Of Many Things

Another dour, colorless twilight is wending its way through midtown Manhattan, making me only more susceptible to the mid-winter nihilism for which my Celtic forebears are so famous. “Why should I be happy,” wrote Eugene O’Neill, “or e’en be merry/in weather only fitted for Cook or Peary.” Yet I know that there is a lot to be merry about. I’m grateful for the hundreds, indeed thousands of people whose talents and generosity have made this a banner year for America Media. I am especially mindful of three of them as we enter 2016:

John P. Schlegel, S.J., died on Nov. 15 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. Father Schlegel served as the 23rd president of Creighton University from 2000 to 2011. In his “retirement,” he served as president and publisher of America Media from 2011 to 2013. This was a critical time in our history: We were discerning how to evolve from a traditional weekly magazine to a truly multiplatform, 21st-century media ministry. John Schlegel’s Midwestern commonsense and uncommon wisdom, along with his abundant Christian charity, were our guideposts on an uncertain path. I am especially grateful for his mentorship and friendship, both of which never failed me.

Advertisement

Richard Curry, S.J., also left us in 2015. Father Curry, who died on Dec. 20, was the founder and artistic director of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped, which trained persons with disabilities to become actors and was for many years headquartered here at America House. Rick, who was born with one arm, was himself an actor and earned a Ph.D. in theater. A frequent contributor to these pages, Father Curry spent his last years ministering to disabled veterans. As James Martin, S.J., recounted in this column in 2002 (10/14), Father Curry found the inspiration for his work “after answering an audition call one day. Rick greeted the person taking applications for the auditions, who took one look [at his one arm] and laughed. ‘Is this a joke?’ she said. On such ugly insults are beautiful things built.” The thousands of people Rick touched in his seven decades already miss him dearly.

Lastly, America Media bade a bittersweet farewell on Dec. 18 to Francis W. Turnbull, S.J., who is retiring and moving to the Murray-Weigel community at Fordham University. Brother Frank labored at America for 23 years in all, interrupted only twice, by stints as a retreat director in Africa and in the business office at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. For years Brother Frank arrived at 7:30 a.m.—the first person in our office, turning on the lights, answering voicemails and emails, generally getting the place in shape for the day’s proceedings. I have valued his wise counsel, born of his many years of service to four editors in chief, which included several years as managing editor. Indeed, Frank started working at America when I was in high school. More than his professionalism and dedication, however, I will miss his constant presence, his warm and friendly disposition and his wry sense of humor, which he always deployed at just the right moment, usually when I was taking myself too seriously. Thank you, Frank. Best wishes and Godspeed.

I hate to say it, but maybe Eugene O’Neill had it wrong. Things may be cold, colorless, even forbidding. But the noble lights of great men and women can illumine the dark paths of mid-winter and warm the hearts of those of us fortunate enough to move in their shadows. For that gift and for all the gifts of this past year, of course, we owe our thanks to the one whose light still “shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.” Lumen Christi. Deo Gratias!

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 5 months ago
It always rains in Ireland. But Irish eyes are smiling. Nice touch. Rejoice always>

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, has passed with a nearly 2-1 margin.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018