Paul McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review.


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Jennie, No mistakes in life. My first experience as a sports dad was CYO soccer at St. Elizabeth. One of the Mayfield kids Bill tutored in math was my other daughter. Paul


Theo, thanks for the lovely note. Mary and I just returned from 30th anniversary getaway, first chance I have had to respond. I owe you my Kate's email.



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Baltimore Boomer

Why watch the World Cup in a crowd?

What struck me about the June 22 ESPN telecast of U.S.-Portugal in the World Cup was not its status as the most-watched soccer match in the history of American television, but that so many chose to take in the drama on a big screen in a public space, whether it was Chicago, Los Angeles or New York.

Fans cheer at a viewing party in Hermosa Beach, Calif., June 16, during the 2014 Brazil World Cup soccer match against Ghana. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

In other words, it was just like 1974.

Once upon a time, before ESPN came along and used soccer and other sports to fill a programming void, fans of the real football had to fork over good money to watch the World Cup final on closed-circuit TV in a basketball arena or concert venue. In 1970, we watched Brazil and Pele trounce Italy at what is now the Baltimore Arena, on a big, grainy screen. Four years later, for the West Germany-Netherlands classic, I headed to Constitution Hall in D.C. with my brother Kevin and some of his teammates from Towson University (remember when they had a team?). The last such schlep was in 1978, when Bill Spangler, Rob Mueller and I left a perfectly good time in Ocean City to drive to D.C. to see the Dutch lose again, to host Argentina. 

I had no idea we were such trend-setters.

ABC, ESPN and live-streaming have made it so easy to watch from your home, phone or desk – the accompanying photo is of photographer Tom McCarthy’s work station, where his Apple monitor is vastly superior to the analog TV in the Catholic Review newsroom – but how many people are going to sneak out of the office for an extended lunch and seek a communal vibe June 26, when the U.S. meets Germany in its final Group G qualifier?

I would just as soon watch the Ravens from the peace and solitude of my recliner, but then Mary suggests that we watch with our Ravens Roost, which, of course, is always more fun. Whether it is U.S. soccer, an NFL game or the Sunday Mass that precedes it, the species craves community. Digital tools allow some to craft their own reality; they don’t always trump tribal instinct.

June 25, 2014 03:01
By Paul McMullen

Old Bay and Deacon Langan’s old-school thank-you

April’s pilgrimage to Italy for the canonization of two popes resulted in too many memories and keepsakes to track, but I will cherish forever one that came in the mail several weeks after the fact.

Packing my bags the night of April 20, the last item on my checklist was “Old Bay.” As Chris Gunty, my boss, explained, the seminarians from Baltimore at the Pontifical North American College in Rome appreciate that touch from home, one they use to season just about anything. Telling my wife, Mary, that I needed to run to the Food Lion to get a small can, she opened her spice drawer and said, “take ours,” an un-opened industrial-strength 14-ounce can. I wrapped it in some freezer bags, so that I didn’t smell like I was coming from a crab feast while in Assisi and the Sistine Chapel.

Seven days later, after only a handful of Baltimore pilgrims had made it into St. Peter’s Square April 27 to see John XXIII and John Paul II made saints, let alone receive holy Communion, we bussed to the NAC, for Mass celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori. Afterward, I finally delivered the Old Bay to Deacon Joe Langan.

He’s one of the five men who will be ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Baltimore June 21. The young man has a lot on his plate, but he is already blessed with the pastoral touch. He penned a lovely thank you note, added the signatures of fellow NAC seminarians Michael Rubeling and Kevin Ewing, and had the awareness to send it “Mr. and Mrs. Paul McMullen.” That is cool. So is the return address on the envelope, which ends “Vatican City State Europe.”

The New York Times has had some interesting takes on penmanship and written correspondence, and I remain a sucker for a hand-written letter. I still have the card Grammy Esther Larkin sent for my eighth birthday, in 1963. It’s not the oldest letter in that treasure chest of souvenirs, which includes one dated July 27, 1961, from my Uncle Glen. It was in response to correspondence I had sent him after a visit to Saugus, Mass., a letter likely encouraged by my Mom.

Thank you, Mom.

Thank you, Deacon Joe. You are going to be a great priest.

June 16, 2014 02:15
By Paul McMullen

Calvert Hall sends Karp off in style

At some point during the May 17 celebration of Bill Karpovich’s life at Calvert Hall, I turned to my wife and indicated that if Carrie Zaruba isn’t in town to sing at my funeral, that Mary should inquire as to the availability of George Wilkerson.

That gives some indication as to why the obituary section in the paper is referred to as the “Irish Sports Pages.”

Given my druthers, I prefer a funeral Mass to a funeral home, a sentiment reinforced at Calvert Hall, where the man called “Karp” was honored with a liturgy as rich and textured as the soccer coach and math department chair who never missed a single day of work or practice in 33 years at the school.

Start with Wilkerson, director of vocal music at Calvert Hall, whose tenor at the front of “On Eagle’s Wings” made me pause even more than normal on that most poignant of recessionals. I have added him to my funeral plan wishlist, after the aforementioned Carrie, a conservatory-trained rising star in Nashville who still graces the choir loft at St. Athanasius when someone from the Curtis Bay clan is being buried, or wed.

Wilkerson was accompanied on piano by Calvert Hall junior Collin Power, whose family should be very proud. The McManus Theater, where the funeral was held, was dotted with Christian Brothers, the order that founded Calvert Hall in 1845. Our eucharistic ministers were Calvert Hall principal Chuck Stembler; Lou Heidrick, his predecessor; and Joe Baker, a math teacher and fellow Calvert Hall fixture. How cool is that?

Calvert Hall was the site of a lovely funeral liturgy for Bill Karpovich, one that included the piano of junior Collin Power and the tenor of George Wilkerson, the director of vocal music at the school. (Paul McMullen | CR Staff)

Presiding was Bishop William C. Newman another son of Calvert Hall. The only non-Calvert Hall guy on the altar stage was Monsignor William F. Burke, Karp’s pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Mayfield, the celebrant who packed more into a 4-minute homily than others do in a half hour. Father Bill reminded us that Bishop Newman was on staff at St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Highlandtown in the 1950s when one of its boys, Karp, fell in love with one of its girls, Theo.

Father Bill’s brevity left plenty of room at the end of Mass for reflections by two more Calvert Hall guys. Jerry Geraghty was in the Class of 1968, a senior when Karp landed on campus, could have been describing me when he said that the only tools Karp knew how to use were “a knife and a fork.” Billy Karpovich is the youngest of Karp and Theo’s four boys, and his observations similarly ranged from the affectionate to the educational to the hilarious.

To whit, on Karp’s roots:

“Dad was the youngest of 8 kids. His father was an immigrant from Russia who narrowly escaped the Revolution. He arrived at Ellis Island in 1915 and settled in East Baltimore where he worked as laborer. Dad learned pinochle at age 8 and competed through his teenage years in the family card game on Sunday afternoons.”

On Karp’s math acumen:

“Dad went to grade school at Holy Rosary and then Patterson High School. At 16 Dad was ready to drop out of school. The pressure from home was to do the respectable thing and get a job or join the Army. His guidance counselor at Patterson,, Mrs. Tillery, saw more in him than he had seen in himself. …Two years later Mrs. Tillery persuaded Dad to apply to college. He was awarded a Senatorial Scholarship to attend Johns Hopkins, where he completed a degree in Industrial Engineering and paid for his boarding as the cleaning lady for his fraternity.”

On Karp’s 422 wins and 19 MIAA or MSA titles:

“In approximately the same number of years the iconic Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) of Duke basketball (Billy played his soccer there) has a lower winning percentage and 15 fewer titles.”

On Karp being paid $500 a season, and his work ethic:

“Throughout Dad’s prime, he worked Saturdays unloading boxes of produce in a part-time job to help make ends meet. While he was a truly gifted calculus teacher, his greatest mathematical achievement was providing me and my brothers with all that we had on such a modest income.

On his core beliefs as an educator:

“Everything Dad did was to help us not only recognize our potential but to also have the tools to realize it. He knew that you cannot succeed in anything without rigor. He made us pull up our socks, tuck in our shirts and he trimmed off our rat tails in the locker room, because he knew the first step in being great was to look and act the part. He put team ahead of individual regardless of the number of goals you scored, because he knew the whole was much greater than the sum of the parts. He made us follow the rules, because there is only one way to win and that’s with integrity. He pushed us to the edge, because he knew that all growth requires discomfort.

On priorities:

“Dad did things his own way. The important rules were always followed. He made up the rest. He never really cared what anyone else thought. It is said that to succeed you must be willing to offend. Dad understood this all too well.”

On Karp’s forgetfulness:

“If my Dad ever called you “Butch” it meant he liked you but forgot your name. As a kid I was always amazed at how many kids went to Calvert Hall and Dad’s summer soccer camps with the name Butch.”

On his dedication:

“In 33 years of service at Calvert Hall, my father never missed a day of work. For context, this is almost two times longer than Cal Ripken’s remarkable streak. I asked Mom the other night once again to confirm that this was really true. She said “Yes, he never missed a day.” She paused for a moment and then added “It’s not that he never got sick, that just always seemed to happen on the weekends when there was housework to do.”

On Karp’s soulmate, Theo:

“Mom was the backbone. She was the selfless, nurturing, wise, stabilizing force that made it all work. … Dad was a great man and committed husband; he could also be difficult. There is good reason that Mom has been often referred to as a saint over the years. Now that John Paul II has greased the skids for the Poles, I am confident you will be reading about her canonization in the future.”

On Karp’s lesser-seen tender side

“Some of my most poignant memories with Dad were when I approached him in times of trouble and having him respond not as Dad the disciplinarian but as Dad the kind and supportive father. … While it wasn’t his most deft instrument, Dad had a big heart.”

May 19, 2014 03:52
By Paul McMullen

Rome intoxicated with the Holy Spirit

Before this weekend, the largest gathering of people I had ever experienced was at the conclusion of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. I had covered the Opening Ceremony for The Sun, a colleague took the closing, and I headed to The Rocks, Sydney’s answer to Fells Point and Georgetown, where a cascade of fireworks that began at Olympic Park concluded some 12 miles east, at Sydney Harbour and its famous bridge and Opera House. There were at least million people there, and the Foster’s flowed pretty heavily as a nation with the population of Pennsylvania celebrated pulling off a safe, sound Olympics.

Here in Rome, people are intoxicated with the Holy Spirit. Journalists wait patiently in line for credentials and work in a makeshift media center in the Office of the Propagation of the Faith, where a life-size bronze crucifix stands next to the lunch counter.

April 26, 2014 11:14
By Paul McMullen

Pilgrims to Italy have special appreciation for JPII

ROME – Few traveling with the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Catholic Review on this canonization pilgrimage feel a greater debt to Blessed John Paul II than Kevin and Anna Harkins.

They are here celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, courtesy of her parents and their pride in their homeland of Poland and its most famous son of this era, Karol Wojtyla.

Anna was born in Staszow, Poland, and was 17 years old when she emigrated to the U.S. in 1982 along with her mother, Barbara. Anna’s father, Konstanty, had come to the U.S. earlier, and a reunion was made difficult by Soviet satellite politics.

“Anna’s Dad came to the U.S. from Poland on a travel visa,” Kevin said, “but then the authorities said ‘You can’t come back and family can’t leave.’ ”

Kevin and Anna are parishioners of St. John the Beloved in McLean, Va. A retired U.S. Coast Guard officer who spent most of his time in the service at a station in Cape Cod, Harkins runs his own human resources business.

Anna’s parents reside in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Mom said there is never going to be a perfect time, just drop everything and go,” Anna Harkins said. “She is a wise woman.”

April 26, 2014 10:59
By Paul McMullen

The touch of St. Francis

Was it a coincidence that our canonization pilgrimage arrived in Assisi April 22, Earth Day? That aspect of the spirit of St. Francis, the patron saint of the environment, is palpable in the town he made famous, from the pristine streets in Assisi to the songbirds that provide an early wake-up call.

When I was a frequent business traveler for a daily newspaper, no second thought was given to taking a towel off the rack in an airport Marriott, using it once and then throwing it on the ground. All of us have become more environmentally conscious, and in Assisi, you can’t help but practice the same stewardship that is customary at home, so it was that no new linens were required when the maids hit my room there.

St. Francis of Assisi statue in Assisi, Italy

I took the accompanying photo at St. Mary of the Angels (“Santa Maria degli Angeli”), the cathedral that was built around the site of his death in 1226. As the story goes, some Franciscan nuns opened a window near the Rose Garden and two white doves came in to nest near a statue of St. Francis. The touch St. Francis had with nature is still evident.

See more stories from the pilgrimage to Rome, sponsored by the Catholic Review and Archdiocese of Baltimore: 

April 24, 2014 04:58
By Paul McMullen

A saint, a father and a Cold War

This Holy Week carries greater meaning than most, as it includes preparing to leave for Assisi and Rome the day after Easter, as part of a Catholic Review-sponsored pilgrimage that culminates in the April 27 canonizations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II. Other than a few days in Venice in 1980, I have never been to Italy, let alone Vatican City, and my reading has led to some head-shaking coincidences and connections.

My late father was born May 15, 1920, in Western Pennsylvania. Three days later, Karol Józef Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, in southern Poland. Both were insatiable readers. Both disdained bias against Germans that lingered after World War II: John Paul as a prelate in Poland, where he angered some by promoting forgiveness of a people whose invading armies had a role in the killing of 6 million and sent priests, along with the Jews, to Auschwitz; and my Dad, in 1980, when he discovered that my older sister’s father-in-law from Bavaria, who had been conscripted into service by the Third Reich, had come within a few kilometers of one another during the Battle of the Bulge. They became fast friends.

At the monastery of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, Pope John Paul II greets throngs of Poles waiting for a glimpse of their native son during his first trip to Poland following his election. His visit came in early June of 1979. It was the second of 104 trip s the pope would make outside Italy. (CNS photo/Chris Niedenthal)

My father had taken ill in 1976 and had to back out of a family trip to the Summer Olympics in Montreal, where the men’s gold medal volleyball match remains the most riveting athletic contest I have ever witnessed. At the height of the Cold War, 20,000 North Americans and a few well-heeled tourists from Japan cheered on the underdog, as Poland came back from deficits at every turn to defeat the mighty Soviet Union. We’ve seen hordes of Ravens’ fans celebrate after a Super Bowl victory, but nothing compares to the singular smile on a lone man running laps around the Montreal Forum, carrying the flag of Poland after its gold-medal performance.

I didn’t gain a complete appreciation for that moment until earlier this year, when I opened Tad Szulc’s “Pope John Paul II, The Biography.” It had sat on my bookshelf since 1995, when I ordered it through a membership in the Book of the Month Club – remember that? I was ignorant about Poland’s origins as a Catholic nation-state in the 10th century, the persecution of Poles and how John Paul began his studies for the priesthood in secrecy, thus on multiple mornings around St. Patrick’s Day, I asked Chris Gunty and George Matysek, who have considerable knowledge of Polish heritage and culture, why Ireland seems more celebrated in the U.S. than Poland.

Its struggles, and John Paul’s role in them, are particularly pertinent as Ukraine, another former satellite state of the Soviet Union, combats the aggression of Russia and Vladimir Putin. The late pope’s 1979 visit to his homeland is regarded as a pivotal moment in the eventual collapse of communism, the partition of Germany and the Soviet Union, which Putin seems determined to re-create in one form or another. As we head to Rome, I pray that John Paul’s spirit helps the people of Ukraine hold on to the freedom and stability he helped bring to Poland.

April 16, 2014 03:13
By Paul McMullen

Hats off to the captain, Stan Koziol

Wish I was in South Florida this weekend. Not to soak up much-needed sun, but to pay my respects to Stan “Stas” Koziol.

Stas was just 48 when he died March 3, less than two months after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was one of the best players in the storied history of Loyola University soccer, and the most ferocious leader I have ever encountered.

I do not say that lightly, having witnessed Ray Lewis lead the Baltimore Ravens to their first Super Bowl title and then Juan Dixon guide Maryland to its only NCAA basketball championship in the span of 15 months. Neither was the kind to back down from a challenge. Teammates modeled their example, just as the Loyola Greyhounds responded to Koziol.

A tireless midfielder, Koziol still holds the school record for assists and was an All-American in 1986 and ’87, when Loyola reached the NCAA quarterfinals. In both tournaments, it upset the University of Virginia. The Cavaliers had the international players, the Greyhounds the grit, personified in Koziol, always one of the smallest men on the field.

Twenty years ago this spring, doing leg work for the first and only World Cup on American soil, I spent an afternoon in northern New Jersey, which had several starters on the U.S. team. It was Stas’ turf, and he was my tour guide. We met at Evergreen, hopped in a rental car, flew up the Turnpike and the next thing you know, I am in a social club in Kearny, having a beer with the father of John Harkes, one of those UVA guys Stas took delight in beating.

In addition to a soccer pitch and Jersey, Koziol knew his way around Argentina, Puerto Rico, and especially Poland, his parents’ homeland. He put his entrepreneurial skills to use as a telecom pioneer, first in Eastern Europe, where the business smarts he picked up at Loyola and his family’s heritage were a winning combination.

“Our parents came over from southern Poland in the late 1950s,” said Joe Koziol, who was a year behind his brother at Loyola and was their top goal-scorer in that era. “Our Mom had been confirmed by Pope John Paul II. In Passaic (N.J.), we went to Polish school on weekends. Stas played professionally in Poland for two years. He married a girl from Poland.”

Margaret Koziol, her children, Nicole and Matthew, and their Uncle Joe will have plenty of support March 8, when Stas is laid to rest at St. Rose of Lima Church in Miami Shores, Fla. From Joe Barger and Chris Webbert to Jeff Nattans and Sam Mangione and coach Bill Sento, most of the men who united with Koziol at Loyola will be there for him in Southern Florida this weekend.

They would have gone to the moon for their captain.

March 06, 2014 01:15
By Paul McMullen

World’s worst boss?

Am I in the running for the world’s worst boss this morning?

It’s relatively cozy at the offices of the Catholic Review Jan. 22, but the thermometer reads 5 degrees Fahrenheit, with the wind chill making the forecast 5 below, among the reasons schools are closed and many canceled their plans to attend today’s March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Nonetheless, Staff Writer Elizabeth Lowe and Staff Photographer Tom McCarthy Jr. began making their way to the March, meeting at Baltimore’s Penn Station at 7:20 a.m. to catch one of the few early trains south that wasn’t canceled. Their challenge at this morning’s youth Mass and rally at the Verizon Center will be finding folks from the archdiocese. This afternoon, it will be avoiding frostbite at the March itself on the National Mall.

I have a long record of numbskull taunts of the weather forecast. In March 1993, then-Loyola University sports information director Steve Jones and I drove to the University of North Carolina for a men’s lacrosse game. The highlight for the Greyhounds was the team Mass the night before the game, which ended with sleet turning to snow. As USA Today confirmed, it was the only outdoor sports event played east of the Mississippi River that day.

Looking to save time a few years later, I passed on a rental car and drove Ken Rosenthal, now of Fox Sports, to Charlottesville for a Maryland-Virginia basketball game. We drove home the next morning in the snow, and after dropping off Ken at a park and ride, I spun out on an overpass and wrecked my Mary’s Camaro.

My bad.

Liz and Tom, get the story and get home.

Father Michael Paris from St. Patrick in Rockville, MD delivers the homily at the Verizon Center Jan. 22.
(Tom McCarthy Jr., CR Staff)

January 22, 2014 10:24
By Paul McMullen

Despite Towson dropping the ball, Olszewski’s soccer legacy continues to grow

On May 19, Mary and I followed one of our grandsons to Germantown, where his Fewster FC won the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association U-13 title. His coach is Barry Stitz, best known as the coach of Archbishop Curley but a fine player in his own right a generation ago at Towson University.

On an adjoining field, the U-14 title went to the Baltimore Bays, who were under the guidance of Pat Healey, who was filling in for Frank Assaro while he upgraded his coaching license. Assaro played with Stitz at Towson. Healey, the Baltimore Blast star, is one of the most distinguished players ever to come out of the university. I never wrote about him there, like I did about Assaro and Stitz, but I did teach him in a Sports Media class at Towson in the spring of 2008.

That day in Germantown, I sensed the presence of Frank Olszewski before I saw him. Of course he was there, watching the good come out of guys he taught.

Olszewski coached Towson University from 1982 through last season, when the college’s hierarchy eliminated a program that was producing educators and business leaders before the Tigers ever fielded a football team.

(I am a Towson grad, with multiple axes to grind on this issue. One of my brothers played for Towson and coached at Mount St. Mary’s, which also dropped men’s soccer after last season. We scratch our heads and ask: Nineteen years after the U.S. staged one of the most successful World Cups ever, why do the boys born in 1994 have fewer college playing options than their fathers?)

Soccer coach Frank Olszewski, center, continues to mentor many of the men he coached at Towson University, such as Frank Assaro, left, and Rich Zinkand, who now coach at Calvert Hall. 

Towson took Olszewski’s program, but it cannot remove his legacy, which keeps growing through the guys who played for him, such as Assaro, Healey, Stitz and many others coaching at the club, scholastic and collegiate level. Olszewski was not boastful that day in Germantown, either. He took the accomplishments of his protégés in his customary low-key manner.

Assaro and Stitz played at Curley. Assaro is an assistant at Calvert Hall, where the head coach is Rich Zinkand, another Towson alumnus (they flank Olszewski in the accompanying photo). Zinkand and Healey, the Baltimore Blast star, went to Calvert Hall.

Olszewski played for Patapsco High and John Hopkins University, but his Catholic roots run just as deep. Born and raised on Fleet Street in Highlandtown, he continued to attend the old Holy Rosary School even after his family moved to Dundalk. He and his wife, Diane, moved from Our Lady of Hope Parish in Dundalk to Immaculate Conception in Towson, where their kids went to grade school, and are now parishioners of Church of the Nativity in Timonium.

“Faith,” Olszewski said, “isn’t something you fall back on as a quick fix when adversity comes. It’s there all the time.” 

Stitz still considers Olszewski his mentor. Not because he won close to 300 games and went to two NCAA tournaments, but because his Tiger teams also won academic distinction and he keeps the proper perspective.

“He (Olszewski) didn’t put winning ahead of his values, he always did things the right way,” Stitz said. “The biggest thing I got from him, he brought his family around. He was a coach, but family came first. I want my players to see me not only as their coach, I want them to see me as a good husband, a good father. Just like Frank.”

Olszewski continues to be employed at Towson, where he stayed on as an assistant in the athletic department, filling a variety of roles. He could not afford to walk away from a job and besides, going off in a huff is not his style.

While there is no Colonial Athletic Association opener to prepare for, Olszewski is getting his soccer fix with the Baltimore Bays, as the coach of their U-16 and U-18 teams. He’s also the club’s academy director and director of coaching, still teaching the next generation.

August 22, 2013 01:03
By Paul McMullen

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