals. Below we ate at Fisherman's Wharf on an evening free of meetings.
Some of us made presentations. All of us learned something from colleagues attending and representing about forty of the 60 or so Jesuit high schools in the USA, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 4, 2010: The evening before Baccalaureate and Graduation, Prep senior members of the Black and Latino Culture Club gather with mentors and graduates who decorate them with Kinte Cloth. All of this group from the class of 2010 are college bound, one to Georgetown, one to Stanford, and the rest to a variety of other universities and colleges including Morris College in South Carolina.

June 6: These two Prep grads in the class of 2010, Chris Dougherty and Harry Smith, are both planning to attend Villanova University. Chris is a pole vaulter who sails well over his 5'9" and leaves the bar at 14'6" Harry refused to yield to senior slump and kept up a blistering pace of As and B pluses.


Prep brothers, class of 1960. Welcome back!

Faculty and staff, parents and friends, who contributed such energy and attention to the class of 2010 and to this graduation, we owe you a debt of thanks.

Prep Brothers, Class of 2010. You have heard a lot of advice over the past four years and there is no need for me to add to it. I simply share some bits of conversation for the benefit of the rest of us here, parents, faculty, relatives and friends.

My dear sister is the principal at West Philadelphia Catholic High School. She is also a religious sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an IHM. Recently a graduate of West complained to her about the quality of today’s young people. He was referring to Catholics especially. “College kids have no understanding of their faith; they don’t even know the seven sacraments and, if they go to a church, they don’t show the proper respect.” My sister defended the preparation for lives of faith and service that West Catholic students receive. But the man asked her, “Don’t you worry about their souls after they graduate?” And my sister replied, “No!” She was confident. The young people she knew would find their way to be faithful to their families, to their faith and civic communities.

Not long after that conversation, my sister, Sister Bur, they call her at school, came across a West Catholic senior in the school’s detention room, the jug room at West, and she said to him, “What are you doing here?” And he looked a little sheepish. And my sister blurted out the question, “Am I going to have to worry about your soul after graduation?” And he straightened up, “Oh no, Sister Bur!”

Class of 2010. Look around you. See the class of 1960. See your parents and guardians and teachers and coaches and mentors, all those who have been watching your backs these four years. We love you, we know the great good that you can accomplish and we are not worried about your souls now that you have graduated. And if you think we are a bunch of pollyannas, read the astute columnist David Brooks of the New York Times. He said a few month back, "if you want to feel really optimistic about the country, look at people under thirty...this group under thirty is an extremely wholesome and promising generation." God bless you. Go, as Saint Ignatius directs us all and set the world on fire.

June 8: Prep underclassmen prepare for the college tour organized by the Black and Latino Culture Club. This year is a three-day tour to Western Pennsylvania and part of Maryland.

June 9: Three of the grads from Gesu School, class of 2010. All three got prizes at graduation. The two on the left will attend Saint Joseph's Prep. The young man in the handsome bowtie will attend West Philadelphia Catholic High School.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Memorial Day Trip

Frank and I went to Wernersville to visit our friend Jack Martinez. We knew him in Baltimore where he worked tirelessly to investigate the housing markets that were so tilted against blacks owning homes. Jack told us this story of a surprising rebuke from his Jesuit superior: he had taken part on a picket line at the offices of one of the most unscrupulous of the housing speculators. When he did not challenge an injunction and was not arrested with the other pickets, his Jesuit superior later asked, "why? The others would have been treated better if you had joined them."

Here we are in Maclean, Va. in the Church of St. Luke where my brother has just joined in the Memorial Day performance of the Washington Men's Chorus. Several trained and talented musicians make up the heart of the chorus and my brother enjoys singing with them. This particular concert is a tribute to the men and women in the armed forces. We talked later about the enduring nature of war.

My first cousin, once removed, Sarah Bur Gillespie, came to visit my three sisters and me in Jeanne's Baltimore living room. Sarah has the daunting task of monitoring infectious diseases in the 114 federal prisons around the country. She told of going sleepless some nights recently worrying about the spread of tuberculosis among groups of prisoners in varying places around the country. At this time, though, she believes that she and her assitants have brought the situation under control.
Who is this wonderful family? I officiated at the wedding of Kevin O'Reilly and Carol Beck in September of 1986. Here they are in front of their Baltimore home with their three wonderful children, high school boys John and Andrew and their fifth grader daughter Ann. John and Andrew are members of a Quaker youth group that will hike the Appalachian Trail for three weeks this summer. And Ann is a favorite in the family's church community at Saint Vincent's. The three are blessed to have steady loving parents, Carol who gets things done as a consultant for foundations interested in funding educational projects in the Baltimore school district and Kevin whose architectural skills are put to excellent use at Saint Ambrose Housing Aid Center especially in the hundreds of renovation projects that the Center has undertaken. Kevin and John will go to the Dominican Republic this summer for a week of volunteer work at an orphanage.


On the day of this photo, Kevin told me a story about his recent trip to a reunion of his class of architectural majors at Notre Dame University. "My two boys think I'm dimwitted and only got lucky to marry someone with real wisdom and a career. In any case they consented to go with me to my Notre Dame reunion and we drove out there together. After that long ride we got off the Interstate and wound through the suburban neighborhoods on the last miles. We could see the gold dome in the distance but when we made the final turn onto Saint Joseph Drive, the manicured campus unfolded in front of us and the gold dome appeared in the evening sun. My boys looked at me and one said, "Holy crab, dad, you went here?"

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I never expect to see Warblers in this part of North Philadelphia. But this one ran into trouble, perhaps trying to navigate around the massive Gesu Church. This beautiful bird was resting in peace this morning on the sidewalk next to the Church. It appears to be a Canada Warbler.

So...following these pages this spring you will find trout, Eagles and now warblers, all not far from Center City Philadelphia.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Michael Mungai, SJU 2010, (center) hails from Nairobi, Kenya. He spent some of his adolescence as a street boy with other boys sniffing glue and getting into trouble. Two people who knew his potential share graduation day with him, his mother who traveled from Kenya for the event and Mark Orrs, an SJU graduate, who met Michael in Nairobi some years ago when Michael, then off the street, was working at a center supporting the needs of the street boys.

Here is a happy gesture from Desmond Shannon, Gesu '02, SJP '06 and SJU '10. His degree is in actuarial science and he will have no trouble getting a good job. I take some tiny credit because I helped him prepare for high school math when he was an eighth grader at Gesu. No student but Desmond during the years that I taught pre-algebra demonstrated in his or her work the careful line-by-line illustration of a mind thinking mathematically.
Leya Egea-Hinton graduated Gesu School in 2002, Shipley School in 2006 and Saint Joseph's Univeristy in 2010. I remember her body language during freshman orientation at SJU. It asked the question "what am I doing here and how can I possibly manage it?" But Leya handled her college years with great maturity. None of the rest of us had any doubts about her ability and character.

At the graduation at Saint Joseph's University, I ran into two Prep boys from the Prep class of 2006, Stephen Phillips (center) and Stanley Hendrickson. Stanley was a great help to the SJU Mission Office in the areas related to diversity. Stephen graduated summa cum laude. Congratulations to them both!

In this season of graduations, I attended that of Immaculata University. Christine Beck, the president of Gesu School received the Immaculata Medal and Philip Martelli, men's basketball coach at Saint Joseph's Univeristy received an honorary degree. I got to sit on the stage and read the citation (below)honoring Chris Beck!

Sister Patricia Fadden, IHM, President of Immaculata, let me join the photo op with her honored guests.
Christine S. Beck

Since 2003, Christine Beck has led the way as President and CEO of Gesu School, an independent Catholic School in the Jesuit and IHM traditions serving children in grades pre-K through 8. One author notes, “She makes everything happen, she’s amazing. Chris Beck is one of the greatest assets the city of Philadelphia has in the world of philanthropy…not because of the money…because she makes things happen.”

Those words were expressed by Mark Solomon, a member of the Board at the Gesu School in the book, A Model School: How Philadelphia’s Gesu School is Remaking Inner-City Education by Jerold K. Footlick. Over time, Mrs. Beck has become central to the mission and life of an inner city school dedicated to the betterment of the children of its neighborhood. While seeking a new charity in celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary, Chris and Leif, her husband, visited the school for the first time some fifteen years ago and left impressed by what they had experienced. Thus began a new love affair with the children of Gesu School. A few weeks later a generous check arrived from the Becks.

Sister Ellen T. Convey, IHM , principal of Gesu School shares these comments: “Christine Beck is making education not only possible but effective in the challenging neighborhoods of North Philadelphia because of her leadership and creativity. The 452 children who attend The Gesu are well loved, truly challenged and enabled to become people who will enrich our society. Chris is a leader who enables all she leads to reach their full potential. Her compassion, her wisdom, her energy are an example for us all.” Mrs. Beck has guided the Gesu team through a highly successful capital campaign. Through the $12 million Building for Tomorrow Campaign which included a $6 million renovation project, the Gesu School has resources, services, and facilities which enrich the lives of the children of today and which give hope to future generations of young scholars. Gesu’s fundraising today focuses on encouraging generous friends to become sponsors of individual children at Gesu School.

When speaking of her students, Christine Beck says, “If only there were statistical parameters to measure inward qualities of character, values, self-confidence, and caring for others, our children would indeed score very high. Of course, to become productive adults in this rapidly changing world, children need both sets of tools - - strong academic skills as well as grounded personal qualities.” This quote speaks not only of an educator and a leader, but a caring woman who has seen through the faces of her students the challenges that confront them in everyday life. Here is a person who advocates that education exists for all who seek it even those in the most adverse of circumstances. Christine Beck models through word and example the essence of the Immaculata mission, developing the “truly educated person.”

Immaculata University is proud to present the Immaculata Medal to a woman who fosters Catholic education, who changes the lives of youth, and who encourages healthy living among all citizens. We honor and congratulate our awardee, Christine S. Beck, with the 2010 Immaculata Medal.

The Prep painting teacher, Jeremy Foldesey, taught some of our students to make water color copies of the works of Winslow Homer. The copies above, the top by Stephen Gliatto and the bottom by Ted Beck, remind me of my father. This Homer, Breezing Up, was one of his favorites. It reminded him, and those who were ever out with him, too, of some wonderful afternoons sailing on Barnegat Bay.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I had a great seat for the worst game of the season so far. The Phils lost to the Mets in this game on Friday, April 30. Poor pitching and no batting. Here Chase Utley adds little to the weak team effort.

So I go to the Proms, to the Senior Prom to greet the seniors as they arrive at the Sheraton with their dates. The dresses are greens and blues this year and I take only two pictures there, one of which is of the three young ladies above. After greeting about 400 youth, we leave and make a short appearance at the Junior Prom, same night but at the Hilton. And I take just one picture there at random , of Joe and his date. Little did I know how popular a certain dress was! It actually made me feel better when I looked again at the pictures and realized that, I guess, most of the dresses were off the rack. The young ladies looked great even in something simpler and plain. And I did not say anything to Joe!
I couldn't have planned these two photos!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

After a performance by the Cape and Sword Drama Society of "The Drowsy Chaperone," the players sat on stage and answered a few questions. The foreground face in the upper picture is that of the director, Tony Braithwaite. His career as director here at SJP spans about twenty years and he gets performances from these young people that are spectacular and lots of fun. The Drowsy Chaperone speaks hopelessly about the prospects of marriage but then these kids, most of them, come from strong families that prepared them for their young adulthood. They are terrific and give the lie to the play's message.

This bright spring Sunday I was wandering around the city. At the Philadelphia Free Library off Logan Square (bottom picture) was a book festival. These magician clowns (top picture) entertained the kids with tricks of all kinds, even engaged some in their tomfoolery.
The middle photos attempt to illustrate the bald eagle couple roosting in Tinicum Wildlife Sanctuary. You can see them both hanging out to the left of their nest. The viewing spot is a couple of hundred yards from the nest and one of the viewers there guessed that one of the two chicks born in recent days had already died.
We took a shot at ruining the environment here in Philly but nature bounces back when given the chance. Trout in the Wissahickon, the Eagles at Tinicum and Shad running up the Schuylkill.

Sophomores Visit Retired Archbishop of New Orleans, Philadelphian Francis B. Schulte, SJP'45

Monday, April 05, 2010

One of the streams flowing along Lincoln Drive and into the Wissahickon.
Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010
Who would have thought that these trout waited all winter for these young fishers? They pulled them from the Wissahickon along Forbidden Drive, just a few miles from Center City!

Saturday, April 03, 2010


“Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.”

During Masses in Lent these words of the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer soften some of the harshness of this season, a season when spring is not yet, a season when, as penitents, we realize in our own bodies the suffering of the Lord. Each year we celebrate within a cyclical pattern the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. In Christ, despite on-the-ground evidence moving us to the contrary, we are a joyful people. With Christ each year we receive hope filled gifts of renewal.

I have the privilege of working with high school boys and also with a talented group of young adults who are their teachers, mentors and coaches. They are a congregation that tests my seniority; my work is sometimes the work of fraternal correction and always the work of challenge and encouragement. And in this work, generally, I protect the young from some of my darker worries. Despite our repeated experience of this joyful season and of Easter renewal, threatening clouds can hover over the hearts of many of us.

Tomorrow on Friday we may speak of an intimacy with Jesus as he joins us in our sufferings. This evening we celebrate with another leading image: Jesus offers himself to us as a young and confident trusted servant aiding us, even leading us when we get weary on our journey from slavery into freedom.

Earlier this Lent we read from the Book of Numbers, the fourth of the books of the Pentateuch. Numbers tells the history of the Israelites as they suffer through the long journey in the desert, repeatedly despondent, rebellious and sinful, repeatedly rescued by God’s mercy and help but never fully satisfied. This book is about the survival of a people on a long trek. As they journey there is a tension between the old and the young. Some of the older among them remember a less challenging past and want to abandon the journey. They want even to return to their slave quarters and the good food back in Egypt thinking the whips of the Pharaoh a small price to pay. The younger among them, however, have no memory of Egypt and have not yet grown weary; they can imagine only freedom and they long for a place where they can settle and bring new life to their offspring.

For so many years we have been trudging through the desert and we have not reached the promised land. We know now that it is not within our own power to get there. We worry that stresses of all kinds are leading our world to ruin. Sometimes because of our greed and ignorance there seems no future but the one that threatens to end in global catastrophe. Like the Israelites on their journey, though, we know in our hearts that there is no return to some alleged comfortable past.

The Christ, of course, always remains young no matter the age of the world and its isms. We listen for his voice among the young, men and women of every culture and country. We marvel at the commitment of so many to justice, and at their longing for reconciliation and a new world. God is persistent in giving them gifts of faith, hope and love. But we all must remind ourselves of our duty to walk together, young and old.

The youthful Christ comforts us today by washing our tired feet, feeds us with his own manna and strengthens us for a journey on which the experiences of young and old are blended together. There are those of us who can remember Sister Pollard, a seventy year old early ally of Dr. King. She knew the price of her dignity. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott she refused the offer of a ride and preferred to walk. Her commitment encouraged the young Dr. King when he heard her say: “My feets is tired but my soul is rested.” They both reached the Promised Land!

“Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.”

Monday, March 29, 2010

These are senior players and managers of the 2009-2010 basketball season. They gathered for their end-of-the-year banquet and received various awards. None of them, I am told, will be playing on a college team. Fortunately they all have a great deal of personality and other talents. The captains, Sean Brophy and Joe Nardi, thanked especially their coach, Speedy Morris, for his great mentoring and leadership.

Speedy typically used only six or seven players in a game. But he honored the rest of the varsity by awarding them prizes honoring how they quickly learned what scouts taught them about opposing teams. With these new skills they helped the starters prepare for each game.

It was this group that played the semifinal Catholic League championship game against Neumann-Goretti in the Palestra. And I got a chance to say the prayer before the game in that sacred basketball arena:

"We gather, Lord God, first in thanksgiving for your generous spirit. May our game this night be worthy of the dedication in the long history of this arena to teamwork, to skills, to sportsmanship.

Bless our players. May they be free of injury and mean spirits. Bless our coaches, mentors, teachers and parents. Help them to appreciate the efforts of our players and to bring their enthusiasms into every good work.

May you, Lord, enjoy the game as much as we will.

St. Joseph, Pray for us.
Sts. Maria Goretti and John Neumann, Pray for us."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the New York Athletic Club on Central Park South. the Prep had a gathering there with some Prep alumni. Before the meeting Al Zimmerman and I walked in the park and saw how it was just waking up to spring. Our meeting was on the 12th floor but it turned out to be too windy and chilly to use the balcony.