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  Features
     
   

For Others

Meet five Holy Cross grads striving to “humanize this world”  

By Karen Hart

Terry Horgan ’67

“We must be men for others. We must train men who are men for others. What they must do and we must train them to do is to humanize this world of ours.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Valencia, Spain,
July 31, 1973

The definition of family has always been important to Terry Horgan '67. As the second oldest in a family of 13 children in New Rochelle, N.Y., Horgan's life was filled with the daily dramas that define family: large gatherings around the dinner table, friends and visitors from the nearby college and from church, relatives and, of course, a multitude of children. Family also meant a place to turn to when downtrodden, a place of safety, support and encouragement. 

When Horgan came to Holy Cross on an athletic scholarship during the tumultuous mid-1960s, he found that his definition of family had broadened. 

"Who was your family and who became your family?" Horgan asked then. Family, he realized, included his fellow members on the track team as well as the whole college community. 

Horgan also discovered the idea of "The Phenomenon of Man" while at Holy Cross, a concept he said helped redefine how he looked at the world. 

"The concept is a breakdown of the atomical structure of matter," said Horgan. "And that Christ's atomical structure is still amongst us in the world. ... So Christ's particles become ... part of who I am, of my neighbor and everybody else. ... That's probably the greatest gift I got from Holy Cross." 

This theology, Horgan said, and an emphasis on social justice, were the core of his education at Holy Cross. "The roots of who we are as Catholics" were the guides to the paths he later followed. 

It was also while at Holy Cross that the dark cloud of the Vietnam War cast its shadow over Horgan's broadened family; two fellow students were lost as casualties. Horgan then "heard President Kennedy's call" and asked himself what he could do for others. Following his graduation in 1967, he entered the Peace Corps. 

Horgan spent four years in Colombia working with coffee farmers and community groups, helping them build schools and better the community. 

After his return, Horgan pursued a master's degree in Latin American history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. While there, Horgan met Rev. Jack Hickey, O.P., chaplain at the college. Horgan and other students at Vanderbilt, under the direction of Hickey, began working with prisoners, organizing discussion groups and meetings with their families. These student/prisoner interactions became the foundations for Dismas Inc., and Dismas House, the now-national, not-for-profit interfaith agency in Nashville, Tenn., that Horgan heads as executive director. 

At Dismas, Horgan's family now includes those whom many others turn away: just-released inmates returning to society without families or support, and prisoners serving out alternative sentences. 

"There is no history of breaking bread in the families of people who come to Dismas," Horgan said. "Our struggle is to help them become whole and ... to become whole ourselves. Our mission is reconciliation, to reconcile with those who have offended us." 

Providing transitional housing, jobs, and referrals to counseling agencies, Dismas, Inc. services more than 250 men and women prisoners each year in 11 national Dismas Homes. Each Dismas House also works as a residence for university and college students, encouraging the erasure of stereotypes and promoting diversity. Community volunteers also come into the home, sharing meals and giving support. 

"If you get that," Horgan said of recognizing Christ in each other, "then you look at that person in prison and that person is also Christ, and the person beaten on the street is also Christ." 

In 1973, the year Horgan received his master's degree, Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the then-general of the Society of Jesus, coined the phrase "men for others," in his address to the Jesuit European Alumni at the 10th Annual International Congress in Valencia, Spain. Arrupe's vision for a new Jesuitism called for the continuing liberation of the poor and politically oppressed as part of the teachings of the Gospel. 

Though Fr. Arrupe's phrase, changed today to "Men and Women for Others," came after Horgan had already begun his work with prisoners, the words are no less relevant to him. 

"Through the Cross you have to transform suffering into love. That is similar to 'men and women for others,' " he said. "Perhaps it would be better said as 'men and women with others.' ... The struggle in social services is to provide whatever it is that is needed ... health care, housing, meals, jobs, services for battered women, shelter for families. But that's just one part. The other part is how do we integrate it in each others' lives." 

Holy Cross Associate Chaplain Jim Hayes, S.J., '72 said Arrupe's vision is a continuing challenge for all Catholics. At Holy Cross, current students are encouraged to evaluate and redirect personal wealth. 

"Our starting point is that Holy Cross students are enormously blessed with talents and energies and experience," Fr. Hayes said. "We challenge them to understand that these gifts are not for themselves but are to be given away in the service of others." 

That challenge is realized in a variety of student activities, including two-weeklong programs in Mexico, student retreats and, in particular, the Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD), begun in 1976. More than 600 Holy Cross students volunteer annually in 17 social and Christian service programs in and around Worcester. 

"Our approach is to offer experiences and opportunities to reflect on and let God do the rest," 

Fr. Hayes said. "Our faith challenges us to bring the good news to the poor; that was the mission of Jesus. And we have to be concerned with the common good. It is at the heart of our faith." 

Diane Pokorny '95, saw the SPUD program as an extension of her family and religious life, and it was one of the main reasons she chose Holy Cross. 

"[Social service] was a big part of my family," Pokorny said. "My mother is a nurse practitioner in a community health clinic and my father always volunteered. And the Jesuit tenets of social justice definitely influenced me at Holy Cross. It was the overall philosophy of the school to encourage service work and to promote justice." 

Pokorny was a SPUD volunteer each of her four years at Holy Cross, working with homeless women and children at Abby's House, reading to schoolchildren, and using her minor in Russian to teach English to Russian émigrés in Worcester. 

After graduation, Pokorny worked in legal services for the Jesuit Volunteer Corp. in Yakima, Wash., for a year. Pokorny, 25, is today a housing search advocate for Crittenton Hastings House in Brighton, Mass., where she finds shelter and subsidized housing for homeless families. 

"The youngest mother we have is 18 and the oldest is 35," Pokorny said. "Most  are working but not making enough to live on. ... It's so important to keep in mind that you're only one paycheck away from their position."

Pokorny works with as many as 30 families at one time and said that while she realizes social service careers are not for everyone, it is essential people realize they can help "no matter what their job is." 

"I wouldn't be happy if I couldn't do this," Pokorny said. "Really, the goal is we can all do something for others, as small as it may be, to help them help themselves and help their children." 

Like Pokorny, other Holy Cross alumni have found their calling in helping  families find housing, and in righting the wrongs of discrimination. 

Erin Kemple '81 is the executive director of the Housing Discrimination Project of Western Mass. Legal Services, a nonprofit organization she helped found in 1989. Kemple said being a student at Holy Cross pointed out the privilege of the people who attend the school. 

"One of the things Holy Cross made me think about was that I have an obligation to give back," said Kemple. "'Men and women for others' was in every aspect of campus life at Holy Cross. ... [And] I had a reputation for always sticking up for the underdog." 

A year after graduating, Kemple decided law school would best help her to achieve her goal. But at Suffolk University Law School, Kemple found herself in an awkward position. 

"People there were rushing to help the top 1 percent of people," she said. "I thought, 'Who really needs representation?' It is the people who are powerless, people of color, poor people, people who have no voice in the legal system. ... If I wasn't there to talk to the woman whose food stamps were being cut off, she and her family would go hungry." 

Today, though working with a skeleton staff of nine and just one other attorney, the Housing Discrimination Project provides legal services for all areas of housing discrimination, including racial discrimination and discrimination against single parents and immigrants. 

"I feel compelled to be an advocate for anyone who is powerless," Kemple said of her dedication. "Most people hate to think of homeless shelters or parents who live in cars with their kids, but we have clients like this. Last year we opened 175 new cases, and it is usually higher, more than 200." 

John Castellano '71, like Horgan, also felt shaped by the devastating and disturbing touch of the Vietnam War while at Holy Cross. 

"Holy Cross played a key role in my formation as a person and as a believer," Castellano said. In a paper written for Fr. John Brooks, S.J., on Christ as the suffering servant and the idea of non-violence, Castellano found solidarity. 

"That exercise was pivotal," Castellano said. "It caused me to reflect on the Vietnam War and was the foundation for my successfully filing for conscientious objector status. ... My CO status became the foundation for what I could do about the suffering of people in the world and what role I could play." 

And like Kemple, Castellano has dedicated himself to advocate for those who cannot help themselves. After teaching religion at Holy Name High School in Worcester and at Mercy High School in Baltimore, Md., Castellano decided to make a difference through action. He applied to just one law school and received his degree from Hofstra University Law School, Hempstead, N.Y., in 1976. Castellano then began a 22-year career as a public service attorney. 

Last fall, after finding governmental changes in funding compromising to his goals, Castellano, 48, teamed up with Mercy Sister Pat Griffith, R.S.M., and Mercy Haven in New York to create the Mercy Advocacy Program, providing housing and legal counsel to the mentally ill. 

"My vocation is a response to my sense of who God is and to the need to see the face of our God in the poor," Castellano said of his career. "It's about trying to apply the gifts I've been given and make a small difference. This comes from having a sense of the Gospels that was emphasized at Holy Cross." 

Castellano said he feels it is no coincidence that he is working with the Sisters of Mercy again and living the ideals of Sister Catherine McAuley, dedicated servant of the  poor and foundress of the Sisters of Mercy. 

Another Vietnam-era alumni, Chicago-native Frank Kartheiser '88 truly wanted to be an agent of change. He dropped out of Holy Cross in 1971, determined "to make a difference" and formed the Mustard Seed in Worcester with fellow classmate Shawn Donovan '70. The Mustard Seed began as a storefront agency dispensing help to the elderly, poor and homeless and eventually grew to a full-time soup kitchen and homeless shelter. 

Kartheiser said his decision to leave school was spurred by the times. "Friends of ours were coming back in bags from Vietnam. I got involved in the anti-war movement and the farmworkers' movement and with the Catholic Workers." 

As need for the Mustard Seed grew, however, Kartheiser felt more could be done to treat the causes of the problems, not just the symptoms. He returned to Holy Cross in 1987 to finish his degree in religious studies, graduating in 1988. 

In 1992, Kartheiser became the director and organizer of Worcester Interfaith, an organization of Worcester religious groups that work together to empower the underprivileged through action, specifically with city youth, enforcing public safety, and providing equal job access and affordable housing. "The focus is on families and neighborhoods," Kartheiser said. 

Of his own career path, he noted, "I want to live out my values. Not just separate my work life and my faith life. The question is how do I put my faith into action to build the kingdom of God, and the core of that is there has to be sense of change." 

For those like Kartheiser and other Holy Cross alumni actively working for social justice, their life work, like Arrupe's, may never be complete. 

But some, who have seen change in the face of humanity, however small it is, remain faithfully committed. 

As Kartheiser said succinctly, "I've been at this for a long time, and I see a lot of signs of hope."

 

Leadership Training for Student Volunteers

Holy Cross students have long been known for their work as committed, active volunteers. Now the College administration is creating a leadership development program to provide support for student volunteers, opportunities for growth, and recognition of their work.

The woman helping to establish this new program is a volunteer herself. 

Jennifer L. McKee, a 1998 graduate of Boston College, is serving a one-year assignment as a VISTA/MACC (Mass. Campus Compact) volunteer. Her Worcester-based service is split between Holy Cross and Quinsigamond Community College. At Holy Cross she is working in Student Affairs to implement this leadership program. 

McKee is offering several workshops each semester for student leaders of SPUD programs and other community service groups. The topics include how to recruit and manage volunteers, work with people from different backgrounds, and conduct effective fund raising. 

In addition, McKee organized about 150 first-year students to help the Worcester parks department clean up a neighborhood park one day in September. 

"Holy Cross students are already doing a great deal of service work in the Worcester community," says McKee. "My job is to support them and give them opportunities for self-reflection and growth as leaders." 

 

SPUD student volunteers lend a hand

Holy Cross’ Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD) is the largest student organization on campus. Begun more than 20 years ago, SPUD has grown to involve more than 600 Holy Cross students who volunteer their time and energy in 17 social and Christian service organizations in Worcester.

Though associated with the Holy Cross’ chaplains’ office, SPUD is entirely student-run, directed each year by two student co-chairs who are responsible for overseeing everything from the coordination of volunteers’ schedules to budgeting. A second level chairperson is also assigned to each SPUD-serviced organization.

Some SPUD programs have waiting lists of volunteers. This is due, in part, to administrative logistics, according to Marybeth Kearns-Barrett of the chaplains’ office. “There’s a great diversity among the programs,” said Kearns-Barrett. “There are so many students who do so many different things. SPUD gives them everything from an outlet for getting away from the campus and being involved in another world, to the opportunity to form significant relationships with people.”

Many of the SPUD programs are directed at children. Holy Cross students may participate in one of several day-care or after-school programs organizing sports or arts and crafts activities, helping with homework, or tutoring one-on-one with Worcester schoolchildren. A recent addition to SPUD is the Hospital Outreach Program, which pairs Holy Cross students with children in the pediatric ward of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The students play games and read to the children, and provide companionship to help make their hospital stay easier.

Other programs aimed at children include Big Friend/Little Friend and tutoring Worcester schoolchildren struggling with learning English as a second language.

“There’s a natural tendency to be interested in youth,” Kearns-Barrett said. “The children have a lot of appeal to students.”

But that’s not to say SPUD volunteers have overlooked other community needs. One of the most demanding SPUD programs is Abby’s House, a temporary shelter for women and children, where students do intake work and provide friendship. Other SPUD volunteers tutor county jail inmates or adopt “grandparents” at area convalescent homes.

Service groups cite the continued involvement with SPUD volunteers as both essential and uplifting.

And the students “feel like they’re giving something back,” Kearns-Barrett said. “It challenges them to consider how their education is going to be used. They have a lot of responsibility running each of the programs and the experience isn’t always easy. But there is always willingness to volunteer.”

 

Karen Hart is a free-lance journalist from West Boylston, Mass.

 

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