A photo of Art Modell accompanied a 2003 story in the Catholic Review.
(George P. Matysek Jr. | CR Staff)
I only had a chance to interview Art Modell once in my journalism career.
A few days before the then-owner of the Baltimore Ravens was to be honored by the National Catholic Educational Association in 2003, I was assigned to find out why this Jewish businessman from Brooklyn, N.Y., was spending part of his fortune boosting Catholic schools in inner-city Baltimore.
Shortly after moving the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996, Modell made a major five-year gift to support the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Partners in Excellence program. Co-sponsored by the archdiocese and more than 400 philanthropies, businesses and private benefactors, the program has provided more than $22 million in tuition assistance to thousands of Baltimore families since Cardinal William H. Keeler launched it in the same year Modell arrived in Charm City.
Seated in a white golf cart on the sidelines of the Ravens’ practice facility in Owings Mills, Modell told me he was happy to spend his money on a worthy cause like Catholic education. Catholic schools are well-known for inculcating values and discipline in their students, he said, and the Catholic school system was “the best anywhere.” He was impressed with Partners in Excellence, he said, because it is “a good program that can benefit anyone no matter their religion."
Modell noted that his more than three decades as an owner of a professional football team gave him unique insights into the far-reaching value of education.
“Thousands of football players have gone through my system,” Modell explained, whose Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV.
“Invariably, when you research their background, there’s a connection between the schools they’ve come from and what they’re like,” he said. “The ones who had a good education invariably turn out to be the better guys in terms of character and commitment.”
Together with his wife, Patricia – whose funeral was offered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore nearly a year ago – Modell also made contributions to the basilica’s restoration, Catholic Charities, the House of Ruth, the Hospice of Baltimore and other charitable causes.
As much as I remember Modell’s matter-of-fact answers to my questions, I will also always remember his legendary wit.
As his players raced up and down the field preparing for a big game with the Kansas City Chiefs nearly a decade ago, the white-haired businessman reiterated how he took delight in supporting a good cause such as Catholic education. Then, he paused.
"It’s better than taking my wife to Neiman Marcus," he quipped.
Art Modell died Sept. 6 at age 87. Funeral arrangements are pending.
September 06, 2012 11:49
By George Matysek
As leaders of the world's economic powerhouses meet at Camp David in the Catoctin Mountains this weekend, parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Thurmont are putting out the welcome mat.
Barbara Anderson, pastoral life director of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Anthony Shrine in Emmitsburg, sent me these photos showing how Mount Carmel is inviting G8 visitors to stop by the parish for worship. The top photo shows the message parishioners posted on a sign outside Mount Carmel. Below is a shot of how the town decorated a Main Street park.
Pretty cool idea, huh? I'm sure we will hear much more if President Obama or any of the other dignitaries take parishioners up on their invitation. With the state of the global economy and its devastating impact on the poor, prayer could definitely do some good.
May 19, 2012 01:02
By George Matysek
If you plan to be the keynote speaker before a group of award-winning journalists, be ready for some challenging and unexpected questions.
That’s what Chris Cillizza discovered April 20 after giving a talk at the 2012 awards conference for the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, held at the Four Point Sheraton BWI Hotel in Baltimore.
When the well-known Washington Post political blogger opened the floor to questions, one journalist asked how Cillizza’s personal faith influenced his reporting.
Cillizza, a Georgetown graduate, responded initially by speaking more broadly about how today's journalists cover those who take their faith seriously – noting that he didn’t think “liberals in the press” were trying to organize a secret plan hostile to believers.
“But I do think that there is a skepticism that exists about people of deep faith,” he said. “I think it comes out sometimes in the language we (use to) cover them. The thing that bugs me is the whole ‘animal-in-a-cage’ way we can sometimes cover people of faith – like, ‘Hey, look what he says over there! It’s the evangelical voter!’”
Cillizza pointed out that a devout believer is not an uncommon person in America.
Then, realizing he really wasn’t answering the question about how faith might influence his own reporting, Cillizza said he himself is a “person of faith.”
“I was raised Catholic,” he said. “I like to think it doesn’t impact (reporting) all that much in a negative or a positive way. I mean, I am someone who believes, but – (just) like I try not to let what I think of certain politicians impact the way I cover things, I’d put (my faith) in that same basket.”
Cillizza, a regular contributor to MSNBC, said he tries to “make sure I’m giving enough attention and not treating people of faith like ‘other’ in my coverage.”
“I don’t know if that’s my own faith speaking as much as my frustration with the fact that that is sometimes how things get covered – not necessarily by the Post, but in general in national politics,” he said.
Here's how the Catholic Review did in this year's MDDC Press Association's competition. Read "The Fix," Cillizza's political blog, here.
April 26, 2012 10:52
By George Matysek
“More reach than you realize.”
That was one of the slogans the Catholic Review used a few years back as a way of getting people thinking about how the newspaper connects with the wider community.
During a recent talk for a Theology on Tap group at the Greene Turtle in Fells Point, Christopher Gunty, editor/associate publisher of the Catholic Review, told a story that seemed tailor-made for that old slogan.
Recalling his time working as an editor for a Catholic newspaper in another diocese, Gunty recounted how a divorced woman noticed his newspaper sitting on her mother’s coffee table. While waiting for her mother to prepare for a dinner outing, the woman flipped through the issue and came across an article about annulments. It was the second of a three-part series on divorced Catholics.
The woman asked for a copy of the previous week’s issue – taking time to read more about the church’s outreach to the divorced. She had been away from the church for a long time because she was convinced that a divorced person could not receive the sacraments.
The following week, the daughter started her annulment process. She found the kind of healing she needed, Gunty said.
“Einstein’s been quoted as saying that coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous,” Gunty said. “If it’s just coincidence that we published that when the woman needed to read it most, then God is my assistant editor or vice versa.”
Those who work in the Catholic press never know if what they write is going to touch someone, Gunty said, but experiences like that of the divorced woman “happen all the time.”
These days, one of the slogans of the Catholic Review is, “Wherever your faith takes you.” In an age of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and an endlessly evolving social media landscape, the newspaper is striving to have a presence wherever Catholics may be.
In his talk, Gunty said it is important for Catholic media outlets to build community. That can be a challenge – especially when the English-language edition of the official Vatican newspaper has 85,000 followers on Twitter while Ashton Kutcher has more than 10 million, he said. Yet, it is absolutely necessary.
“Who’ s got the more relevant message?” Gunty wondered. “Whose message do people need to hear?”
With a brand-new website, a revamped print product, accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and several other new initiatives, the Catholic Review is working to be everywhere it can to inform, inspire and engage.
Check out Gunty’s full Theology on Tap talk below. He addresses the emergence of social media, Church statements on communications and new initiatives at the Catholic Review. He also fields some interesting questions at the end.
April 24, 2012 12:21
By George Matysek
Chris Matthews, popular host of MSNBC’s ‘Hardball,’ was in town last week - plugging ‘Elusive Hero,’ his new book on President John F. Kennedy. During a public question-and-answer session following an appearance at the Enoch Pratt Free Library downtown, the tough-talking Matthews struck me as a bit conflicted.
While he asserted that morality “belongs in public life,” Matthews added bombastically that “we don’t want sharia of the Christian sort.”
“It’s always going to be a tricky question to what extent we bring our values to political life,” he said, dismissing recent cultural skirmishes as little more than candidates seeking advantages with their core constituencies.
“If you said to everyone in America (that) you can’t eat meat on Friday, that would be absurd,” said Matthews, whose aunt is a Catholic religious sister. “If you take religious precepts and apply them to the law, I think you’re missing the point. But, do we have communitarian values and love? Do we take those values with us? Of course we do.”
Matthews pointed out that the Civil Rights movement would not have happened without people of faith bringing their values to the public square. In the same breath, however - and without any sense of irony - Matthews said he'd oppose those who would seek an end to legalized abortion.
“In all fairness,” he insisted, “if someone said abortion was illegal, punishable by criminal sanctions, well, liberals like me would get involved in changing it because we have values too.”
In addressing the legacy of President Kennedy, the former longtime aid to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill praised the late president’s strong leadership during the Cuban missile crisis and his heroism during the Second World War.
Kennedy was effective, Matthews said, because he built alliances and was a natural leader who inspired people to follow him.
That’s not the case with President Barack Obama, Matthews said.
“Obama doesn’t have great organizational skills,” he asserted. “He goes home at night with Michelle. He doesn’t build relationships with people. He’s a solo act. Solo acts are very dangerous because that means you have no one backing you up.”
Matthews, who famously said during the 2008 presidential race that he had a “thrill” go up his leg while listening to an Obama speech, held out hope that Obama can become a great leader.
March 13, 2012 02:46
By George Matysek
Trinitarian Father Stan DeBoe (CR photo illustration/Robert Thompson)
Charles Hauboldt, a Texas funeral home owner, wants nothing more than to see his Houston Texans bury the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl drive at this Sunday’s big game at M&T Bank Stadium. He’ll get his chance as the winning bidder for a playoff ticket auctioned by a Texas Catholic priest and rabid Ravens’ fan.
Hauboldt’s high bid of $2,115 won him the ticket, a flight to Baltimore, lodging and ground transportation – not to mention the chance to sit next to Trinitarian Father Stan DeBoe, the man who put the ticket up for grabs. The money will be used to help purchase a bus for Father DeBoe’s parish, Our Lady of Sorrows in Victoria, Texas.
Father DeBoe, whose parishioners often make use of Hauboldt’s funeral home, invited his friend to participate in the auction. The winner had to contend with some last-minute competing bids, but still came out on top.
“Father Stan and I will have a blast,” Hauboldt said.
Will there be any smack talk between them?
“I’m sure there will,” Hauboldt said with a laugh. “People will know who I’m supporting after the first few plays – and I know he will be on the other side.”
As reported yesterday on The Catholic Review’s website, Father DeBoe has been a Ravens season ticket holder since the team began playing in 1996. The Pittsburgh native caught Ravens fever while he was ministering in the Baltimore-Washington area and in residence at St. Lawrence, Jessup.
The auction has been a great morale booster for his Texas parish, Father DeBoe said. He received a total of approximately 15 bids.
Father DeBoe, who plans to attend Mass at the Catholic Community at Relay on game day, said he also received a call from the Baltimore Ravens.
“They said they were glad to know they had a supporter in Texas,” Father DeBoe said. “It was great that with everything they have to do, they took the time to call. I really appreciated it.”
The priest heard from his bishop, who quipped that Father DeBoe’s departure to Baltimore “was the worst-kept secret getaway” he’d ever seen.
Hauboldt, a Lutheran, said he wanted to help Father DeBoe’s church as a way of giving back to the community. He also supports other Victoria-area churches.
“It’s always good to support local community functions or charities,” he said.
January 13, 2012 04:26
By George Matysek
Pope Benedict XVI presents the pallium to Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien in 2008 in Rome. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope Benedict XVI announced today that Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, will become a cardinal! Cardinal-designate O'Brien will be elevated at a consistory to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on February 18.
Check out The Catholic Review story here.
Stay with The Catholic Review for more on this breaking story throughout the day!
January 06, 2012 06:27
By George Matysek
John Gehring, a former writer for The Catholic Review, has a provocative piece on The Huffington Post: "The Catholic Case Against Rick Santorum."
It's easy to see why Santorum might appeal to some culturally conservative Catholics and moderate evangelicals who are wary of Democrats but also turned off by the Republican Party's cozy embrace of economic libertarianism and tireless defense of struggling millionaires. Santorum is more comfortable with communitarian language, has been a strong supporter of foreign aid to impoverished countries and connects with personal stories of his blue-collar upbringing.
But it's a political delusion to think Rick Santorum is a standard-bearer of authentic Catholic values in politics. In fact, on several issues central to Catholic social teaching -- torture, war, immigration, climate change, the widening gap between rich and poor and workers' rights - Santorum is radically out of step with his faith's teachings as articulated by Catholic bishops and several popes over the centuries.
Read the rest here. What do you think?
January 06, 2012 05:07
By George Matysek
Since this blog was launched in November of 2010, it has logged more than 35,000 page views. In 2011 alone, The Narthex had about 29,000 page views.
As a new year gets started, I wanted to thank everyone who has taken the time to read these posts. I hope you find them interesting and I look forward to doing even more in 2012. If you have any ideas for blog entries, please share them. I'm always on the lookout for good stuff!
WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here's an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Click here to see the complete report.
January 02, 2012 09:22
By George Matysek
Clerics brawl with broomsticks at the site where Jesus is believed to have been born. (BBC image)
Two days after the world celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace, things weren't so peaceful at the Bethlehem church built on what is believed to be the site of Jesus' nativity.
Brandishing brooms, 100 black-robed Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics fought one another inside the Basilica of the Nativity after a dispute broke out during the cleaning of the church. Palestinian police broke up the fray.
Tensions have long been high at the 1,700-year-old church, as different Christian denominations continually squabble over the administration of the holy site.
The BBC has the story, along with the sad video here.
December 29, 2011 08:50
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