Paul McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review.


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Dear Paul, Great , I love it. Sweet memories, Lots of Love Sharon


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



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Baltimore Boomer

Long ago lesson in welcoming the stranger

I’ve never worshipped at St. Peter in Hancock, but I have recited plenty of prayers near that Washington County town.

Father Jack Lombardi, pastor of St. Peter, heard this story July 22, when he rode shotgun as we drove the route, from the Baltimore Basilica to the “Rocky” steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, we will take on our “Feet for Francis” pilgrimage next month.

Father John "Jack" Lombardi and Paul McMullen at the site of their final destination.

In addition to familiar spots in Canada and Europe, Father Jack has gotten out of his comfort zone and led pilgrimages in, or visited, India, Peru, Russia and Tanzania. Australia/Oceania is the only continent I have visited that he has not. He has also never through-hiked the length of the C&O Canal Towpath, which passes less than a quarter-mile to the south of St. Peter Church. I was supposed to, circa 1967, before the well-laid plans of my Boy Scout troop unraveled.

From Georgetown in Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, the towpath snakes 184 miles along the Potomac River. The attempt to hike it over two weeks was a departure for Boy Scout Troop 188, sponsored by St. Rose of Lima Parish in Brooklyn, which usually took summer camp at Broad Creek, in the wilds of Harford County. Starting the Towpath at the western terminus and walking downhill wasn’t much help, as thunderstorms, mosquitoes and fatigue conspired to have us pass too many of those mile markers on backroads or Route 40, in the comfort of the down-shifting box truck that was supposed to shepherd supplies, not Scouts, to campsites.

The C&O Canal Towpath

Nearly five decades later, vivid memories of that trip remain.

·No. 1, never attempt to wait out an electrical storm under a railroad trestle. I can still summon the muscle memory of a lightning strike zapping me in the back of my legs. My fellow stragglers and I made double-time, and by the grace of God stumbled upon the campsite that had been made for us.

·No. 2, the waters beneath the Monocacy Viaduct are an inviting place to chill an 8-ounce bottle of Coke.

·No. 3, our adult leaders, most hardened World War II veterans, were softies at heart.

Today, we would call him homeless. Then, he was just a railroad hobo, something straight of a Jimmy Rodgers song. In black pants and white oxford shirt, he came strolling down a hill from the tracks at dinner time, asking for help. Maybe it was near the Paw Paw Tunnel, maybe Brunswick, maybe outside Hancock, but the man sat down and dug into his dinner with the same relish as hungry 12-year-olds, and likely with considerably more appreciation. The next morning, he came back down the hill, from wherever he had passed the night, and joined us for breakfast. We broke camp, continued the slog toward Georgetown, and never saw the man again.

I struggled to absorb from adult Scout leaders knot-tying and semaphore. They were quite successful, however, in passing down lessons about welcoming the stranger in out midst.

August 19, 2015 12:46
By Paul McMullen

This Christmas, embrace the chaos

“The Chaos Mass”

That was the description Father Mike Triplett gave to the 4 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass I signed up to lector at my home parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Essex. It is with affection that Father Mike uses the phrase, as he looks forward to the spirit that fills the church on the afternoon before Christmas. Having once been a harried young parent in those pews, I know full well that the ambo will be one of the most serene locations in the church.

My father wasn’t exactly Baron Von Trappe, but he and my mother ran a fairly tight ship, as evidenced by the home movies he took in front of the Christmas tree, showing five boys in matching red sweaters, shortest (me) to tallest. My wife Mary and I have been able to continue some family traditions, but order among the young ones was not one of them.

I can giggle with Kate and Don now, who are pictured circa 1990 after being caught making mud pies on Alta Avenue, but traveling with them back then was no laughing matter. On longer road trips, a wall of suitcases and food boxes and pillows separated their car seats in a Chevy station wagon, so that they could not view one another – let alone touch – and disrupt the driver. (One Christmas, they gifted me a dashboard “Revenger.” Instead of hurling epithets at other drivers, I would push the button for “machine gun” or “grenade launcher” and spare the kids another vocabulary lesson. Mercifully, in those moments of weakness I have progressed to touching a crucifix from Assisi, and voicing an abbreviated version of the Prayer of St. Francis.)

On Christmas Eve, as Mary would be baking and cooking up a storm, I would pull her out of the kitchen, load the family into the station wagon and head to St. Francis of Assisi in Mayfield for 4 p.m. Mass. In my memory, it was part Burning Man, part Ravens-Steelers showdown, all anticipation and edge, squirming kids ready for Christmas presents and frustrated dads like me trying to corral them.

As they got older, we wisely shifted to 8 p.m. Mass, all soothed by a string quartet, but there was still the potential for chaos underfoot. One Christmas Eve my grandsons were doing laps inside the rambling Victorian on Lake Avenue. Somebody knocked into the server decorated with a lovely crèche of ceramic figures, and Joseph went crashing to the floor. Shrugging it off, I had a bobble-head from Jerry D’s Saloon and Restaurant stand in for the saint.

Last century’s fatherly tantrum had become this one’s grandfatherly gesture.

Merry Christmas.

December 23, 2014 11:26
By Paul McMullen

Blakefield teacher got around on milestone birthday

Most guys celebrate their 50th birthday by blowing out the candles on a cake. A few opt for something more strenuous, such as a day of sport fishing or a round of golf.

Then there is Chris Cucuzzella, a physics teacher and coach at Loyola Blakefield, who marked that milestone Nov. 20 by running 50 kilometers on campus, just over 31 miles. The past president of the Baltimore Road Runners Club, Cucuzzella ran to raise funds and awareness for Back on My Feet, which helps empower those experiencing homelessness through physical activity, and Loyola’s Class of 1964 Endowed Scholarship Fund.

A member of its class of 1982, Cucuzzella ran cross country and wrestled for the Dons, and hasn’t shown much sign of slowing down. Less than a decade ago, at age 41, he notched his personal best for the marathon, 3 hours, 2 minutes. On Nov. 20, he cranked out more than three dozen laps on a 1.5-mile course around the Loyola Blakefield athletic fields, avoiding the dip down to Wheeler Hall, and the climb back up.

“I chose the flatter course,” he said, “but it got monotonous.”

Family, friends and some of his former runners helped pass the time, as Cucuzzella started around 8 a.m. and finished during the lunch hour, clocking in at 4 hours, 40 minutes, about 9 minutes per mile.

Ryan Stasiowski (class of 2007), Greg Jubb (’07) and Greg Lange (’08) joined him at the start. Later, two of his three brothers joined in, Neil (’86) and Paul (’89). His other brother, Mark (’84), would have been there, if he had not been preparing for the 53rd annual JFK 50-Miler, which goes off Nov. 22 in Hagerstown. Also keeping Cucuzzella company were his wife, Jeanne Pinto, McDonogh School coach Jeff Sanborn and Ben Hosford, one of his current runners.

Afterward, Cucuzzella got cleaned up and directed indoor track and field practice. He’s the Dons’ head coach and an assistant in outdoor track and cross country, where Loyola Blakefield has won six straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and two straight East Coast Jesuit Invitational titles.

After that, he went to out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with his wife and their children, Sam and Mia, to pig out and reflect.

“The nice thing about 50,” he said, “is that I don’t feel the need to top this.”

November 22, 2014 02:23
By Paul McMullen

Jim Duquette and other Catholic sports talkers

If you read about sports or listen to sports talk in Baltimore, chances are you get information and opinion from a guy with a link to the Catholic Church.

I just wrote about the parental sacrifice of Jim Duquette, a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley, former Orioles’ VP and now an analyst on the MLB Network. In 2012, when it came time to raise awareness of kidney disease through his organ donation to his daughter Lindsey, WJZ-TV was there, thanks to his friendship with sports anchor Mark Viviano. Mark is a regular Mass attendee at St. Ignatius on Calvert Street, and one of his brothers is a priest in Missouri. 

Jim Duquette and his daughter Lindsey. (Bill McAllen| Special to the Review)

(Disclosure: Duquette, Viviano and I made up three-fourths of a team in the marathon relay at the 2008 Baltimore Running Festival.)

Sticking to the airwaves, Jim Hunter, veteran voice of Oriole radio and TV, is a parishioner of St. Mark, Fallston. Scott Garceau of 105.7 The Fan is a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Hydes. Scott will again do the play-by-play on WMAR Ch. 2’s Thanksgiving Day telecast of the Turkey Bowl. Patrolling the sidelines and telling human interest stories will be WMAR anchor Jamie Costello, a parishioner of St. Isaac Jogues in Carney.

The Turkey Bowl rivals have plenty of representatives in the business. Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports “NFL Insider,” is a 1992 graduate of Loyola Blakefield. His competition includes ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, who went to St. Francis of Assisi School in Mayfield and spent his freshman year at Calvert Hall before his family moved to Carroll County. Dan Connolly, who covers major league baseball for The Sun, is a 1987 graduate of Calvert Hall.

Jeff Zrebiec, the lead football writer for The Sun, is a graduate of Loyola University Maryland. Kevin Van Valkenberg, a senior correspondent for ESPN the Magazine, worships in Baltimore. He was married at Corpus Christi and had his children baptized by Monsignor Rich Bozzelli.

There are others, too many to mention, in a chain that links back to Loyola Blakefield grads Jim McKay and Vince Bagli defining TV sports nationally and locally, respectively. Why is that connection so strong? Very simply, Catholic schools turn out good communicators. I was reminded of that a few years ago, when I taught Sports Media at Towson University. In a 400 level class, some students had trouble producing a coherent 800 words on a topic. The three guys from Calvert Hall ate up those assignments.

November 17, 2014 12:39
By Paul McMullen

Blast from the past

Do you like to visit flea markets?

Favor Antiques Roadshow over Monday Night Football?

If so, you would have had a blast helping us put together the special edition marking the 225th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which was established Nov. 6, 1789.

I had the pleasure – along with Assistant Managing Editor George Matysek; Emma Welcher, our former social media coordinator; and Jessica Marsala, one of our freelance writers – of sifting through some of the thousands of Catholic Review photos stored at the Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Roland Park, in search of gold. We wistfully left the attic of the archdiocese, knowing that we couldn’t share all of the old gems we came across.

On the third of my four trips there, I indulged myself and went to a box marked “R,” in search of news from Feb. 9, 1967, the day the roof collapsed on 120 schoolchildren and adults attending a weekday Lenten Mass at St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn. The photo here was like a lightning bolt to the brain, reconnecting some old synapses. You can see a city fire or police officer in a white cap, taking in the damage from the choir loft.

It was in that loft, during an Advent Mass in December 1960, to the left of the clock that is stopped at 8:10 a.m., where Sister Esperance, my first-grade teacher, gently urged me not to sing so loud. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as Leonard Cohen’s “drunk in the midnight choir,” but evidently I could not carry a tune.

I was not deterred, however, as friends and family who have endured my attempts at karaoke will attest.




November 05, 2014 03:46
By Paul McMullen

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

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