Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm still not a rocket scientist....

So Newark's about to get $100 mil. from the CEO of Facebook. That's great. Really. I hope it helps more kids learn to read, to do math, and to stay away from the streets.

But I'm pretty sure he could give any failing school system a BILLION dollars and it would still do no good at all if those kids don't have stable homes and neighborhoods to return to after school. No amount of money will help if the kids don't have a parent or grandparent at home to take care of them and to make sure they stay on top of them.

Extending school hours is NOT the answer. Kids don't need to be brought up by the state. Kids need to be at home with mom or dad. Kids need to get outside and play and run around. Kids need to use their imaginations; to play ball in the street with their friends till the street lights come on. Kids need their dads not to be in prison. Kids need their moms not to have to work 3 jobs to keep food on the table.

Kids need the state to give their moms and dads their money back. That way, maybe mom or dad can stay home with them so they stay out of trouble. Kids need strong families so they don't feel like they have to turn to a gang to get the love and acceptance and discipline they crave.

Kids from stable homes do better in school. Throwing a billion dollars ($900 mil from NJ + Zuckerberg's $100 mil) into Newark's crappy schools won't fix this. Kids' families need fixing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What I have learned from my clothesline

In August, just as I had gotten completely caught up with my laundry (really!), my dryer stopped working. It wouldn't turn on at all.

Scott is a can-do kind of guy. Why pay someone else to fix something when you can do it yourself? With the help of the amazing internet, Scott has fixed and installed loads of things around our place and in our cars, saving us untold hundreds of dollars in repair costs.

So, Scott took it apart. He cleaned all of the lint out of the inside of the dryer, the whole exhaust line, and any other place you can think of. We had cleaned out the line before, and I always empty the lint trap, but over 10 years lint gets EVERYWHERE!!!!!!! He thought we needed a new thermo-thing-whatever-it-is (a safety part that makes sure your dryer doesn't get too hot and set your house on fire). It's designed to fail as soon as the inside of the dryer by the motor gets too hot. It is not fixable, so it has to be replaced. Presumably, when replacing the thermo-thing, one would also notice all that lint and clean it out. Or, for normal people, your repairman would do that.

Scott ordered the part, replaced it, put the dryer back together and painted over the rusty spot of the top of the dryer where I had kept the laundry detergent. Wonderful! It worked!

For one load. Now the drum won't turn. He took it apart. Maybe the belt wasn't on properly. He re-laid the belt. He reassembled the dryer.

Nothing. We need a new motor.

The man just this week finished his master's degree. He was doing all of this while trying to get his papers written and go to work and all of the usual Dad stuff he does. As a result, our family of 5 has been without a dryer for a month. No one is wearing less clothes. In fact, there is more laundry now than there was in the summer because I am washing school uniforms as well.

I am not going to lie to you and say that I have been patient about all of this. I have tried (sometimes hard, sometimes not) to avoid nagging him about getting this thing done. I have tried to be cheerful in doing my wash even as certain people complain that they have no (name article of clothing here). I have tried.

This drying is trying. The weather's not as hot as it had been at the beginning of all of this, so the clothes aren't drying in a hour. And now with the kids in school and me working, I really don't have a lot of time to hang wash out.

I did manage to get some things on the line yesterday afternoon. Then we had a thunderstorm while I was at work. No one who was at home brought in the wash.

What this trying experience has taught me is that you can't always make things go the way you want them. Sometimes, your son will turn the hose on the dirt near your just-dried jeans and accidentally splash mud on them. You have do things when you have the chance. You have to plan how you will do it. You have to be patient.

What this trying experience has taught me is that you have to see how not only you are frustrated by the things out of your control. You have to see that your attitude as woman of the house will impact everyone else under your roof. You have to love them all through whatever life hands your way. You have to see that if the broken dryer and the splattered mud are the worst of it, you're very fortunate indeed.

If you can see these things, you will grow to appreciate the feel of the sun on your hair and your newly-acquired mosquito-swatting skills. You will realize that this may just be the Lord's way of getting you to slow down a bit and listen. Listen to Him speaking to you in the three minutes of quiet you'll get as you hang out your laundry.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Can this school be saved part 4: Mission Control

Below is the last installment of the story I wrote for Creative Minority Report about Seton Hall University. Comments are now open. I link to the newspaper articles I used for sources. Here are parts one, two, and three.

At the beginning of this series, I said that there seems to be a battle going on for the university’s soul: a battle between Catholic thought and values and those of the secular world. It’s human nature to want to draw clear lines and assign parts in this drama: “liberal” faculty forces vs. a “conservative” archbishop, or the money a Division 1 sports program can bring in vs. goodness and integrity. I’m not so sure that accurately depicts what’s going on here.

The university has a lot going for it in terms of “orthodoxy cred.” The Office of Mission and Ministry at the University seems to be trying to do a lot of good things, overseeing: The Catholic Center for Family Life and Spirituality, The G.K. Chesteron Institute for Faith and Culture, the Institute for Christian Spirituality, and others.

What I think we have at Seton Hall is a split-personality disorder. There seems to be a culture there that doesn’t recognize that to be intellectually honest and rigorous and truly Catholic are not mutually exclusive things. The Seminary and the Mission and Identity haven’t been successful in permeating the entire culture at Seton Hall.

What Seton Hall needs to do, and it is not too far gone to do, is to examine itself through the lens of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education (In its press packet, the Cardinal Newman Society has a good breakdown of the guidelines and analysis of what has happened at Catholic colleges in the United States in the 20 years since Ex Corde was published.). Seton Hall doesn’t seem to have truly embraced the following:

“A Catholic university, as Catholic, informs and carries out its research,
teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles and
attitudes. …Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university
activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully
respected. Any official action or commitment of the university is to be in
accord with its Catholic identity.”

Catholic ideals, principles, and attitudes are not being reflected across the board at Seton Hall. Catholic attitudes and principles were not on display during the coaching tenure of Bobby Gonzalez. Having a priest sit on your bench during games (like the team chaplain, Msgr. Liddy does) doesn’t mean that your coach and his or her players are living Catholic attitudes and principles, and it doesn’t make up for distinctly un-Christian behavior.

Can a course on gay marriage be offered at a Catholic university that is living up to Catholic ideals, principles, and actions? Can such a course be offered in a completely balanced way, showing how the Church teaches that people who self-identify as gay must be treated with dignity and respect and are called, just like every other human being, to live a chaste life within God’s ordered creation and that the Church teaches that gay marriage goes against the natural law? It’s hard to imagine that an openly gay professor who has advocated for the gay lifestyle would be able to accomplish this.

This struggle between the secular forces and Catholic mission forces is very evident in the failed search for a replacement for Msgr. Robert Sheeran this past year. Based on Msgr. Swetland’s background and his involvement with EWTN’s “Catholicism on Campus,” one might conclude that Msgr. Swetland might try to guide Seton Hall into a place where it resides more firmly within Ex Corde’s guidelines. Some have seen in Swetland’s candidacy the hand of Archbishop Myers trying to bring Seton Hall closer to Ex Corde.

What can the Archbishop do about Seton Hall University? The truth is, Archbishop Myers can do very little in an overt way, so there is no smackdown on the way. The Archdiocese does not own Seton Hall, even though it is a diocesan university. Archbishop Myers does sit on two very important boards, but he doesn’t have absolute control over them. He can advocate and he can preach, but he does not have direct control over the daily happenings at the University. That is the job of the President.

What can we, Jane and Joe Catholic sitting in the pews, do to save not just this Catholic university, but all Catholic colleges and universities in danger of losing their souls? First, we must pray. We must ask the intercession of the saints in whose names these schools were founded for the conversion of the campuses. We must pray for the clergy and religious who are running these schools. We must pray for those who are trying to effect positive change at these schools. We must pray for lukewarm souls to be set on fire for Christ once again.

If we are alumni of these Catholic colleges in trouble, we must make our feelings known and vote with our wallets. We need to show the people on the boards and the presidents of these colleges that following the guidelines of Ex Corde means something to us and that we will either give or withhold giving based on how well they do that.

We also need to understand what following the guidelines established by Ex Corde means. People tend to focus on the mandatum oath, whose theology professors have taken it and whose haven’t (From Ex Corde: Catholic theologians “are to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.” Every professor of Catholic theology must have a “mandate” (mandatum) from the local bishop, as required in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.”). While the mandatum is crucial, it’s only one part of the guidelines and isn’t a guarantee of a holistically Catholic college. The National Catholic Register/Faith and Family Magazine College survey is an excellent resource which asks the colleges to self- report on all of the guidelines established by Ex Corde Ecclesiae. The Newman Guide is indispensable in helping Catholic families choose a Catholic College.

Finally, we need to support the bishops who are working to clean these colleges up. We need to encourage them with cards, letters and emails, and we especially need to pray for them. Our bishops need to know that we think that Catholic colleges and universities are important to all the faithful, to our country, and to the world. Our bishops need to know that we believe that the colleges and universities who would call themselves Catholic need to project a strong Catholic identity for the world to see.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Can this school be saved, part 3: failed presidential search

Below is the third installment of the story I wrote for Creative Minority Report about Seton Hall University. I will close comments until it has run in its entirety. I link to the newspaper articles I used for sources. Here are parts one and two.

In June 2009, Msgr. Robert Sheeran announced his intention to resign as the President of Seton Hall University, kicking off a year-long search for a replacement. By the spring of 2010, the committee had chosen two priests as finalists, Msgr. Stuart Swetland and Rev. Kevin Mackin, OFM. Fr. Mackin, currently the president of Mt. St. Mary College in Newburgh, NY, withdrew from consideration shortly after his name was announced, saying that he had decided to stay at Mt. St. Mary’s.

Msgr. Swetland, who was ordained for the diocese of Peoria IL in 1991 by Newark Archbishop John J. Myers (bishop of Peoria Diocese from 1990-2001), came to campus for a series of interviews in May 2010. Swetland is the host of EWTN’s Catholicism on Campus and a professor at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD. Some at the university objected to Swetland’s candidacy, citing his lack of administrative experience. They also contended that he was being seriously considered a finalist only because of his friendship with Archbishop Myers.

Swetland was offered the job of president of Seton Hall. During the course of confidential contract negotiations, some university officials leaked specific details about the contract discussion, including a reported $300,000 annual salary. Sheeran earned about $31,000 per year. At the same time, the faculty senate, which represents each of the university’s colleges, circulated a statement urging the Board of Regents to reopen the search to seek candidates with more administrative experience and to laypeople. Citing his discernment that the Lord was calling him to stay at Mt. St. Mary’s (MD) and expressing his disappointment that the confidential contract discussion had been compromised, Swetland withdrew his candidacy.

While other New Jersey Catholic colleges in the area have gone from having priests and religious serving as president to laypeople, Seton Hall has not. The Board of Regents had limited its search to clergy for two reasons: the by-laws of the university require that the president is a priest and the Board’s feeling that a priest-president best serves the university’s mission.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can this school be saved part 2: Questionable course offering

Below is the second installment of the story I wrote for Creative Minority Report about Seton Hall University. I will close comments until it has run in its entirety. I link to the newspaper articles I used for sources. Part one, Basketball Madness, is here.

On April 15, 2010, The Setonian, the Seton Hall University student newspaper, published a story about a new course to be offered in fall 2010 on the topic of gay marriage. The course will be taught by Dr. W. King Mott, an openly gay professor in the Women and Gender Studies Department. Mott told the Setonian that this course was not about advocacy, but would take an academic approach to the issue. “I hope my students gain an appreciation and respect for disinterested analysis that can be used to formulate an informed opinion,” Mott told The Setonian.

Upon learning about the course offering, Archbishop Myers asked the University’s Board of Trustees (of which Myers is Chair) and the Board of Regents (of which Myers is president), to review the course. At this time, no official decision has been made on whether or not the course will go forward. The Mission and Identity Committee was supposed to discuss it in June. However, in an article that appeared in the Star-Ledger on August 25, Mott has said that as far as he has been told, the course is still slated to begin in the first week of class and it has about 24 students registered. The University had no official comment to the Star Ledger.

This is not the first time Mott has clashed with the administration of the University. In October 2005, The Star Ledger printed a letter by Mott that criticized the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Mott signed the letter as the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of Seton Hall University. As a result, Mott was removed from his duties as Associate Dean, but was retained as a tenured member of the faculty.

What's interesting about Mott is that his entire professional academic career has been at Catholic Universities. I wonder why that is, especially since he thinks the Church is homophobic:
"The bottom line is, you're talking about a homophobic institution," he said last night. "The Roman Catholic Church is prima facie homophobic. The Roman Catholic Church considers me to be inherently disordered. I don't know how much more homophobic one can be" (Star Ledger October 28, 2005). In this 2005 article, Mott had indicated that he would seek a faculty position elsewhere. Clearly, he is still teaching at Seton Hall.

When I worked at Seton Hall as an admissions counselor 10 years ago, the nursing students were put on rotations in which they would observe abortion procedures. The nursing school made it clear to us at the time that students could opt out of those rotations without penalty, but the question is: why was this part of the nursing curriculum at a Catholic University in the first place?

Catholic Colleges have a right and a grave responsibility to be CATHOLIC. Many parents send their children to, and pay good money for, Catholic universities for a Catholic education. And knowing that, there are many secular colleges and universities which would gladly hire well-qualified professors, like Mott, without caring about what they think about Church teaching.

Seton Hall is a diocesan university, meaning that it is not founded or tied to a particular religious order, but it was founded by the Bishop of Newark and is tied to the diocese in its bylaws. Immaculate Conception Seminary, the diocesan seminary, is located on the campus at SHU. The Archbishop of Newark, Most Rev. John J. Myers, is the chair of the Board of Trustees and is also the Chair of the Board of Regents. Other permanent seats on the Board of Regents are the bishops of the four other dioceses in New Jersey, and other clergy.

One subcommittee of the Board of Regents is the Mission and Identity Committee. “The Mission and Identity Committee shall consider matters referred to the Board of Regents by the Board of Trustees arising from the University’s Catholic mission and identity, giving due consideration to the identity of Catholic institutions of higher education that is described in Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990). The Committee shall report its recommendations to the Board of Regents” (Seton Hall Univeristy By-laws, Section 2, e, 3).

Why did the Mission and Identity Committee fail to issue a judgment or recommendation on this course? A Catholic University ought to be an oasis for Catholic thought and ideas. Parents should not have to be worried about whether or not a particular Catholic university is really Catholic. Parents should expect that their children will not be put off on their faith by the actions of the university. People who are not Catholic should be attracted to a true Catholic University that by its nature would exude Christian love and freedom.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Can this school be saved? Part one: Basketball Madness

Below is the first installment of the story I wrote for Creative Minority Report about Seton Hall University. I will close comments until it has run in its entirety. I link to the newspaper articles I used for sources.

It seems there is a quiet battle going on behind the iron gates of Seton Hall University: a battle for the university’s soul. The Division 1 men’s basketball program has endured a very dark off-the-court stretch, a new class is being offered by a member of the faculty who operates clearly and loudly at odds with Church teaching, and a year-long search for a new president has turned out fruitless. All of these things are circling in the air over these 58 acres of South Orange, NJ. Is Seton Hall’s soul dead, or merely on life support?

Seton Hall University is the oldest and largest diocesan university in the United States. Founded in 1856, just three years after the founding of the Diocese of Newark, NJ, Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, established Seton Hall University to fill the need for a Catholic university within the diocese. He named the university for his aunt, Elizabeth Ann Seton, a Catholic convert who established the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph in Emmitsburg, MD to care for and educate poor children. Mother Seton would be the first American-born saint, canonized in 1975.

What’s been going on at The Hall lately?

Basketball madness

In April, 2006, Seton Hall Univeristy announced that Bobby Gonzalez, a coach known for his passion and explosive temper, would lead its Divison I, Big East men’s basketball program. In the four years he was there, Gonzalez did bring the better connections with local high school coaches that the university was looking for (National High School basketball powerhouses St. Anthony’s and St. Patrick’s are within 12 miles of campus.), but he alienated those same coaches and he also brought in some questionable transfer students who had run-ins with the law while enrolled at SHU. One was arrested for drunk driving the wrong way on the Garden State Parkway. Another punched a player on the opposing team below the belt during a game. A third, after having been kicked off the team, duct taped 8 people, some of whom were former teammates, and robbed them. On March 17, 2010, Gonzalez was fired by SHU President Robert Sheeran, six months after having been granted a contract extension through 2014. Sheeran cited Gonzalez’s conduct and that of his players as cause for termination. Gonzalez sued Seton Hall for wrongful termination shortly after he was fired, and Seton Hall countersued. The cases were settled out of court on August 25, 2010. No details of the settlement were released.

Seton Hall’s men’s basketball team has been the big team at the University. When any college’s or university’s basketball team does well in the NCAA tournament, its national profile is higher and it typically sees a sizable jump in admissions applications, which can translate into more qualified students and more money for the university. But at what cost? Bobby Gonzalez was a questionable choice for Seton Hall from the start. He’s intense, but was his brand of intensity a good fit for a Catholic university? Don’t Catholic colleges and universities have to hold themselves and their employees and students to a higher standard of behavior, modeling themselves on Jesus Christ?

It seems that Seton Hall has learned a lesson from the Gonzalez experience. On March 28, 2010, Seton Hall hired Kevin Willard, a family man who turned around the basketball program at Iona College and who served as Rick Pitino’s assistant with the Boston Celtics and at the University of Louisville. In an interview published on August 24, Willard told ESPN’s Dana O’Neil “When I met with Seton Hall, we talked a lot about behavior, but we also talked about winning and losing. I think you can have both. You can have a program you can be proud of and also have success. That’s what our goal is.”

Is it possible for a Catholic college or university today to have it both ways: to be a national sports powerhouse that is also fully committed to its Catholic identity? Of the colleges and universities who answered the National Catholic Register/Faith and Family Magazine’s 2009 College survey (only 26 schools completed the survey out of about 240 Catholic colleges and universities across the country), none of them have Division I athletic programs.

To look at Division I powerhouse Notre Dame’s decisions over the last 15 years or so, one might be left to wonder if Catholic colleges and can their sports and be faithful, too. Certainly there are some members of the theology faculty who are solidly committed to the teaching authority of the Church, but there are others who are not. Notre Dame hosted the play The Vagina Monologues in 2008. And the fact that Notre Dame gave an honorary degree to President Obama in 2009, one of the most vocal proponents of abortion in our nation, and still refuses to drop charges against peaceful protesters might leave some to wonder if a Catholic college can really “have it all.” And if it’s worth having in the first place.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

First chronologically ordered recap from Giglio's European Vacation

Wherein Amy tries to set herself to the timeline and we learn about a British man and doughnuts.

Hello, friends! I figured I'd try to hook you up with some pictures from your vacation. This time, I'll start from the beginning.

We left for England on a Friday evening, after the last day of Vacation Bible School, where I try and channel my inner Christian pop star and lead kiddies in song. Hilarity ensues. Most of it scripted.
What happened this day was, VBS ended at noon, the children and I met Scott and my in-laws at the house, My FIL took the kids for lunch and then to his house where they would spend the next 2 weeks and my MIL took me and Scott to JFK to catch our flight to Heathrow. Now, while JFK is not the closest international airport to our house, it did have the cheapest flight. This meant my MIL VOLUNTEERED to drive us across Staten Island, Brooklyn, and into Queens and then she drove herself home which is half an hour west of our house. Yes, I do have the best MIL in the world. Why do you ask? We got to the airport in record time (Half an hour. No traffic. This never happens. My poor MIL was not so lucky on the way home. It took her 4 hours to get back). She dropped us off and we were on our grand adventure!

Here is me on my new iP0d T0uch, reading a book. Funny story about this terminal at JFK: It is about 14 miles long. We get through security near gate 30. We have to go to gate 8. We have a lot of time to kill, so we're chillin near gate 30 because, they, the plane doesn't leave for 3 hours. Then we start looking around and we're like, "It seems like the gates end here at gate 10. Where is gate 8?
So with 2 hours to go, we start looking for gate 8. It is literally half a mile away from the security checkpoint. It took us 20 minutes to walk there.

So then we get on the plane and we fly overnight for a really really long time till at 8:00 the next morning we wake up and we are in England! Yay!

I slept a little on the plane, but not a lot. And I have seemed to develop some sort of hip thing which has begun to plague me and I really need some ibuprofen. But I can't find any at the airport. So I have to buy Anadin, which I think is like Anacin. But I don't recognize the drug name. It says it's good for headaches and body aches so I take it and I can walk again.

We are met at the airport by an awesome guy who works for the university. His name is Trevor. Trevor, Scott, and I are waiting for the rest of the people from the university group to arrive because they are all coming in on a different flight. Trevor tells us he was to the USA once. While in the airport, he got hungry. Somehow, he got this idea in his head that our doughnuts are awesome and he wants to try one. So, he's looking around and he can't figure out where to go to get a doughnut. So he does what anyone would do if they were in a new place and he needed help. He asked a cop where could find a good doughnut. The cop glared at him and walked away. Trevor's like, "I don't understand why." Meanwhile, me and Scott and trying to pick our jaws up off the floor. Then we explain to him the thing in the US about cops and doughnuts and how very lucky he is that he didn't get arrested or punched.

So the rest of the group arrives and we shuttle off to our home for the next several days: Wroxton College.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our adventure!