My Story

Bio A few words about my background. I grew up in the 1940’s in a first generation Italian family that from hindsight is the foundational shape of all that I have become. After Catholic grade and high school, I went off to the seminary in 1959. Over the next 12 years I earned masters degrees in philosophy and theology. After ordination in 1967 I functioned as a Catholic priest for 10 years in parish and educational ministry. I married Susan in 1979. For the next 30 years I worked in education, in government, and in both the for profit and not for profit sectors of our economy, retiring in 2009. Susan and I are still married thirty two later. We are parents of five birth children, two adopted children, three grandchildren, and were also foster parent for 10 years. Since 1974, a momentous moment in my history, I was invited by the soaring though of Bernard J. Lonergan SJ. to a commitment to live a life in open search for and commitment to the truth; an absolutely pivotal moment.  I remain active in community and parish.

More detail: In my Italian upbringing, I was taught that there were two kinds of people: Italians and everyone else. Catholics and everyone one else.  It was a narrow view, obviously, but very secure. My neighborhood was inner city and interracial but I had not idea that it was so.  My friends were simply Charles, Charlie, Snowball, Timmy, Babe, etc. At age five, I decided to attend a Catholic school about 6 blocks from home.  No one in our family had ever done that before. The public school was down the end of the block. Why go anywhere else? To this day, I’m not sure how I pulled that off but I did. It was the first of a series of momentous decisions. If you happen to believe, you would say it was the hand of God at work.

All my education was in Catholic institutions: grade school, high school, college, graduate and post graduate school. Contrary to what one might think, that education opened me to a vast world extending back thousands of years and covering the globe. After earning my BA, I spent four years studying theology without a degree but along the way I earned an MA in philosophy from Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio and an MA in Moral Theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. I also was a few credits short of an MA in Liturgy at Notre Dame University, Indiana when the diaconate called me to service in the summer of 1966. During the 10 years I functioned as a Catholic priest, in addition to typical parish ministry, I taught grade school, high school, mostly adult education, and eventually at the university level. I also had the privilege of serving for a number of years as a representative of my classmates on the priest council, a newly formed reality of the 1960’s. It was a ministry filled with the real dialectic [the concrete and the contradictory] as is all of human living. It was in the midst of this dialectic that I came to the realization of the truly contradictory.  I believed that I was being called not only to the Sacrament of Holy Orders but also to the Sacrament of Matrimony. That was back in 1974 and I have attempted to live that contradiction every since.  Another momentous decision.  Now if you believe, the question of God at work is challenged.  Does God do such things?

My married life is its own story. Our children are now all adults. I wish I could tell you about each of them and their lives.  We are grandparents. We continue to have special relationship with our adopted children. We no longer foster but while we did, I learned a lot about me. Our house was always filled with others. My mother as she recovered from open heart surgery which had its own role to play in my life. Other relatives who would come to stay for a month or a year. Exchange students from all over the world blessed our home and enriched our life.

We lived in an extraordinary neighborhood of working class families on what was thought of as “the other side of town.” How little they knew. Besides our involvement in parish life, there has been almost always a faith community gathering in our home. At the beginning there was L’Chaim (Hebrew, “to life,”) I think, and now there is the Sant Egidio Community; its own marvelous story. But perhaps the most meaningful has been an event that has occurred every year for 30+ years when 20 or so persons have gathered to celebrate a Seder on Holy Thursday. When Bill and Norma now in their late 80’s arrive from Michigan.  Wow!!

As I mentioned in my summary, to earn a living, I taught intermittently at Walsh University from 1978 through 2008, I worked as a manager in a government program, CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act] from 1978 – 1980, from 1980 – 1990 I was employed by a mid size corporation as Director of Personnel and then as Director of Training. I then moved into the social service world, spending 14 years from 1994 through May of 2009 as what ultimately came to be titled, Chief Administrative Officer. I was to learn about the world of abused, abandoned, neglected children, therapeutic foster care, the utter significance of the first two years of life, that not all moms were like my mom or my wife, and what it means to care for children who at the very center of their existence is profound fear. What a revelation; another major change. About 10 years ago I started teaching a small adult scripture study group at the local parish which has grown in number and interest year by year. I found myself also teaching in the parish RCIA program.  A number of individuals who experienced the RCIA program have been motivated to continue their educational growth as members of the adult scripture group.  In fact, it was one of them that suggested I take the scripture study on line.

Intellectual curiosity was a gift given to me from my earliest age. It is that curiosity that has driven me in a number of ways. Almost every year since 1974 I have attend a week long Lonergan Workshop held at Boston College. I have been captivated by his thought, have worked to achieve some level of self-appropriation in his cognitional theory. Scholars from all over the world gather, and I was to discover my modest presence within that global group. I have read most of the published works of Lonergan and struggled through Insight, a seminal work, maybe eight times or so. Only biblical studies has occupied more of my reading. Susan has somehow created space for me to read about an hour or two a day nearly every day of my adult life.

It is in the context of this life that I can say for me there literally is no more incredible story than the story of Jesus the Christ. His story overwhelms me. Whenever I attend the liturgy the words of institution stop me. Never have I read anywhere or heard such words as, “Take an eat: this is my body given up for you. Take and drink: this is my blood poured out for you.” What could that mean? My life has been in search of that meaning. What next is the extension of this concrete life on to the web and allow that to serve as an invitation to those of you who have read this far to choose to join, follow . . . which may be the third phase of the gift that is my life.

Let me conclude with a reflection on what I have written.  As I have re-read my life, I have become aware in a way that I am not when I am living it, that the hand of God has guided me all along the way.  No matter my failures, the sure and steady hand of the One who loves because He/She is love.  And what is the only response that can be made in the awareness of such love, first thankfulness [eucharistia], then sorrow at being such an inept instrument confronted by such love.

 

One Response to My Story

  1. Mark Villono says:

    Very interesting life experiences and sacrafices

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