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Two Memorable Events

August 27th, 2015 by akuzniew

A trip back to Milwaukee last week brought two memorable events.

The first was a fund-raising lecture at St. Josaphat Basilica, a spectacularly beautiful legacy of first- and second-generation Polish immigrants. The basilica foundation approached me at the suggestion of Fr. Bob Cook ’86, who spent his pastoral year after ordination at that parish. The evening brought together many old friends, and the Qs and As at the end of the talk were stimulating and enjoyable.

The lecture brought me back to work done over thirty years ago as a graduate student and young historian on the Holy Cross faculty. The basilica was a crisis within a crisis, a serious problem embedded within a longer “church war” that raged among the city’s Poles for over twenty years. At the center was a crusade for ethnic equality within the Church; contentiousness notwithstanding, the crusade was successful: three of the first four Slavic-American bishops were in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, the parish was unable to pay even the interest on the mounting debt on the church. Eventually, the Franciscans took responsibility for the parish and a chunk of the debt; parishes in the archdiocese were assessed for five years to cover the remainder. What endures is a worship space of breathless beauty designed by architect Erhard Brielmaier, and decorated by Gonoppo Raggi, who also decorated a number of churches in New England.

The following two evenings were taken with a celebration and reunion for the 75th anniversary of my old Boy Scout Troop–Troop 61–located at Mother of Good Counsel Parish. It was a time for remembering, well prepared by the planning committee. I shed a tear during the memorial video of former friends and leaders who are now with God. And we all laughed
when a campfire choir performed excerpts from favorite camping songs.

A memory came back regarding my scoutmaster, Jim Niedhoefer. At some point three of us high school seniors were at his home when we noticed and admired copies of a magazine called Natural History. Jim bought subscriptions for the three of us for a number of years. When I asked how to thank and repay him, he told me : “when your time comes, keep it going.” Use your time and your means, he meant, to encourage the next generation. Words to live by, indeed.

150th Anniversary of College Charter

March 23rd, 2015 by akuzniew

March 24, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Holy Cross institutional charter by the Bay State’s Civil War governor, John A. Andrew. The College’s first application for a charter was refused by the Massachusetts General Court in 1849 on a variety of grounds,including anti-Catholicism, and the fact that it was an unusual request for a private college charter at a time when the other three colleges were publicly funded. State legislators were fearful that public funds might eventually be drawn in to the support of a school intended to be exclusively for Catholics. Prejudice against the Irish also certainly came into play.

Until 1865, Holy Cross graduates received Georgetown degrees, since the two schools had virtually identical academic programs and Georgetown held a federal rather than a state charter.

By 1865, the scene had changed. Massachusetts Catholics had shed more than their share of blood in the Civil War. Governor Andrew was a great supporter of Holy Cross and, during his term, initiated the practice of the governor delivering an address at the annual commencement–a practice that endured for about a century. Boston College broke the ice, having received its charter two years earlier. And Holy Cross preserved its unusual (among Jesuit colleges) policy of Catholic exclusivity by leaving the point unmentioned in the charter petition. It neither required nor forbade religious exclusivity, leaving the road open for the bishops’ restrictions on admissions to be maintained because they were not explicitly forbidden.

At that time, a Jesuit wrote: “Holy Cross is no longer a secondary branch of Georgetown. It is now a chartered college. The charter was granted with … scarcely any opposition: although much was anticipated. The successful issue was in great measure due to the exertions of Gov. Andrew (who by the by seems not only to be a liberal man towards all classes in general; but towards Catholics in particular.) It is reported that he had a private interview with all the members in order to place the passage of the bill beyond a doubt.”

The governor was guest of honor at a celebratory banquet held on April 21. Also present were the bishops of Boston and Hartford and the Jesuit provincial. James A. Healy (1849), now chancellor of the Diocese of Boston, delivered an address. Afterwards the Dramatic Club performed Edward Bulwer’s play Cardinal Richlieu.


“even the Pope rows”

October 1st, 2014 by akuzniew

Last Saturday, September 27, Pope Francis led a vesper service at the Church of the Gesu in Rome to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). In the course of his homily, he offered the following:

“The ship of the Society [of Jesus] has been tossed around by the waves and there is nothing surprising in this. Even the boat of Peter can be tossed about today. The night and the powers of darkness are always near. It is tiring to row. The Jesuits must be ‘brave and expert rowers”: row then! Row, be strong, even with the headwind! We row in the service of the Church. We row together! But while we row–we all row, even the Pope rows in the boat of Peter–we must pray a lot….”

I nominate Francis as an honorary member of our crew teams!

Jesuit Bicentennial, 2014

August 8th, 2014 by akuzniew

Yesterday–August 7, 2014–was a day of celebration for Jesuits around the world. It marked the 200th anniversary of Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum, in which Pius VII restored the Society of Jesus to full status within the Catholic Church.

The pope wrote: “The Catholic world demands with unanimous voice the re-establishment of the Company of Jesus. We daily receive to this effect the most pressing petitions from our venerable brethren, the archbishops and bishops, and the most distinguished persons, especially since the abundant fruits which this Company has produced…have been generally known…. We declare, besides, and grant power, that [Jesuits] may freely and lawfully apply to the education of youth in the principles of the Catholic faith, to form them in good morals, and to direct colleges and seminaries; we authorize them to hear confessions, to preach the Word of God, and to administer the sacraments in the places of their residence with the consent and approbation of the ordinary.”

Benedict J. Fenwick was one of those who rejoiced at the turn of events. He had joined a partially restored Society of Jesus in 1806 and was then working as Jesuit priest in New York City. Writing to a Jesuit friend, Fenwick could not contain his enthusiasm: “The Society of Jesus is then completely reestablished, that long-injured, long-insulted Society! That Society which has been denounced as the corrupter of youth, the inculcator of unsound, unchristian and lax morality.” The pope, he stated, had restored the Society as “the only plank left for the salvation of a shipwrecked, philosophized world…. What a triumph! How glorious to the Society! How confounding to her enemies! If any man will say after this that God is not a friend of the Society, I shall pronounce him, without hesitation, a liar.”

Jesuits in the New England province, including all of us who were at home at Holy Cross and free from scheduling conflicts, traveled to Chestnut Hill for Mass at St. Ignatius Church, followed by a social and dinner on the Boston College campus. Our provincial, Myles Sheehan, presided at the liturgy. Mario Powell, ordained just two months ago, preached a good message that blended history and divine providence. The social and meal provided a low-key opportunity to connect with fellow Jesuits in the companionship of our Society.

Reflecting on the event now, I realize that Bishop Fenwick was surely with us, reinforcing the spirit of our times with the spirit from his.

Student Retreats

July 13th, 2014 by akuzniew

These past few years, I have joined the team directing the May student retreat at Campion Center, Weston MA. Following the Jesuit precept of adaptation to persons, places, and times, the retreats contain similar elements to the exercises offered for many years by Father Joe LaBran, but there are also new elements. Silence remains the norm, and several conferences plus a homily at Mass every day. New elements include a daily conference with one of the directors, shared responsibility among the directors for offering points for reflection at the conferences, and a Taize evening worship service.

As when I worked with Fr. LaBran, student retreatants still amaze me in their generous cooperation with divine grace. There is no lack of evidence that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in surprising and wonderful ways during these days of grace.

As a distinguishing facet of The Cross, these four silent retreat sessions each academic year remain a mainstay of our life and identity, ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Mulledy Christmas poem

December 20th, 2013 by akuzniew

Rise, Brothers, rise, the star has shone
To light us to our King.
Come haste to fall before his throne
Your choicest treasures bring.

This is the star that conquer’d night
And shed a living ray:
‘Tis this that guided, by its light
The Gentiles into day.

‘Tis this will show you where your King,
An infant lowly lies,
Although his praises Angels sing
Along the vaulted sky.

Your hidden treasures then unfold,
Your dearest gifts impart,
He asks no beams of burnish’d gold,
He only asks your heart.

Thomas F. Mulledy, S.J.
circa 1820

I came across this Christmas poem last summer while doing some research in the papers of Fr. Thomas Mulledy, S.J., first president of Holy Cross. He wrote the poem as a young Jesuit seminarian, before ordination, He enjoyed writing poetry, and his papers include many examples, This one stands the test of time for its charm and its message.

A blessed and merry Christmas to you!

Two Alumni

May 21st, 2013 by akuzniew

With commencement approaching in a few days, I have been thinking over the past academic year and the opportunities it afforded to re-connect with two former students and alumni–Michael W. Banach ’84, and Mark K. Shriver ’86.

After his graduation, Michael Banach went on to study for ordination in Rome. I attended his first Mass here in Worcester, followed by a wonderful gathering afterwards. I was aware that he undertook further studies in Rome and was active in the Vatican Diplomatic Corps. But I had not seen him for many years until this month. Word came that he was being raised to the rank of archbishop–the only one of my former students to achieve that rank! We exchanged greetings on that occasion, and then, several weeks ago, Fr. Lapomarda and I attended his Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish, Our Lady of Czestochowa here in Worcester. Michael preached beautifully in English and in Polish. The occasion was enhanced by the presence of Archbishop Vigano, the papal nuncio in Washington. Father Lapomarda and I met him by chance on our way into the church.

Michael returned to campus yesterday to celebrate our community Mass. He stayed for dinner and a very pleasant post-prandial conversation. Once again, the preaching was eloquent and inspiring–a testimony and tribute to divine grace. Archbishop Banach’s coat of arms includes the angel’s wings of his patron, plus a gold star representing Mary as the morning star. At the top of the crest is the seal of the Society of Jesus, “recalling not only the Archbishop’s Jesuit education at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, but also his Ignatian spirituality.”

Mark Shriver visited campus last fall in connection with the publication of his excellent tribute to his father, A GOOD MAN. I got to know Mark and his classmate, Dick Burke, well when we traveled to the Soviet Union in 1985. After his graduation, I lost contact with Mark, following his career periodically from a distance. I reconnected with Mark in 2010 when he delivered the commencement address, and again early in 2011 when Fr. McFarland and I attended his father’s funeral. During this most recent campus visit, Mark was present at dinner with about fifteen students. Many of them were first-year students in my Heroes course; they had just read the book and were eager for the chance to get to connect with the author in person. Mark gave a fine talk that was based on the book but also touched upon some of his experiences while a student here on the hill.

This spring, I saw Mark on two more occasions. I sat next to him at the dinner of the Worcester Economic Club, and listened appreciatively to a briefer version of the talk. He spoke again last week in Boston, an annual lecture sponsored by the New England Jesuit Province. Given the audience, he stressed more the religious aspects of his father’s life–a profile of a sincere and deeply committed man of faith.

I’ve often said that the saddest day of the year for me is Commencement Day, a day when another group of wonderful young women and men–young persons who have engaged my energy and affection for four years–leave campus as students for the last time. But the other side of that coin in human experience is when our graduates return to campus with life stories that vindicate our enterprise of intellectual challenge, human values, respect for religious faith. Michael, Mark, and countless other graduates are a source of consolation to this old soul. And, of course, if they didn’t depart from us on commencement day, they couldn’t return afterwards with the stories they tell and the inspiration they bring.

College Inauguration

October 4th, 2012 by akuzniew

When Father Phil Boroughs arrived at Holy Cross to assume the College presidency last January, it was a reunion for the two of us. We had lived together in a small community of twelve Jesuits in Chicago during the 1970s, while we were studying for ordination and the priesthood. Needless to say, I was impressed by his generosity in assuming this new responsibility, and delighted to be living in the same community again. The passing of years, I soon noted, has not deprived him of his gifts of wit and insight.

I presided at the Jesuits’ community Mass on January 9, the day he formally assumed office. In the homily, I borrowed an idea from the beautiful opening sentence of Thomas Merton’s autobiography, THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN: “On the ninth day of January 2012, on the day of the full Wolf moon, at a time of political division and economic uncertainty, when the Society of Jesus was approaching the bicentennial of its universal restoration and the campus of The College of the Holy Cross stood snowless in the 169th year since its founding, the torch of leadership was passed from Michael McFarland to Philip Boroughs.” Then I added, “Of course, Phil, that’s only the first sentence. You will have to write the rest of the book.”

The inauguration last month added a wonderful chapter to the “book.” For me the most impressive moments include the Inauguration Mass on September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross, with a full church, wonderful music, and an inspiring homily from Fr. Paul Harman. our Vice-President for Mission and Identity. For the inauguration itself, all of us in the long academic procession were surprised and delighted by the hundreds of students, all in red inauguration T-shirts, cheering us as we moved up the hill from the staging area in the Hogan Center to the Hart Center for the ceremony. The old Hart Center was resplendent with a new, enormous purple banner with the College logo, hung behind the stage. The speeches, no doubt, will be re-printed and read. Students in my current seminar on the history of Holy Cross were particularly pleased that Fr. Boroughs used a quote from Andrew Delbanco’s new defense of liberal arts education–COLLEGE: WHAT IT WAS, IS, AND SHOULD BE. That book was the first assigned reading in the seminar, and they felt very au courant when the source of the quote was announced. We Jesuits were also pleased that our head cook, Ken McNickles, read the salutation to the new president on behalf of the College employees. We teased him afterwards that he did a better job than Mayor Petty and should consider running for mayor.

Festivities concluded with a wonderful dinner at Kimball Hall. The weather continuing fair and warm, the social hour was held outdoors in the courtyard. Dinner was a wonderful blend of specialties from the Pacific Northwest and New England, reflecting the origins and present progress of the new president.

When Holy Cross formally opened its doors on November 1, 1843, the Jesuits and Bishop Fenwick enjoyed dinner in the still unfinished Fenwick “and saluted the Founder with a good glass of wine.” The latter gesture was repeated at this dinner, too. The rest of the day was far more elaborate, reflecting the priorities enshrined on the Linden Lane Gate by architect Charles Maginnis–one pillar representing the state, one pillar representing the Church, and a decorative arch carrying the emblem of the Jesuits.

Well done, Commencement Planning Committee, well done.

What’s In A Name?

May 15th, 2012 by akuzniew

During the semester just ending, I followed my custom of starting each class with a prayer and then a roll call. In History 204 (“Lincoln and His Legacy”), the process was unexceptional until the home stretch, when I lectured on Reconstruction following the Civil War. Among the chief players in that process was Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, one of a group of radical Republicans who were adamant in their insistence on full equality for the men and women recently freed from slavery. After class that day, Thaddeus S. Logan IV ’12 came up to tell me that he is named for Thaddeus Stevens–the fourth in his family line, starting with his great-grandfather. To complete the connection, his middle name is Sumner, after Charles Sumner the Massachusetts senator who was severely caned on the floor of the US Senate in 1856 after delivering a passionate denunciation of proslavery tactics in the Kansas Territory. I reflect with satisfaction on Thaddeus Sumner Logan’s connection with America’s antislavery past and its personal representation in the current senior class. At a time when the campus community has been celebrating the publication of Diane Brady’s FRATERNITY and the inspiring story she describes, it is gratifying to have had in class a gifted young man whose very name connects him with heroes of the past–men whose efforts reached a culmination of sorts on Mount Saint James in 1968 and the years that followed.


February 6th, 2012 by akuzniew

The month following the publication of Diane Brady’s Fraternity has been memorable here on the hill. Having pre-ordered the book from Amazon, I read it immediately and decided to use it as a text in my History 101 course, American Themes: Heroism. In the week that they read the book, the students will view the superb video on diversity at Holy Cross produced by Sadiqa Al-Salam ’95 in a tutorial with me during her senior year. I discussed the book recently with two bright seniors who are taking a tutorial with me. They praised the book and individuals it profiles, at the same time finding the story a little incomplete. They would like to have seen more of the Jesuit spirit described, and they were curious about the postcollegiate experiences of the graduates, leading to the eminence they enjoy today. That’s a good thing: wishing the book were longer.

The degree ceremony for Thomas was highlighted by his response to the award, choking up at the end when he hoped he would always remember that one day, long ago, a lonely kid from Georgia who had no place to go, found a home at Holy Cross. I was also moved by his recollection of praying outside the chapel that, if God took hate out of his heart, he would never hate again–a prayer that was answered. And, he called Father Brooks a sine qua non of his life. It was a humble address of how Holy Cross helped to open up future options for a confused nineteen-year-old.

This is a proud moment for the College, for Father Brooks, for the black alumni profiled in Fraternity, and for us who are now more profoundly aware of the challenges that were (mostly) overcome to help make Holy Cross what it is today. To read the book is to be edified, but also to be challenged in the name of the integrity of our mission.