When I entered a chapel in Laredo, Texas, one morning before dawn, I became conscious of another presence. Mary Oladimeji was deep in prayer.
Conversations with Sr. Camille
About 20 years ago, my students in the TV department of Brooklyn College invited the late Fr. Jim Harvey and Michael Moran as guests on a program on homelessness. Two memories stand out. Jim, who worked with street kids and prisoners, described his experience of spending a week living in Manhattan without money or identification. He begged so he could eat, and he slept in the underground network hidden from the eyes of those on the city streets and in office buildings. When I asked Jim what he learned, he answered: "Hunger really, really hurts."
I met Vilma Torres a dozen years ago in an arena of enormous sufferings. The Cherish Life Circle, which the Sisters of Mercy founded in Brooklyn in 1993 to oppose capital punishment, holds a separate, annual service for families of murder victims. When Vilma learned of this endeavor, she, on behalf of Safe Horizon, offered to help us. And she has every year since, providing indispensable assistance. We know her as a competent, caring provider of services to individuals suffering the greatest of losses in violent situations. Over these many years, I've never asked what drew her into this work. I think this conversation is long overdue.
Camille: Jim, in the interest of full disclosure, I confess that your father, the late beloved Edward Stasheff, was my mentor at the University of Michigan. As he guided me through my master's and doctoral degrees, he noted with pride that you, his firstborn son, held two doctorates. He would proudly add that your dissertations were beyond his comprehension. What was that all about?
"For her witness to the Ignatian desire to see and choose Christ in the world, for her more than three decades of service to the poorest and least among us at home and abroad, and for her creativity in health education and leadership, Gonzaga University is proud to confer on Marjorie Humphrey its highest honor, the DeSmet Medal."
So concluded the lengthy tribute during Gonzaga's commencement ceremony on May 12 in Spokane, Wash. The courageous, generous, creative service Marj has rendered since she was received as a Maryknoll lay missioner in 1988 is the stuff of novels and documentaries, of breathtaking movies and television series.
Msgr. Robert T. McDermott, pastor of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral in Camden, N.J., is an example of someone who, though in one sense running in place, has long been a mover and shaker of the world around him. Born 70 years ago, the second child of a typical, post-World War II working-class family attended elementary school in the parish he's led for 27 years. Camden, a city plagued by poverty and crime, is the beneficiary of this man's dedication.
Mary Murphy, the oldest of four children born to of Irish immigrants, Mary and James, grew up in Queens, N.Y. While her mother waitressed and her father drove a city bus, Mary couldn't have guessed that one day she would be inside the homes he passed. That's precisely where her profession has taken her as a popular news anchor and reporter, first for WCBS-TV and later for WPIX. While awards for her superb newsgathering and interviewing skills include (but are not limited to) 18 Emmys, an Edward R. Murrow writing award and numerous first-place plaques from the Associated Press Broadcasters Association, Mary's ordinary childhood did not signal the approach of such a stellar career. We begin this conversation by asking her what that childhood was like.
Sr. Camille: Kevin Walsh, 38, came to my attention as someone with the passion and power to help make dreams come true -- specifically the dreams of individuals forced by poverty to raise their children in high-crime neighborhoods.
Sr. Camille: Mary Naughton has responded to a number of different callings in her 69 years, often with puzzlement and expectation, always with goodwill and good humor.
Mary, what was your childhood like and where did you spend it?
Naughton: I grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in Little Flower Parish, a wonderful place! We had the Sisters of Mercy in school and I loved them, especially Sister Mary Louis, my first- and fifth-grade teacher, and later Sister Mary Redempta in eighth grade. There were lots of children on my street and we could play outside every afternoon and all summer until supper time. I am still in touch with some of my friends from Little Flower. I went to St. Brendan's Diocesan High School with some wonderful girls from various parishes and met a Sister of St. Joseph, who was to have a major influence on my life, Sister Helen Bernard (Irene Flanagan), and as a result, at the age of 17 I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood.
Kevin Doyle, 56, is the only person I can think of who was glad to lose his job. This was not because he didn't value what he was doing or because he wasn't respected for his expert handling of an important profession. When New York state abolished the death penalty, Doyle, the capital defender, closed his office and moved on.