Archive for December, 2012

Brophy College Prep Assists Undocumented Immigrants

Brophy College Prep logoA new program at Phoenix’s Brophy College Preparatory is helping undocumented residents apply for work permits as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process. While the procedure does not provide undocumented people with lawful status, it does allow them to avoid deportation proceedings and thus offers a new level of security.

The program is the brainchild of several Brophy alums who encouraged their alma mater to organize a DACA application workshop last month.

“These young men (Brophy alums) helped me understand the significance of the DACA process and the complexity of the application. DACA is a potentially life-changing step for currently undocumented people who were brought to this country by their parents when they were children,” says Bob Ryan, principal of Brophy Prep.

Legal professionals and volunteers, including current Brophy students and alums, helped over 200 eligible people complete their applications and prepare their documents for submission to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“I’m volunteering because I wanted to help out my Latino community,” says Cesar Lopez Palafox (’13). “I know most of my family and friends are Latinos, and some have undocumented relatives. I felt called to help them out in any way I can.”

Learn more about the event by watching the video below or visit www.brophyprep.org/daca. [Brophy College Prep]

Jesuit Recalls Hitchcock’s Final Days in The Wall Street Journal

Jesuit Father Mark Henninger Interest in the life and work of Alfred Hitchcock is soaring, thanks to the release of a new film about the legendary director.  While his biographer said Hitchcock shunned religion at the end of his life, Jesuit Father Mark Henninger, a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, writes in The Wall Street Journal that it’s not true: Fr. Henninger was there and said mass for the director in his final days.

Here is Fr. Henninger’s op-ed from The Wall Street Journal:

I remember as a young boy watching the black-and-white “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” on TV and being enthralled from the start by the simple nine-stroke line-drawing caricature of the famed movie director’s rotund profile. The mischievous theme music set the mood as Hitchcock appeared in silhouette from the right edge of the screen, and then walked into the center replacing the caricature. “Good evening.” There followed his droll introductions, so unlike anything else on television.

Such childhood emotions came over me again when in early 1980 I entered his home in Bel Air to see him dozing in a chair in a corner of his living room, dressed in jet-black pajamas.

At the time, I was a graduate student in philosophy at UCLA, and I was (and remain) a Jesuit priest. A fellow priest, Tom Sullivan, who knew Hitchcock, said one Thursday that the next day he was going over to hear Hitchcock’s confession. Tom asked whether on Saturday afternoon I would accompany him to celebrate a Mass in Hitchcock’s house.

I was dumbfounded, but of course said yes. On that Saturday, when we found Hitchcock asleep in the living room, Tom gently shook him. Hitchcock awoke, looked up and kissed Tom’s hand, thanking him.

Tom said, “Hitch, this is Mark Henninger, a young priest from Cleveland.”

“Cleveland?” Hitchcock said. “Disgraceful!”

After we chatted for a while, we all crossed from the living room through a breezeway to his study, and there, with his wife, Alma, we celebrated a quiet Mass. Across from me were the bound volumes of his movie scripts, “The Birds,” “Psycho,” “North by Northwest” and others—a great distraction. Hitchcock had been away from the church for some time, and he answered the responses in Latin the old way. But the most remarkable sight was that after receiving communion, he silently cried, tears rolling down his huge cheeks.

Tom and I returned a number of times, always on Saturday afternoons, sometimes together, but I remember once going by myself. I’m somewhat tongue-tied around famous people and found it a bit awkward to chitchat with Alfred Hitchcock, but we did, enjoyably, in his living room. At one point he said, “Let’s have Mass.”

He was 81 years old and had difficulty moving, so I helped him get up and assisted him across the breezeway. As we slowly walked, I felt I had to say something to break the silence, and the best I could come up with was, “Well, Mr. Hitchcock, have you seen any good movies lately?” He paused and said emphatically, “No, I haven’t. When I made movies they were about people, not robots. Robots are boring. Come on, let’s have Mass.” He died soon after these visits, and his funeral Mass was at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills.

Alfred Hitchcock has returned to the news lately, thanks to an apparently unflattering portrait of him in a new Hollywood production. Some of his biographers have not been kind, either. Religion, too, is much in the news, also often presented in an unflattering light, because clashing beliefs are at issue in wars and terrorism. The violence provokes some people to reject religion altogether. For many who experience religion only in this way—at second hand, in the media, from afar—such a reaction is to a degree understandable.

What they miss is that religion is an intensely personal affair. St. Augustine wrote: “Magnum mysterium mihi”—I am a great mystery to myself. Why exactly Hitchcock asked Tom Sullivan to visit him is not clear to us and perhaps was not completely clear to him. But something whispered in his heart, and the visits answered a profound human desire, a real human need. Who of us is without such needs and desires?

Some people find these late-in-life turns to religion suspect, a sign of weakness or of one’s “losing it.” But nothing focuses the mind as much as death. There is a long tradition going back to ancient times of memento mori, remember death. Why? I suspect that in facing death one may at last see soberly, whether clearly or not, truths missed for years, what is finally worth one’s attention.

Weighing one’s life with its share of wounds suffered and inflicted in such a perspective, and seeking reconciliation with an experienced and forgiving God, strikes me as profoundly human. Hitchcock’s extraordinary reaction to receiving communion was the face of real humanity and religion, far away from headlines . . . or today’s filmmakers and biographers.

One of Hitchcock’s biographers, Donald Spoto, has written that Hitchcock let it be known that he “rejected suggestions that he allow a priest . . . to come for a visit, or celebrate a quiet, informal ritual at the house for his comfort.” That in the movie director’s final days he deliberately and successfully led outsiders to believe precisely the opposite of what happened is pure Hitchcock.

The Wall Street Journal

Father Robert Ballecer: The Digital Jesuit

Jesuit Father Robert BallecerJesuit Father Robert Ballecer serves as the National Director for Vocation Promotion for the U.S. Society of Jesus, but in technology circles he’s known as the “Digital Jesuit.” And he likes that name a lot better than the alternative:  Friar Tech.

A digital guru with a growing legion of 4,000 Twitter followers, Fr.  Ballecer operates his own website, The Tech Stop, which he calls a “site with a soul.”  He also hosts “This Week in Enterprise Tech” (TWiET) on the online tech network TWiT.

Fr. Ballecer, who wears a Roman collar and identifies himself as a Jesuit on the show, says it’s been amazing to read the comments in the chat room from different episodes. There’s been a shift from “Why is there a priest on the tech network?” to the same people saying, “Fr. Robert actually knows what he’s talking about.”

So how did this self-proclaimed geek from Fremont, Calif. end up becoming a priest?

“My vocation story was a little less light from the heavens and a little more gradual leading me up to the inescapable conclusion that this is the only life I’d be happy in,” says Fr. Ballecer.

A first generation Philippine American, Fr. Ballecer was focused on making his mark in business and had already started a computer consulting firm by the time he was an undergrad at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif.  But he quickly realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

A Jesuit priest at Santa Clara helped him recognize his calling. “The Jesuits I saw on campus were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. They were some of the most brilliant people I’d ever met,” says Fr. Ballecer. “They seemed to have what I wanted — a satisfaction in life. That’s what set me on the track to join.”

After two years of doing retreats and spiritual direction while a student at Santa Clara, Fr. Ballecer says there were “angst ridden” days where he fought against his calling to join the Society of Jesus. “I was fighting myself, thinking why would I want to do this? I’ve worked all my life to get out of poverty and now I want to take a vow of poverty?”

Once Fr. Ballecer joined the Jesuits, he said that his experience in the novitiate cemented that this was the life he wanted to live.

A Jesuit and a Techie

Jesuit Father Robert Ballecer on TWiETBefore becoming the National Director for Vocation Promotion three years ago, Fr. Ballecer was assigned to parishes in California and Hawaii, and he’s also served in China, the Philippines and Bolivia. In addition to his ministries, he’s stayed active in the tech world, with projects such as “Gadget,” an online show he’s run as a hobby for the past five years, which has received over 14 million YouTube views.

Fr. Ballecer’s tech expertise is a perfect fit for vocation promotion with the Millennial Generation (age 28 and younger).

At last count his office has created over 600 hours of You Tube content — from interviews with Jesuits to videos from World Youth Day to his tech content.  “The strategy has been to say anything that shows priests and Jesuits doing things that others might be interested in — that’s vocation promotion and that’s what we want to show,” explains Fr. Ballecer.

One of his projects was a video series called “Path to Priesthood,” which followed Jesuit Radmar Jao from his deaconate ordination to his priestly ordination. The popular series was picked up by CatholicTV.

Pursue Your Passion and Your Vocation

TWiET logoFr. Ballecer says that the Society wants to encourage more Jesuits to show their competence in venues that will reach out to the Millennial Generation. “We want to reach out to people who are looking for something to believe in,” he says.

“I’ve been using the weekly online show as a forum to say ‘Look I’m a priest and I’m a man of faith, but at the same time I have a sense of humor and I’m very competent about my subject material. I’m willing to listen to all different ideas.’ ”

One of Fr. Ballecer’s first vocation promotion projects was “Jesuits Revealed,” a video series of interviews with Jesuits from around the country with different areas of expertise.

“We have these three-minute vignettes into the life of Jesuits and if you watched enough of them you could find someone who believed like you, who grew up like you, who had the same interests as you. It’s reinforcing that a life of faith and a life of the priesthood is not what you think it is,” Fr. Ballecer says.

One of the things Fr. Ballecer tells vocation promoters to look for is the aha moment.

“The aha moment is anything that you do, anything that you say, anything that makes someone say, ‘I didn’t know that about faith or I didn’t know that about religious life.’ It’s where old, preconceived notions are emptied out and you get an understanding that you didn’t have before. I think all vocation promotion is built on that aha moment.”

For anyone considering a Jesuit vocation who may not think they fit the right mold, Fr. Ballecer says, “We’re not calling for what you think a priest is. We’re asking who you are, and we’re saying we can use that in the priesthood.”

Three Jesuits Have Combined 120 Years of Service at Boston College

Boston College Jesuits

From left: Jesuit Fathers William Neenan, Joseph Appleyard and James Woods. Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert.

Despite their youthful outlook and demeanor, the three Jesuit priests pictured here have a staggering 120 years of combined service at Boston College.

Jesuit Father James Woods, ’54, M.A.T.’61, S.T.B.’62 (right) joined the university in 1968 as dean of the Evening College, which at his urging became the College of Advancing Studies in 1996. In May 2002, the school was renamed the Woods College of Advancing Studies. After 44 years, Fr. Woods stepped down as dean in May 2012.

Jesuit Father Joseph Appleyard, ’53, S.T.M.’58, H’12 (center) started his career at Boston College in 1967 as a member of the English faculty. Beginning in 1987, he served for 10 years as director of the Arts and Sciences Honors Program before being appointed founding vice president of the Office of Mission and Ministry, a post he held until 2010, when he was asked to take a senior administrative position with the New England Province Jesuits.

Jesuit Father William Neenan (left), an urban economist, arrived from the University of Michigan in 1979 as the university’s first Thomas I. Gasson, SJ, Professor. From 1980 to 1987 he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, before becoming academic vice president and dean of faculties. Since 1998 he has been vice president and special assistant to the president. He has presided at 225 Boston College-related marriages.

The three were photographed this past summer in front of the statue of St. Ignatius on Boston College’s campus.

Boston College Magazine

An Advent Reflection from Jesuit Father James Martin

Jesuit Father James Martin“Advent is all about desire,” an elderly Jesuit in Jesuit Father James Martin’s community used to say every year. Fr. Martin writes in America magazine that while he didn’t see it at first, now he understands what this Jesuit meant.

“Christians who celebrate Advent desire the coming of Christ into their lives in new ways. The beautiful readings from the Book of Isaiah, which we hear during Advent, describe how even the earth longs for the presence of God. The wonderful ‘O antiphons,’ sung at evening prayer and during the Gospel acclamations toward the end of Advent, speak of Christ as the ‘King of Nations and their Desire.’ The Gospel readings for the season tell of John the Baptist expressing Israel’s hope for a Messiah. Mary and Joseph look forward to the upcoming birth of a son. My friend was right. It’s all about desire,” writes Fr. Martin.

Fr. Martin points out that holy desires are different than surface wants, like wanting a new gadget or a bigger office. When Fr. Martin talks about desire, he’s “talking about our deepest longings, those that shape our lives: desires that help us know who we are to become and what we are to do. Our deep longings help know God’s desires for us, and how much God desires to be with us.”

Desire also plays a key role in a Jesuit’s life, according to Fr. Martin. “As novices, we were taught that our deep longings are important to notice. A young Jesuit who dreams of working with the poor and marginalized, or studying Scripture, or working as a retreat director, will be encouraged to pay attention to his desires. Likewise, Jesuit superiors reverence these desires when making decisions about where to assign a particular Jesuit,” he writes.

Fr. Martin concludes, “Desire is a key part of Christian spirituality because desire is a key way that God’s voice is heard in our lives. And our deepest desire, planted within us, is our Advent desire for Christ, the Desire of the Nations.”

Read the full article by Fr. Martin at the America magazine website.