Paul McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review.


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Dear Paul, Great , I love it. Sweet memories, Lots of Love Sharon


Jennie, No mistakes in life. My first experience as a sports dad was CYO soccer at St. Elizabeth. One of the Mayfield kids Bill tutored in math was my other daughter. Paul



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Baltimore Boomer

Jerry Savage benefit brings flood of warm memories

All things for a reason.

That was the prevailing sentiment among several hundred at Loyola Blakefield April 16, when the school held a fundraiser for a merit scholarship fund that  honors Jerry Savage, its former basketball coach and athletic director. Marquette University coach Steve Wojciechowski, a Baltimore Catholic League Hall of Famer who led Cardinal Gibbons to the 1994 title and is one of the fellow Jesuit institution’s most prominent faces, was initially advertised as the headliner for the benefit, but then the NCAA objected and the Dons went to their bench. “Wojo” is a great success story, but because he was not allowed to make it, Loyola Blakefield alums, as well as the friends and family of Savage, had the chance to hear some poignant and powerful stories from three of their own.
It was my pleasure and honor to moderate a panel that included Snuffy Smith ’60, Pete Budko ’77 and Tony Guy ’78. Retired from coaching, Snuffy became the first commissioner of the BCL, and indirectly explained the appropriateness of the league’s Player of the Year award carrying the Savage name. Smith was a University of Baltimore freshman in the 1960-61 season, when Savage was a senior at Mount St. Mary’s and concluding a record-setting career. Savage still had game in the early 1970s, when Budko and Guy entered Loyola Blakefield and made a good high school program great. The Dons won four straight BCL tournaments from 1975-78, still the only program in the league’s 45-year history to achieve that feat.
Budko and Guy traded one tradition for another, as they chose two of the nation’s five most storied college programs, North Carolina and Kansas, respectively. Budko related his injury-wracked senior season with the Tar Heels, which ended with Dean Smith putting him on the floor for the first time in months in the NCAA final, against Indiana. Who had replaced Budko in the North Carolina starting five? “Sam Perkins,” he answered. Guy’s name association was even more impressive. Asked to describe a time when he leaned on what he had learned from Savage, Guy told a story from his freshman year at Kansas, when a Michigan State star lit up Tony and the Jayhawks. “I guarded Magic Johnson as a freshman, Michael Jordan as a senior, and everyone in between,” Guy said. “There wasn’t anything I heard at Kansas that Jerry hadn’t already said. We came to Loyola as basketball players and left as much more than that. The expectation was excellence.”
Guy found a home in Kansas, where he has worked for State Farm for 30 years. Budko runs his own business development corporation in New York.

The evening’s rewards included visiting with Savage’s peers, like Nappy Doherty and Bucky Kimmett, and some Loyola Blakefield alums I hadn’t seen in decades. The latter included the Welsh brothers, Marty and Pat. A football and lacrosse star, Pat was one of the Baltimore metropolitan area Athletes of the Year I selected for The Evening Sun in 1984.
Those guys are part of a substantial legacy, one that I hope Loyola Blakefield alums never take for granted. I related a story about Jim McKay ’39 leaving me spellbound with his ABC reporting on the terrorist attack on the Israeli quarters at the 1972 Munich Olympics. What I didn’t share was how Tim Pierce ’60 and Murray Stephens ’63 brought Jesuit standards to the swim club they founded, one that produced the greatest Olympian ever, Michael Phelps.
“Men for Others” was not a slogan for Savage, but an ethos. In retirement, he gave countless hours to the Baltimore Catholic League he helped found in 1971. He took ill at the 2015 BCL tournament and died a few months later. I last saw him in February 2015, at Mount St. Joseph, where the Gaels were hosting No. 1 Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I wasn’t seated five minutes when Jerry entered the gym and supplied copies of the BCL standings. It wasn’t the first time he helped me out on a story. His wife, Pat, was one of my voices in a 2009 article about Notre Dame of Maryland’s Renaissance Institute.

Pat Savage, center, with, from left, Tony Guy, Snuffy Smith, Paul McMullen and Pete Budko. (Photo Courtesy Loyola Blakefield)

April 20, 2016 11:46
By Paul McMullen

My favorite cross – and Cub Scout Den Mother

The memory bank is on overload this week.

While most of Baltimore was obsessed with Orioles’ Opening Day April 4, I was more interested in the NCAA basketball final, which featured a star turn for Villanova by Mount St. Joseph grad Phil Booth. What made the night resonate was that I used to write about his father, a Coppin State star in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

I wore a golf tie to work that day, it being Masters week. This is 30th anniversary of an epic win by Jack Nicklaus at Augusta National. That 1986 Masters was the last my father watched, as he was dying from cancer. He grew up in Western Pennsylvania, home of Arnold Palmer, and resented The Golden Bear dethroning The King. As a 46-year-old Nicklaus took control, however, my father was on the edge of his recliner seat for the first time since Johnny Unitas had retired.

Sunday was equally poignant. I worked the 125th anniversary Mass at St. Athanasius, once my home parish. Making the rounds in the hall afterward, I went to greet Deacon Mike Dodge, who was talking to a man my age. “I’m Brad Thompson,” he said, “to which I immediately replied, “Is your mom around?”

“Miss Maggie” was seated a few feet away, alongside Lou, her husband of 67 years, the two having been recognized earlier that morning as one of the oldest married couples in the parish. I was thrilled to tell her about two heirlooms that have graced several Mac and Mary household foyers. The more recent is a framed $1 bill my father fished out of his wallet in 1985 after inspecting the first rowhome we were about to purchase, in full view of a real estate agent, no less (I inherited his negotiating skill). The other is a cross made of matchsticks, one I constructed circa 1964 in Miss Maggie’s kitchen in Brooklyn Park.

“You boys made them yourselves,” Miss Maggie insisted. “All I did was cut out the cardboard cross, and give you the glue and matchsticks.”

She had volunteered to be a Cub Scout Den Mother for Troop 188, sponsored by St. Rose of Lima, simply so that the oldest of her sons, Brad and Gary, had an opportunity to get into Scouting. She remained a Den Mother even when her boys were done with Scouts, and worked among kids for 20 years, in the cafeteria at Lindale Elementary School, and then for eight years as the cafeteria manager at Brooklyn Park Elementary.

The more we visited, the more it became obvious that Miss Maggie and her husband had a lot in common with my parents. Both had seven siblings. Like my parents, the Thompsons were married at old St. Martin Parish in West Baltimore, having met when both were employed as teens at the Montgomery Ward department store on Monroe Street. Like my parents, they set down roots and never budged. Miss Maggie and Mr. Lou put a $10 down payment on a house on Redmond Street before it was even paved.

That was 62 years ago. Before her husband built an addition, she had as many as nine restless boys seated around at her dining room table, working on Cub Scout projects. We made those crosses out of matchsticks, presumably during Lent. For Christmas, we crafted gifts for our mothers, Santa’s sleighs made out of a turkey’s breastbone – all while Miss Maggie’s attention included a baby, Roy, in a wheelchair.

Miss Maggie’s own mother had died in 1935, when she was just seven years old. Raised by an aunt and uncle, her formal education stopped when she finished eighth grade at St. Martin School, but she taught plenty. Both a son and grandson are graduates of Loyola University Maryland.

“I loved helping the kids in the neighborhood,” she said of her Den Mother days.

It’s an affection I get to touch every day, heading out the door.

April 08, 2016 10:21
By Paul McMullen

Five weddings, two funerals, one inseparable couple

Bill and Norma Zaruba

The last time I visited with Bill and Norma Zaruba was April 18, at the first of five weddings my wife and I had the privilege to witness this year. The daughter of one of their nieces was being married. Attending that Mass at St. Athanasius in Curtis Bay brought physical challenges for the couple, but they could write a book about commitment, as they were married 68 years ago in that parish, on Nov. 1, 1947.

They were two of the most gracious folks you would ever encounter, good parents and understated patriots, and I cannot offer higher praise than to say that they reminded me of my parents. They were not blood, but I greeted them as such. Uncle Bill died Nov. 25 at age 94. Aunt Norma was too ill to attend his services. She died Dec. 8, at age 91, meaning they were apart for less than two weeks.

They were parishioners of St. Philip Neri, but the funeral Masses for both were at St. Athanasius. As their most recent pastor, Father Michael DeAscanis, put it at Uncle Bill’s funeral: They were raised in Curtis Bay; married here in its chapel; had their children baptized here; and this is where they wanted to be buried.

Father DeAscanis described them as being one of the founding families of St. Philip Neri Parish, which was founded in 1964.

This is an incredibly busy time of year for pastors and priests, and it speaks to the esteem in which he held the Zarubas that Father DeAscanis was alongside Father Rob DiMattei, pastor of St. Athanasius, when the latter offered Aunt Norma’s funeral Mass. It included an honor guard from St. Philip Neri’s chapter of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. Aunt Norma had been a member. As her obituary noted, her volunteer efforts included serving at Our Daily Bread and supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor, “where she enjoyed visiting and enriching the lives of the elderly residents.”

Uncle Bill helped count the collection at St. Philip Neri, where he had been an usher. He had also served in that capacity as St. Athanasius, and had been assistant Scoutmaster of its Boy Scout troop. “Even when he wasn’t supposed to be driving,” Father DiMattei said, “they would show up at our rectory to make a donation.”

Uncle Bill worked at the U.S. Coast Guard Yard for 43 years, and developed a renowned apprentice ship fitter program. Aunt Norma was his engineering equal. She retired from Westinghouse, and worked on a video camera that documented the first manned lunar landing. Their four children gave them five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“Part of me wants to say that Norma died of a broken heart,” Father DiMattei said during the homily at her funeral. “But I like to think it was more her desire to join Bill. This is a celebration of marriage.”

December 18, 2015 01:27
By Paul McMullen

Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 8

The final full day of the Feet for Francis/Pilgrimage of Love and Mercy began with a jolt to the nervous system. Maureen Cromer had to get from the gym at the former St. Philomena School to the 30th Street Train Station bright and early Sept. 27 to greet the Amtrak express from Baltimore – an aspect of the day pilgrims being shepherded by the archdiocese and Catholic Review Media that had been the genesis of our walk. Hearing horror stories about security in Center City, Maureen rode shotgun while I started her car at around 5:20 a.m. We were stopped at a red light on Baltimore Pike without a whiff of coffee, when a gleaming set of teeth that resembled the Chesire Cat came out of the dark and a hand pounded on her window. We jumped and screamed, until we recognized Matt Pieper. The father of Shanon and Logan needed to rendezvous with another daughter, to watch the Papal Mass with her.

He hopped in the back seat, and I let the two of them off at 38th Street, the western security perimeter. Twenty minutes later, it made for a light moment during a radio interview with WBAL’s Robert Lang.

Back at St. Philomena, pilgrims were waking and packing for the final time. All were given a golden ticket, courtesy of Father Paul Castellani, the pastor. Like most outside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we had been thrown a curveball when organizers announced that a ticket would be required for admittance above Logan Circle to the papal Mass along Benjamin Franklin Parkway. For the most part we struck out Sept. 9, when some extras became available online. The next morning, Father Paul said not to worry, he had set aside tickets for his guests from Baltimore.

His gym is decorated with banners of CYO basketball championships, no small distinction in what I consider America’s best basketball town. “Come back in a few weeks,” Father Paul said. “We’re honoring one of the teams that included Phil Martelli (the longtime coach of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia). Phil’s dad is in (7:30 a.m.) Mass right now.”

So was Mary Bergin, unbeknownst to the rest of the pilgrims. Search parties couldn’t locate her until 8:30 a.m., when she came across the parking lot pushing a wheelchair she had procured for Madelyn Milstead, who had been hobbled with an ankle injury for several days. We folded the wheelchair into the back of the St. Ignatius van – aka the Baltimore Popemobile – which I piloted 4.5 miles to the corner of 38th and Market Streets, where I waited in the Corner Bakery with Madelyn; her mom, Catherine; and others for Father Jack and the walkers. Leaning on his roots in Oregon, Kevin Brown drove the van back to St. Philomena, then ran down Father Jack’s group, yeoman duty he repeated later that day.

Some wait out the morning at the Corner Bakery at Market and 38th Streets. (Paul McMullen/CR Staff)

They arrived at 10:35 a.m., according to a group text I sent the media. The minutes before and after were giddy with anticipation, as pilgrims passed out prayer cards and told visiting religious women that their money was no good, “let me pay for your coffee.” With little more than a mile left between us and Pope Francis, it seemed that we crossed the Schuylkill River on air rather than on Market Street. Turning north on 21st Street around 11:30 a.m., everything ground to a crawl just past the portable toilets under JFK Boulevard. It took us nearly two hours to move as many blocks, a wait made terminable by the universal church made visible and all of those little babies in tow. When pilgrims complained of claustrophobia, I told them to turn around and look back, at all of the faces behind them, rather than the backs in front.

Patience was required on 21st Street, near Arch. (Paul McMullen/CR Staff)

Without Madelyn getting us access to a handicapped entrance, we probably would not have made it through security in time to line up along a snow fence and watch the papal motorcade before 4 p.m. Mass. That I took the following video on Maureen’s mini-tablet is not noteworthy: the miracle is that I sat down on the grass, fired up Chris Gunty’s mobile wireless hotspot and e-mailed it to her in three segments. Somehow, God graced me with the patience and presence to slow down and follow the prompts appearing on the mini.

Watch a video of the pilgrims greeting the pope.

Transmitting that, I multi-tasked and opened the bag lunch that Laura Hamilton and other moms had prepared – my PBJ was better than filet mignon. Around me, it was as packed as a Preakness infield, but with an entirely different sense of decorum, one evidenced during communion, when others waved strangers in the direction of lines for communion. I had seen the Holy Father, albeit from a greater distance, in St. Peter’s Square last April. Attempting to process the afternoon and the week it took to get from Baltimore to Philadelphia, I realized that, at least for me, the journey was the destination.

From left, Eun Ya Williams, her husband, Bob, and Mary Bergin watch the papal motorcade, moments after it had passed in front of them. (Paul McMullen/CR Staff)

We picked up Father Jack and his through walkers by van around 50th Street on Baltimore Pike, and drove them back to St. Philomena. Leftover pizza from Saturday night became our final meal on the road, and I think Pope Francis would have approved. Some asked for other pilgrims to sign their T-shirts. I second-guessed what we would change – put “Feet for Francis” on those, introduce 9-year-old Philomena Tiller to the faithful at St. Philomena and hire a media consultant – but then I thought of all that went right.

Adult pilgrims on chairs, with youths on the floor, give thanks at the end of an eight-day journey that had some walk 110 miles. (Paul McMullen/CR Staff)

There was the manner in which very private pilgrims became rather public evangelists, as reported that evening by the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.  There was also the weather that God blessed us with, as we beat the remnants of Hurricane Joaquin by a week.

Speaking of forces of nature, Father Jack tossed this into an Oct. 7 email:

“Wanna talk to you about another project I am working on sometime!”


October 11, 2015 07:52
By Paul McMullen

Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 7


Recounting thoughts from Sept. 26, I am writing mid-day Oct. 10. The morning started with a 10-mile run with the Baltimore Pacemakers through the beauty of the Loch Raven watershed. Taking my customary position at the back of the pack, I heard an auto behind me and reflexively yelled the warning that began this post.

Thank you, Father Jack Lombardi (be patient, I will connect the dots).

My first decade in journalism was spent at evening papers, before there were laptop computers. No sweat. The morning after a game, I would rise early, be in the office on West Street in Annapolis or Calvert Street in Baltimore, and have 500 words filed by 7 a.m. I often stir before 5 a.m. My Scot, Irish and German DNA is geared to the Irish and North Seas. Eat dinner early, retire early, wake early.

From left, Joe Landry, Martin Webbert and Edmund Tiller join Father Jack Lombardi at the head of the pilgrimage pack. (Maureen Cromer/CR Staff

Father Jack, meanwhile, is equally proud of his Italian heritage, and maintains a Mediterranean rhythm. He sends emails at 12:45 a.m. I reply at 5:45 a.m. After walking 16 miles with teens and seniors in tow, he’ll take the former to a basketball or tennis court, and let them blow off more energy tossing a Frisbee or kicking a soccer ball. Only then, do they sit down for evening prayer and witness. Lights out is often not until 11 p.m. It took a week to comprehend the method of Father Jack’s brand of madness. He wants youths to test their limits, share their impressions and develop leadership skills.

So it was that on an overcast Saturday morning, while I was ready to hit the road and pilgrims lingered over continental breakfast outside the Mirenda Center at Neumann University, that 14-year-old Martin Webbert of St. Ursula Parish in Parkville, sharing how he had matured under Father Jack’s tutelage, uttered the following: “Like Mr. Paul said yesterday: Everybody needs to be yelled at sometime.”

I had tossed that line off while pontificating the previous morning in a support vehicle that included Martin. My son, Don, will recall my histrionics and words from 20 years ago, with specific detail, and it was another reminder that, like the John Prine song goes, little pitchers do indeed have big ears.

We had a challenging morning, walking on two-lane winding roads from Neumann U. to the town of Media. I worked the back of the line to Father Jack’s front, one of my responsibilities being to listen for, and warn those ahead, about cars coming from behind. Throughout, I fumed that the teens Father Jack had running interference for him up front were not being assertive enough with oncoming traffic. Duh. How else will they learn to lead?

Lunch at Pinocchio’s in Media, Pa., was memorable for multiple reasons. (Maureen Cromer/CR Staff)

Lunch was marvelous, on multiple counts. Miguel Almaguer and a crew from the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt began a six-hour stretch with us. The meal was going to come out of money donated by strangers in previous days. We ate and drank more than $140 worth of cheese steak subs, pizzas and sodas. When I got the bill, it was $40 and change. Patrons inside the restaurant had chipped in that much.


Father Jack’s hat trick works better with a clerical collar. (Maureen Cromer/CR Staff)

The spirit kept soaring after Maureen Cromer was involved in a minor fender-bender.  It soared even higher along Baltimore Pike, after we crossed under Interstate 476 and neared Philadelphia. The surroundings transitioned from affluent to well-worn, from boutiques to barrooms. Twenty-four hours from the prospect of seeing Pope Francis, Father Jack and his pilgrims kicked into another gear. Matt Pieper, father of Shanon and Logan, sprinted across the street to share prayer cards with auto mechanics. Women in the 2005 college classroom uniform (T-shirt and pajama bottoms) stepped out of rowhomes to visit and get selfies with Kevin Brown and Bob Williams.

In Lansdowne, we glimpsed the steeple at St. Philomena, the end of an approximate 12-mile day. Sitting for photos on the front steps, I shushed others, that 5:15 p.m. Mass was under way. We walked into a gorgeous 19th century worship space during the consecration, and stood or kneeled in the back. Father Jack had previously talked over the phone with Father Paul Castellani, the pastor, but the two had never exchanged a glance until the former went up to help with the distribution of communion. We went up to receive Father Paul’s blessing, and he joined us in the gym of the former school, our home for our last night on the road, where dinner was on him, pizza and another Philadelphia tradition, soft pretzels. I ate with a black woman, a parishioner, who told me that she knew many Oblate Sisters of Providence, back in Baltimore.

Having covered approximately 104 miles in a week, pilgrims rest on the steps of St. Philomena Church in Lansdowne, Pa. (Maureen Cromer/CR Staff)

Maureen and I set up our laptops in the rectory kitchen, where Father Ukachukwu Onyeabor rinsed and cut vegetables while talking to others on his Bluetooth. Between conversations, I asked him his homeland. “Biafra,” he said. “I remember,” I answered, and he raised an eyebrow in appreciation.

Kids, look it up.


October 10, 2015 06:21
By Paul McMullen

Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 6

Walking the Brandywine Valley Sept. 24 and finally enjoying the demands and rhythms of the road, I felt the strong presence of my parents, who have been gone a while now. At that moment, a butterfly – OK, given the season, it might have been a moth – flittered from behind my left shoulder and in front of me, hanging there for a few strides. The next morning, on day six of the Feet for Francis/Pilgrimage of Love and Mercy, we awoke Sept. 25 in the auxiliary gym of the Mirenda Center at Neumann University and walked a few hundred yards to its lovely Sacred Heart Chapel. Its main aisle is inlaid with three icons. The one closest to the altar? A butterfly.

Family was the theme of this day. Some are named Wojciechowski or Ansorge or Poetzel. Others are brothers, not necessarily of blood, from Curtis Bay. Now add to them a Lombardi and a Tiller, etc.

Father Jack Lombardi points the way the morning of Sept. 25. (Maureen Cromer/CR Staff)

Driving from Neumann University back to a point near Kennett Square, I moved to to where I should have been from the start, the back of the pack. Up front, I had just been getting in the way of Father Jack Lombardi, who has trained his pilgrims in military maneuvers, halting and warning traffic, walking in double-time.

Paula Tiller, with Clara Milstead, had a horse eating right out of her hand. (Paul McMullen/CR Staff)

We were on secluded country roads in the Brandywine Valley, with little traffic, where grazing horses would trot to the fence and sate their curiosity. A radio reporter from Philadelphia found us on the road. Jorge Ribas of the Washington Post walking with us and toting a video camera, blended in and became an afterthought. The through-walkers soldiered on while most hopped into support vans and headed to Chik-fil-A near Glenn Mills for a lunch of significant import.

En route there, neither Father Jack or I were riding shotgun in a support van, and the caravan missed its turn, delaying a radio interview WBAL-AM had scheduled for me. Never mind that it was being taped; I was in full Tasmanian Devil mode. At the Chik-fil-A, Paul Tiller came after me like one of my brothers from Church Street or Curtis Bay, to rightfully read me the riot act. While I was out back, waiting for WBAL to call, Paul came to me to shake hands, his wife, Paula, having read him the riot act. I blew off his outstretched hand. Instead, we hugged, like the brothers that we have become.

So it was that I was an emotional wreck when I visited with Mary Beth Marsden on WBAL. I asked her about the ages of her children. She has a child born September 9, 1999. I told her that I was in the waiting room at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center that day, as one of my grandsons was also born there, 9-9-99. She hit record and we taped the interview, but at the end the talk turned to sacrifice being part of pilgrimage, and I broke down, sobbing that I missed wife, Mary.

My Mary was alarmed by my state when she heard the interview. Over the phone, I fell back on Father Jack, who that very morning – no wait, was it the day before? – talked about ecstasy and its Greek root word, “ekstasis.” Until that point in my story-telling life, I had used multiple words to describe the emotion felt at the birth of a child, or marriage of a daughter and accomplishment of a son, or a sunset in Montana and the community created among strangers. Now I do. Aware and transcendent, it is ecstasy.

So it is that I have no idea if the photo below was taken before, or after lunch. Don’t know, don’t care. All I know is that Johnnie the rescue dog, in Concordville, Pa., gives kisses.

Back at Neumann University, we waited – and waited some more – for pilgrims and their supporters to come together, pray and dig into the dinner that had been paid for by the good women of Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson. Somehow, the wait was alright.

Dinner from Seasons Pizza in Aston, Pa., was paid for Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson. (Paul McMullen/CR Staff)

October 09, 2015 05:11
By Paul McMullen

Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 5

How good a host was St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford, Pa.? Monsignor Greg Parlante’s staff rigged a shower in a room off the chapel in its parish center, so we were able to awake without any road dust on us the morning of Thursday, Sept. 25.

Patricia Guerra, a researcher for the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, interviewed and gathered video of pilgrims throughout the morning of Sept. 24. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

We had a 25-mile drive by van and car back to Oxford, with Karen Fiallos, Liliana Abril and myself making the jaunt with Patricia Guerra of the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, a Tower of Babel ride recounted here.

Paul Tiller, Tim Rubeling and Madelyn Milstead enjoy lunch subs near the junction in Jennersville, courtesy Season’s Pizza in Aston. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

Walking on secondary roads, the scenery took a blessed turn for the better, through farmland and fields of fallen corn, past Lincoln University, an opportunity to talk about the origin of historically black colleges. A more serene rhythm was established, as the Link and Milstead girls sang a cappella, Tim Rubeling pulled out his guitar when he could, and there was less traffic to mind. Religious freedom, one of the reasons Father Jack Lombardi walks, resurfaced as a theme. During a rest stop, he went over to say hello to a young Amish man pulling a horse-drawn wagon, who requested no pictures. I deleted the ones I had taken. Later that day, the pilgrimage stopped to pray and sing outside Planned Parenthood of Chester County.

Pilgrims stop to pray and sing hymns along Baltimore Pike. (Paul McMullen)

A Spanish twist has been added to the cheer that got us started.

“Hey, Hey!”

“Ho, Ho!”

“Pope Francis!”

“Vamanos!” – as in “Let’s Go!”

Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment was among the inspirations for recycling plastic during a pit stop at a Wawa, a chore handled by Bob Williams and Mary Bergin. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

The Holy Father is never far from our thoughts, and his encyclical on the environment had us stop at the Wawa before Avondale to recycle plastic water bottles, trays from lunch, etc. In Avondale, most of us piled into vans for the drive to the very green campus of Neumann University, an exhaling ride that led to a hilarious comeuppance from young Joe Landry.

Dinner was paid for by Loyola University Maryland in the Neumann student dining hall, where there were other reminders of home. Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia Patricia Hutchison, the director of the university’s Institute of Franciscan Studies, was a teacher and administrator in the 1970s, first at St. Joseph School in Fullerton, then at St. Anthony of Padua, when Gardenville had a thriving parish school and an assistant pastor who would go on to become Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly.

Father Jack Lombardi and pilgrims take in a volleyball match against Cabrini College at Neumann University’s Mirenda Center. (CR Staff/Maureen Cromer)

October 08, 2015 11:41
By Paul McMullen

Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 4

As hard as it is to cull his canon, my favorite Willie Nelson song is “Still Is Still Moving To Me,” an ode to the curious mind that never stops. It describes the pilgrimage’s first two nights, as I did not get a wink of sleep in Parkville or Bel Air. Fatigued, wrung out and after losing my composure or having to walk back some inane pronouncement, I would find Father Jack Lombardi and stand next to him. Often, I would ask him to pray for me. Other times, he would sense my anxiety and contrition, and recite, slowly and in a voice just above a whisper, the following:

“Calm the mind. Breathe in the Divine.”

That intercession, a new air mattress delivered by my wife, Mary, to John Carroll Sept. 21 and private quarters in a small storage room at St. Agnes in Rising Sun, courtesy of Tony Antenucci, allowed me to awake refreshed the morning of Sept. 23. It was literally no walk at all to Mass on the Feast of Padre Pio. Father Jack was barefoot, as was most of his congregation. He spoke of removing all the stuff and junk we accumulate, and simplifying our lives.

“We’re in a bubble for a week,” Father Jack said. “You have a choice, to live a life of simplicity.”

The breakfast crew at St. Agnes in Rising Sun included Jack Scarbath, second from left, a University of Maryland football great in the early 1950s. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

After breakfast, he piled into a van and drove back to Conowingo Dam, leading roughly a third of the pilgrims on a seven-mile morning stretch that brought them right back to St. Agnes. I visited with Karen Fiallos and Liliana Abril, who represented Sacred Heart Glyndon and archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry well.

Liliana was among the weary getting first aid from Deacon Luke Yackley, who worked for the VA for 31-plus years. An Illinois native, he was a seminarian in Baltimore when his discernment turned him in another direction. Attending a show at the old Club Venus in February 1973, he met a young woman named Terri. Two months later, they were married. They are the parents of four and the grandparents of 12. The man who married them, Vinnie Quayle, followed a similar path, leaving the priesthood, founding the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, marrying and raising a family in Northeast Baltimore. He and I were fellow parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi in Mayfield. His son, Paul, went to its parish school with my daughter, Kate. One of the guys serving us breakfast, Jack Scarbath, grew up in that parish. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.

Megan Kinsella Quaranta (kneeling, left) was among the support van drivers who shepherded pilgrims over the Mason-Dixon Line. The youth minister at St. Mark Fallston is pregnant, in her second trimester. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

While Father Jack was busy walking, I schemed the afternoon route, which did not work. Yes, it took us to a great photo op at the Mason-Dixon Line, but on the other side, Pennsylvania doesn’t allow motorists on the divided highway that is Route 1. For several hours, we walked illegally, under a brilliant, cloudless sky, but to the constant hum of 60 MPH traffic. My bad.

Pilgrims heard plenty of drivers honking their horns in support, but didn’t get many chances to distribute prayer cards along Route 1 in Pennsylvania. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)  

The morning was not a total loss, however, as Father Jack had borrowed a papal flag from St. Agnes. For the rest of the pilgrimage, it waved alongside the American flag brought by Mary Bergin, one that has its own story. Before she joined Father Jack’s inaugural Fortnight for Freedom walk from Hancock to Baltimore in 2012, Mary’s father bought her a flowing, in her words, “American Flag scarf at Gettysburg to wear around my neck. On the walk the boys used it as a cape, saying they were Captain America. The boys found a piece of bamboo and turned it into a flag. They then took turns holding it.” Mary’s father died earlier this year, but a piece of him was with her every step of the way. In the following video, Joe Landry is carrying the papal flag, James Tiller the American flag.

Reaching the Pennsylvania town of Oxford, Pa., we hopped in support vans for a 25-mile drive to our night’s lodging, at St. Cornelius in Chadds Ford. When we arrived, it was in the process of moving hundreds of pilgrims from the Diocese of Boise into guest homes. Monsignor Greg Parlante found quarters in the rectory for Father Jack, and allowed me to turn the pastor’s meeting office into the Catholic Review MoJo (mobile journalist) suite for the night.

I wrote until midnight, but was soon fast asleep, to the following: 

“Calm the mind. Breathe in the Divine.”

Monsignor Greg Parlante offered the pastor’s meeting space, which was turned into a mobile office and sleeping space. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

October 07, 2015 05:38
By Paul McMullen

Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 3


Father Jack Lombardi worked the traditional Hindu greeting into 7:45 a.m. Mass in the chapel at The John Carroll School Sept. 22. It was in deference to Kishan Patel, the online editor in chief of The Patriot, the school newspaper. He is American-born but with roots in India, a continual reference in the homily. Father Jack talked of Paul Tiller and other pilgrims joining him on a mission to Kolkata, where they rested in a Jesuit residence and witnessed the love and mercy of Blessed Teresa. Quoting her, Father Jack said, “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth.” Another diamond arrow to the brain from Father Jack’s homily: “Catholic Church is a verb, and a noun. Church is not here to ossify us. It is here to turn us into saints.”

I had rousted him from his sleeping bag, in the weight room in the lower gym, at 5:20 a.m. or so. We were due in 40 minutes for a live stand-up spot with Ron Matz and WJZ Channel 13. Ron and Father Jack nailed it, as did John Carroll students Gabe Webster and Megan Piercy. There was a rousing bagpipe sendoff courtesy of Andrew McIntyre, a John Carroll math teacher, and less than a mile later, greetings from the entire student body of St. Margaret School.

Father Jack Lombardi and other pilgrims pause to pray in the St. Ignatius chapel that dates to 1792. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

Behind schedule when we got to St. Ignatius Hickory, I blew through the oldest church in continuous use in the archdiocese, committed to the notion that every step of the walk to Philadelphia be covered by someone. While most exhaled and then piled into vans for a few miles, I schemed with Tony Antenucci to walk the 7.9 miles to the lunch rendezvous. Bob Williams wanted in, and so did Mary Bergin. Glad I stopped being selfish and said yes.

Mary was one of the subjects of the Amen in our Oct. 1 issue. Tony is a friend of Ann Augherton, the wife of Chris Gunty, my boss. Thanks, Ann. When I needed to rant, I ran to Tony. He was born in the New York borough of Brooklyn. I went to parochial school in Baltimore’s Brooklyn, at St. Rose of Lima. He answered my blather right back. Bob is a character from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., who used to be involved in choir ministry at St. Timothy in Walkersville when he and his wife, Eun Ya, lived in Frederick County. They are a combined 134 years young. Bob brought his guitar and the assorted homeopathic cures that keep them moving. I think he would approve of my wife’s cure for the common cold, buckwheat honey.

Tony Antenucci, Mary Bergin and Bob Williams, on the road from Hickory to Darlington Sept. 22. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

We had a fifth companion tracking us on bike for the next few miles. In Hancock a few weeks earlier, Cecilia Herman met Father Jack by chance and vowed to see him in Bel Air, if not sooner (she picked us up just past Fallston Sept. 21, and joind us for morning Mass Sept. 22). A parishioner of St. Margaret, she has resided in Harford County since 1988. Cecilia was raised in Roland Park and at the Cathedral parish, but had many ancestors baptized at the Basilica, so the pilgrimage resonated with her from its start. She shared the following in an email.

“It has been obvious that the pilgrims were sharing a message during their walk – that was felt by me when in their presence and I know how lucky I was to be among this. I was thankful to have been in their presence and have it spill over to me during my short time with them. It was a sad feeling when it was necessary to leave after taking this bike ride alongside (them), but the blessing that was given me upon the departure, I took with me on the return ride – and it had deep meaning.”

I wrote about other serendipitous meetings that day and the next here.  What that article doesn’t mention is that Marilyn Pare drove me to the Rising Sun library the night of Sept. 22, where her friends pointed me to the quiet room and a blessed hour of Internet connectivity that had my laptop, Maureen Cromer’s mini-tablet and my phone all humming.

Father Jack gives a thumbs-up to the welcome of Father Henry Kunkel, pastor of St. Mary Pylesville, and others at St. Agnes in Rising Sun. (Courtesy Paula Tiller)


October 06, 2015 05:25
By Paul McMullen

Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 2

The Knights of Columbus from St. Ignatius Hickory provide a fine roadside lunch. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

“Thank the chicken.”

“Thank the farmer who grew the grain that fed the chicken.”

“Thank the truck driver who… “

Paula Tiller used those words and more to slow me Sept. 21 at the Route 1 parking lot leading to the hiking trails at the Big Gunpowder Falls north of Perry Hall. The Knights of Columbus, Council 9279, from St. Ignatius Parish in Hickory set up tables and a buffet of Royal Farms fried chicken and sides. I filled a plate, sat down next to Paula and one of her boys and inhaled a chicken leg in less time than it took a young Haloti Ngata to get to the quarterback. I took no time to chew – let alone taste – the food we had just given thanks for. An inner voice led me to ask Paula to help me slow down. After she did, and I was able to listen, lunch was quite enjoyable.

But not for long, as the mind kept racing ahead, while simultaneously attempting to process what had already unfolded on a 16.2-mile day.

There was the send-off at St. Ursula School in Parkville and the serendipitous pit stop at the Schimunek Funeral Home. Nearly two years after writing about one of my mentors, Bob Doerfler, I ran into one of his sons-in-law, Tim Burdyck, who works for Schimunek. We could not have been dressed any differently, except for our matching “Doerfler Strong” bracelets. Wore mine every step of the way, from the Basilica to the papal Mass in Philadelphia, to home.

I am a creature of deadline, and Father Jack’s pilgrims are trained to stop and evangelize, every step of the way. I kept pushing to make time, and they kept darting off the road to share one of the Feet for Francis prayer cards designed by Sara Goldscher, senior graphic designer for Catholic Review Media.

Nearly four miles after lunch, I distributed some during a restroom break at the Horseshoe Pub in Kingsville, where some of the regulars nursing afternoon beers recognized our yellow T-shirts from the previous night’s news. It would be days, however, before I turned over one of those prayer cards and read the pilgrimage prayer from St. Francis de Sales, patron not of pilgrims, but of journalists. It reads:

“Do everything calmly and peacefully. Do as much as you can as well as you can. Strive to see God in all things without exception, and consent to His will joyously. Do everything for God, uniting yourself to Him in word and deed. Walk very simply with the Cross of the Lord and be at peace with yourself.”

That peace was easy to find at John Carroll in Bel Air, two days after I had dropped off provisions at the high school and did some scheming with Gary Meyerl, the campus minister. We had never met, but developed a rapport in about 90 seconds. A North Carolina native, his first experience in the Archdiocese of Baltimore was as an undergrad at what is now Loyola University Maryland. He’s been on the staff at Mount St. Joseph and Calvert Hall and Sacred Heart Parish in Glyndon; served as the principal of the former Cardinal Gibbons School; and as an administrator for the National Catholic Educational Association. The two youngest of his three daughters were John Carroll students when he went to work there in 2014. One of the best conversations I shared on pilgrimage was the night of Sept. 21 with his youngest, Sarah, a John Carroll junior and a very neat kid. 

Weary pilgrims were brightened by the site of John Carroll students and their principal, Madelyn Ball. (CR Staff/Maureen Cromer)

October 05, 2015 04:10
By Paul McMullen

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