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Remembering John Price

Hard to believe that two months have passed since my last posting. They’ve been busy months–a trip to Wisconsin for my mother’s 93rd birthday, and teaching responsibilities since the end of August. With three courses and three preparations, plus a tutorial, the football chaplaincy, Mass rotation for the Chaplain’s Office, and the province archives, the days don’t seem to have enough hours.

Yesterday, however, came one of those welcome interruptions that I will remember for as long as I live. In conjunction with Homecoming, our men’s lacrosse team held a reunion to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of John Price and the founding of John’s Brothers as a living memorial to him. There was an alumni game in the morning (which I missed because of the football Team Mass), then a tailgate. After the football game, a tree was planted in his memory here on campus. We then had a memorial Mass in the upper church with about 75 people, followed by a buffet reception with about 175 people at a local restaurant.

As a student, John was a Religious Studies major with a strong sense of dedication to the poor. As a junior, he and his roommates were able to finagle a four-man room with only three occupants. The fourth bed, he said, was for the homeless. Shortly after being named captain-elect of lacrosse, he was struck by a train and suffered a major head injury. He lingered in the hospital for several days and then succombed. The College sent the entire team, together with Coach Mike McCaffrey and his wife Sharon, to Baltimore for the wake and funeral. Memories of those days remain vivid in our hearts and memories.

While John lingered between life and death, there were team meetings that included fervent prayers for John. There were nightly Masses for him in the Mary Chapel. And I remember being with John’s parents and siblings that last morning when the doctor came in to tell us that he was fading fast. If they were to harvest his organs (John was an organ donor), they would have to act immediately. “We’re going to roll him past this conference room, ” the doctor said. “Keep your heads down; he’s not a pretty sight.” So we bowed our heads in prayer as the cart rolled by. Later, the trip to Baltimore with John’s teammates concluded the most intense experience I have had with any of our teams. There was a buffet supper for us the first night at John’s high school–Loyola Blakefield. Frs. Brian Linnane (now president at Loyola Baltimore) and Michael Ford (now minister of the Jesuit community at BC) came down from Holy Cross for the funeral Mass. After the funeral, the Price family fed all of us at a reception at their home.

That summer, Mike McCaffrey came up with the idea of teaming with Big Brother/Big Sisters to set up a program in John’s memory. We met with HC alum Ben Ticho who heads BB/BS in central Mass., and the idea of John’s Brothers took off. Since then, every member of the team and their coaches have been paired with a boy at the Canterbury Street School. In that time, the blessing associated with remembering John has flowed both to the boys and to their “big brothers.”

Last night’s event brought so much of all this into focus. Coach Adam Pascal, who succeded Mike McCaffrey as head coach, made the evening a mandatory team event. In this way, student/athletes who never knew John Price had an opportunity to become familiar with the story and to meet persons associated with John and the origins of the program. John’s parents came up from Baltimore; his brothers Arthur and Sebastian were also present.

The formal program included remarks from the two coaches, from Marc Wilson who was John’s roommate at the time of his death, and from Ben Ticho. Arthur responded on behalf of the Price family.  Melanie Perrault from BB/BS served as MC.

There were tears in many of our eyes as Coach McCaffrey and Marc Wilson described those events of May, 2000. Ben Ticho stressed to impact of John’s Brothers on the work of BB/BS. Ten years ago there were something like 250 big brothers working in the program; today the number is something like 1200–a large number of whom are student/athletes at Holy Cross.

It was an evening, as I said, to remember. Another reason to fall in love with Holy Cross and what it represents.

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