Archive for February, 2012

New Book Highlights Transformative Period in Holy Cross History

On April 4, 1968, the death of Martin Luther King Jr. shocked the nation. A few days later, Jesuit Father John E. Brooks, then a professor of theology at the College of the Holy Cross who shared Dr. King’s dream of an integrated society, drove up and down the East Coast searching for African American high school recruits, young men he felt had the potential to succeed if given an opportunity.

Among the 20 students he had a hand in recruiting that year were Clarence Thomas ‘71, the future Supreme Court justice; Edward P. Jones ‘72, who would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature and Eddie Jenkins ‘72, who would play for the Miami Dolphins during their 1972 perfect season.

Now, the stories of their time at Holy Cross are being told in a new book, Fraternity, which follows the men through their college years, reporting on how their time at Holy Cross and their relationships with Fr. Brooks helped shape who they are today. In a recent interview, Fr. Brooks sat down with National Catholic Reporter to talk about the experiences that Fraternity was based on.

Jesuit Father John Brooks paused, his fork temporarily suspended above his apple crumble. The 88-year-old Holy Cross president emeritus, his West Roxbury accent clear and direct, told the National Catholic Reporter during lunch in the Hogan Campus Center, “Clarence Thomas called this morning — it was more of a joke really.” The U.S. Supreme Court justice, a former Holy Cross student of Brooks’, “wanted to know did I really have a tear in my eye.” Thomas was referring to the concluding line in an excerpt from Diane Brady’s book Fraternity, reprinted in the fall 2011 Holy Cross Magazine, that ran, “One of the students saw Fr. Brooks standing to the side, slipping out quietly with tears in his eyes.”

Joked Thomas, on the phone to Brooks, “You never shed a tear.”

Brooks hasn’t had much time for tears. Toughness was required when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination impelled then theology professor Brooks into an East Coast recruitment drive for African-American students. Regardless of how historically salutary his decision, in the short term it brought neither tranquility nor harmony to the college.

To accomplish even the first steps, Brooks needed the support of the somewhat besieged Holy Cross president, Jesuit Fr. Raymond J. Swords. Both men engaged in a great deal of persuasive argument to eventually quell consternation among the trustees, uproar from the alumni, divisions among the faculty, and doubt, dismay and/or anger among the white students. It certainly didn’t help with the endowment drive. Not least, there was the matter of $80,000 in scholarships Brooks had promised to those he recruited.

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Ignatian News Network Bio: Jesuit Father Chris Devron

Jesuit Father Chris Devron says he has always been interested in start-ups and has an entrepreneurial personality. So it’s fitting that he’s president of Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School, the first all-new Catholic high school on Chicago’s West Side in more than 80 years.

Fr. Devron has come full circle in many ways. In 1995 he was a Jesuit novice in Chicago when he witnessed the beginning of the country’s first Cristo Rey school, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, while attending the press conference announcing that the Jesuits were starting the school.

Christ the King, which follows the Cristo Rey work-study model, opened at a temporary site with 120 students in 2008, and its brand new building opened in January 2010.

Ignatian News Network met up with Fr. Devron to learn more about the man behind the collar.

Jesuit’s Photo Album of Titanic Scheduled for Release at Centenary of Sinking

When Jesuit Father Eddie O’Donnell stumbled across over 40,000 negatives belonging to late Jesuit Father Frank Browne he would not have been able to envisage the significance of what he had just discovered.

Fr. Browne, widely recognized as a skilled photographer, was often described as Ireland’s answer to Cartier-Breson. He first started taking photographs in 1897 and did so until his death in 1960.

So what was included in these negatives? The invaluable collection of photographs and mementos, which had been sitting in a Dublin basement, featured one-of-a-kind images of the Titanic, before it departed on it’s first and final voyage. Upon realizing the discovery, a collection of the images was published in 1997 known as ‘Father Browne’s Titanic Album.’ As the 100th anniversary of the boat’s sinking approaches in April, many of the photographs in the book have been digitally re-mastered and new photographs have been added for the centenary edition of the book.

As the story goes, Fr. Browne boarded the Titanic in Southampton and several days later he was ordered off the boat in Cobh, County Cork in Ireland by his Jesuit Provincial. An American couple offered to pay his fare to America, but unbeknownst to Fr. Browne, when his superior requested that he return to Dublin, his life was potentially saved.

“When Father Browne’s superior ordered him off the ship it essentially saved his life because very few men travelling in first class survived the tragedy when the boat sank,” said Fr. O’Donnell. “While he was having a meal in the first class dining room he got chatting to a wealthy American couple. They liked Fr. Browne and asked him to stay on the Titanic with them until the boat reached New York. The American couple even offered to pay the rest of his fare to New York but Fr. Browne told them that his superior in Dublin would never allow it so he had to get off the ship when it stopped in Cobh.”

“The American man said to Fr. Browne, ‘come on down to the Marconi room and we’ll send him [the Jesuit superior] a Marconigram (a message sent via radio) and we’ll tell him that we’ll pay your way to New York’. When Fr. Browne went down to the Marconi room he took a picture. It was the only picture to be taken of the room – and any films you’ve ever seen that have had the Marconi room in it based it on Fr. Browne’s photograph.”

The telegram was sent by the wealthy Americans to the Irish superior of the Jesuits but after the Titanic stopped in Queenstown in Cobh, Fr. Browne was instructed to return to Dublin. The water near Queenstown in Cobh wasn’t deep enough for the Titanic to dock so the only way it could be reached was by another boat called the Ireland.

“The Ireland set off towards the Titanic with bags of mail and the 123 Irish passengers who boarded the ship. Captain Tobin was in charge of the Ireland and he had a small envelope addressed to Fr. Browne. Inside was a note with five words on it – it read: ‘Get Off That Ship – Provincial’.”

“Fr. Browne kept the note in his wallet for the rest of his life and said that it was the only time that holy obedience saved a man’s life,”  said O’Donnell

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Jesuit Named to Loyola University Maryland’s First Endowed Jesuit Chair

Jesuit Father Jean Turgeon, honorary professor in the department of mathematics and statistics at the University of Montreal, has been named Loyola University Maryland’s first Jesuit Chair, an endowed position for a visiting Jesuit teaching scholar made possible by contributions from the Jesuit Community at Loyola.

A small percentage of the $1.5 million endowment will fund the chair in perpetuity and bring in a new Jesuit scholar from another institution for one semester each year. The chair will have the opportunity to do research, attend conferences, network with faculty across departments, and deliver a public lecture. The chair will also teach one course; for Fr. Turgeon, it’s a history of mathematics class in the Spring 2012 semester.

“Accomplished outside experts like Fr. Turgeon bring new perspectives, new ideas, new life to Loyola,” said Jesuit Father James J. Miracky, dean of Loyola College, Loyola’s school of arts and sciences. “As a Jesuit, he understands our tradition and mission, and he’s rooted in our spirituality. I am confident he will make an immediate connection with our faculty and the rest of the Loyola community.”

Fr. Turgeon has taught at the University of Montreal since 1970. He received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Toronto and has published dozens of books, chapters, and articles in his career. Fr. Turgeon joined the Society of Jesus in 1956, was ordained in 1971, and took his last vows as a Jesuit in 1978. He is fluent in English and French.

Loyola actively recruits Jesuits who are in the early stages of their careers, and the chair, which reaches out to established professors, adds experience to that mix.

“While the Jesuit tradition at Loyola is still active and thriving within our teaching, scholarship, and conversations, we are constantly challenging ourselves to improve and we value having Jesuits on campus who have had the primary experience and learning associated with being a Jesuit,” said Timothy Snyder, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs at Loyola. “With that experience, Fr. Turgeon will make vigorous contributions to conversations already taking place at Loyola.”

Jesuit Historian to Speak at Fairfield University about Composer Olivier Messiaen

Jesuit Father Stephen Schloesser will discuss the early years of Olivier Messiaen, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, when he delivers Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Lecture on Wednesday, February 1. This “concert lecture,” free and open to the public, will feature a gripping story of love and love lost, interspersed with songs for soprano and piano. Works to be performed include Messiaen’s “The Smile,” and “La Fiancee perdue,” from his “Three Melodies,” “Action de Grace,” and “Priere exaucee,” as well as two songs by his wife at the time, Claire Delbos.

The event, presented by the University’s Center for Catholic Studies, will take place in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola at 8 p.m.

In a talk entitled, “Olivier Messiaen: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” Fr. Schloesser, associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago, will chronicle the young life of this artist who was greatly inspired by his Catholic beliefs. He will start by exploring Messiaen’s parents, especially his mother Cecile Sauvage and her poetry, punctuating the talk with Messiaen’s compositions while emphasizing the evolution in his writing. The lecture will provide attendees with an intricate look at Messiaen, his mother, and his wife Claire, and how their relationships so deeply affected the composer’s early works.

Educated at Stanford, Fr. Schloesser has explored such intriguing subjects as Jazz Age Catholicism and Mystic Surrealism as Contemplative Voluptuousness. He was a faculty member of Boston College, a Bannan Fellow at Santa Clara University, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Church History at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

The Bellarmine Lecture series was set up to bring distinguished Jesuit Scholars in a variety of disciplines to Fairfield. For information on other Center for Catholic Studies events, visit

[Fairfield University]