by Kathleen S. Carr ’96
Meagan Gorman ’05: Changing lives in Russia
Meagan Gorman ’05 arrived on Mount St. James with a love of the Russian language. She left the Hill as one of two in her graduating class with a degree in Russian—as well as a Fulbright Scholarship and the life-changing experience of having spent her third year working in orphanages in St. Petersburg. After a stint at Stanford—earning her master’s degree in Russian on a full scholarship—Gorman is now working at the EC Boston Language School as a program coordinator.
Dazzled yet? There’s more. The Russian program at Holy Cross inspired her, as did the instruction of the other teachers and her contact with the students she met there. Gorman was motivated to do more—and she has succeeded. Living in three different orphanages during her time in Russia, she saw firsthand what the children were lacking. Returning home, Gorman started her own nonprofit, Positive Alternatives for Russian Orphans. The group’s mission is to provide support to orphans in children’s homes in Bashkortostan, Russia—the very homes in which she worked while fulfilling her Fulbright. The organization hopes to provide funds for orphans to travel to the United States—and, also, to support projects at the orphanages. Gorman notes that the children need clothes, computers and basic items, such as pencils. To help with this effort, visit the PAFRO Web site at www.pafro.org.
Denis C. Bracken ’73: Living the Jesuit tradition
After Denis Bracken received his degree from Holy Cross in 1973, he moved to Toronto to study criminology. While pursuing his Ph.D. in Britain, Bracken learned of a teaching opportunity at the University of Manitoba; initially accepting a nine-month contract, he has remained at the university for 29 years.
In the Canadian university system, denominational colleges are almost the norm. “Most big provincial universities have these historical connections to denominational colleges,” Bracken explains. “We’ve been the Catholic college since 1923 here at St. Paul’s, which was founded by one of the bishops in Winnipeg. The Jesuits relinquished control in 1999, but there’s still a Jesuit presence here. We still call ourselves the college in the Ignatian tradition.”
Bracken tries to live out these traditions in his new role as the university rector.
“I’m the chief administrative officer of the college,” he says. “It’s the rough equivalent of the dean of faculty. I sit on the dean’s counsel, serve as a member of the senior administrative body, and have a seat in the university Senate.”
St. Paul’s is an affiliate of the University of Manitoba, but it is its own entity.
“St. Paul’s is the Catholic presence at the university,” he says. “But you don’t have to be Catholic to be a faculty member or a student. I suspect the fact that I’m a Catholic helped me get the job as rector. It’s interesting—you’re a religious institution within a secular university, so you have to find your way and determine what that means.”
Bracken works to maintain the mantra of “men and women for others” among his students. It’s a challenge he’s well suited for.
Bracken stresses the importance of a college embracing its Catholic identity, and exploring what that might mean within a secular world.
“For me,” he says, “it signifies balancing what is good about Catholic traditions, but being aware of how changing times require a re-examination of what it means to be a Catholic university.
“The Jesuit Catholic university tradition really helps this process,” Bracken continues. “It’s the idea of education and service to others. Having a Jesuit tradition provides you with a sense of who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing, as an individual and as an institution.”
Kathleen S. Carr '96 is a freelance writer based in Melrose, Mass. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.