Paul McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review.


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Great article Paul. Really enjoyed reading it!


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



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Baltimore Boomer

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

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

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

Rags, Viv and the woman who led me to St. Francis of Assisi

Why do you go to a particular church? Maybe it’s for convenience or old time’s sake, but sometimes we are recruited. I was reminded of that May 25, at the funeral of Sharon Bialek at the Shrine of the Little Flower on Belair Road. I had visited the church previously, but it was my first Mass there, thanks to Fran Gast.

In April 1985, I covered high school sports for The Evening Sun. Then and now, I loved family stories, and jumped on the opportunity to write about the Gast brothers, who were pitching against each other, sophomore John for McDonogh and senior Joe for Calvert Hall. Before the game at Calvert Hall, I introduced myself to their mom, Fran. The Gasts lived in Mayfield and attended church there. When I informed her that my expectant wife and I were going to be relative neighbors in northeast Baltimore, as we were settling on our first home, a short walk from Little Flower, she proceeded to change my life.

“You’re not going to Little Flower,” Fran said. “You’re going to St. Francis of Assisi.”

Over the next 18 years, baptisms to first Communions to funerals, whether it was from a rowhome on Herring Run Park, a Cape Cod in Hamilton or a Victorian in Mayfield, my family worshipped at St. Francis – all because one of its parishioners invited a stranger to her church.

Fran Gast and her husband, Robert, celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary.

There are other layers to our continuing connection.

The Catholic Review has written about WJZ-Ch. 13 sports anchor Mark Viviano and his brother, Tony, a priest in their native St. Louis. When “Viv” first came to Baltimore, he worked in the same newsroom with John Gast. The two became teammates in the Baltimore Baseball League and fast friends. Viv is godfather to John’s son, John Robert, and has likened Fran Gast to his surrogate mom in his adopted hometown. 

These days, Viv is a very serious runner, a teammate of mine and our hammer every October in the Baltimore Running Festival’s marathon relay, where we race for a good cause, Mark Ragonese, everybody’s buddy. On June 15, Mark, Comcast sports anchor Brent Harris and I are raising funds for “Rags” in the Baltimore 10-Miler.

Near its halfway point, the course loops around Lake Montebello, across Harford Road from St. Francis of Assisi. Hope Fran Gast is there to give us a hug. 

Mark Ragonese on the rehab trail

June 13, 2013 09:28
By Paul McMullen