George P. Matysek Jr. has been a member of the Catholic Review staff since 1997, serving as a staff writer, senior staff writer, assistant managing editor and now web editor.

A graduate of Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School in Essex, George holds a bachelor's degree in history and writing from what is now Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and a master's degree in history from UMBC.

A winner of more than 50 regional, national and international journalism awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C Press Association, the Catholic Press Association, Associated Church Press and National Right to Life, George has reported from Guyana, Guatemala, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.

Happily married and living in Rodgers Forge, George is the proud father of two daughters. 

Reach George at gmatysek@CatholicReview.org and follow him on Twitter @ReviewMatysek

 

 

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I have know Sister Anthony and her family all of my life. Like Sr. Anthony, the whole family is truly God loving people. Happy 100 Sr. Anthony and may God continue to bless you. Love you. Pearl

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Happy birthday Sister Anthony from your great niece Lauren. The undated photo is Sr. Anthony with her mother and 9 of her siblings.

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The Narthex

Ready to turn 100, Oblate sister is “living,” not “existing”


Oblate Sister of Providence Mary Anthony Garnier will turn 100 April 11. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)


It’s been two decades since a member of the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence has turned 100.

That’s all about to change when Oblate Sister of Providence Mary Anthony Garnier celebrates the centennial of her birth during an April 11 bash at her religious community’s motherhouse in Arbutus, where she has lived since 2013.

Alert and quick to express her opinions, Sister Anthony told me during a recent visit she’s “grateful to God for letting me stay this long.” The spirited sister wanted me to know that although she is about to turn 100, she remains independent and stays up on current events.

“I’m not just existing,” she said passionately, resting in a large rolling chair. “I’m living! And that’s just what I want to be – I want to be living and knowing what’s going on.”

Born in New Orleans as the second oldest of 13 children, Velva Garnier entered the Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1935. She had been inspired by the women religious who taught her at Corpus Christi School in New Orleans.

“I wanted to devote my life to God,” said Sister Anthony, seated in a community room beneath a large crucifix and an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sister Anthony could not remember facing discrimination as an African American woman growing up in the South. She noted that New Orleans has a large black Catholic community that showed strong support for women religious.




Velva Garnier (standing), is shown in a family photo with her friend, Gabrielle Detiege, prior to entering the Oblate Sisters of Providence and becoming Sister Mary Anthony Garnier. (Courtesy Oblate Sisters of Providence)

In a 1994 interview with the Baltimore Sun when she served as the sacristan at the motherhouse, however, Sister Anthony remembered  when black nuns could take Communion only after white communicants had received the sacrament.

"We have an extra blessing from God as a race," she told The Sun. "Being from the South, I can tell you some awful stuff. But my mother said that eventually God would take care of you. And that's also what our order believes: If we put things in God's hands, God will provide."

The Oblate Sisters of Providence were founded by Mother Mary Lange in 1829 to educate and evangelize African Americans. For 188 years, they have ministered at St. Frances Academy in East Baltimore, a historic school founded by Mother Lange that is proud to be the oldest continuously operating black Catholic school in the nation.

Throughout her many decades of ministry, Sister Anthony worked mostly in Catholic education. In addition to Baltimore, where she spent time at St. Frances Academy and the motherhouse, she served in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Missouri. She was in active ministry in Buffalo, N.Y., for nine years before returning to the motherhouse at age 97.



Oblate Sister of Providence Mary Anthony Garnier is shown in an undated photo. (Courtesy Oblate Sisters of Providence)

“Sister Anthony always loved to talk to little children,” said Oblate Sister of Providence Trinita Baeza, the nun who tipped me off about her friend’s upcoming birthday. “She would hug them and encourage them to be good. She would sit in the office and be the goodwill person – the kind of person who could be a third neutral party that could hear the child’s side and the teacher’s side.”

Sister Trinita said Sister Anthony will receive a new black veil prior to her birthday party and will be treated as the “queen for the day.” The entire community will celebrate with her, Sister Trinita said, including an Oblate sister who will turn 100 next year.

“Sister Anthony has always been so active and joy-filled,” Sister Trinita said. “She’s always able to see the good side of a situation.”

Happy birthday, Sister Anthony! Enjoy your special day!


April 06, 2016 10:32
By George Matysek


Remembering a friend

Christopher Gaul died Oct. 18, 2012. (CR file photo)

Kneeling in the small parking garage at Catholic Review headquarters about a decade ago, Christopher Gaul and I went to work changing a flat tire on his small sports utility vehicle. Gaul, my former managing editor, confidently wielded an iron wrench to unloosen lug nuts while I waited to help him remove the damaged tire.

After a few minutes, my keen journalistic powers of observation kicked in.

“Ummm, Chris,” I said, unable to contain a laugh. “You’re changing the tire that’s not flat.”

The metallic clank of a dropped tool echoed in the garage before Chris looked at me with a bemused smile. He was soon laughing with me at our automotive incompetence.

“Shut up,” Chris said in an urbane British accent. “You are not to tell anyone of this.”

Christopher Gaul was one of the great characters in the history of the Baltimore press.

Suave, intelligent, driven, funny and ambitious, Chris was a fixture at the Catholic Review from 1995 to 2005. He served in a variety of award-winning roles including senior correspondent, managing editor, associate editor and host of television and radio programs.

It will be a year Oct. 18 since Chris lost a nearly yearlong battle with lung cancer. His distinguished journalism career included stints as a reporter for The Sun and The Evening Sun, an investigative reporter and documentary film producer for WJZ-TV, and a medical reporter for WBAL-TV.

Raised in the Church of England, Chris became a Catholic as a teen a few years after his mother joined the church in the late 1940s. Gaul’s godfather was William E. Barrett, a Catholic writer whose novels include “The Left Hand of God.”

Chris long ago told me he was attracted to the romance of the Catholic Church – stories of fantastic saints and martyrs, a theology that ran deep, and liturgy that inspired awe. I always had the sense that he was on a spiritual journey – sometimes stumbling, but always staying the course.

Chris was one of my greatest mentors. I learned more from reading his eloquent prose and sitting next to him at the Catholic Review than I did in any writing course. More than that, he became a friend.

Several times a year, I visited Chris and his wife, Pam, at their Essex home not too far from where I grew up. Sometimes we enjoyed a cookout or took in a football game. On his last Christmas Eve, I joined Chris’ family for a dinner that featured his famous Yorkshire pudding. Another time, ushering in a new year, I watched the husband-and-wife team dance with their beloved Weimaraner show dogs at the stroke of midnight.

As Chris neared the end of his life, he began giving things away. He had already given me a copy of the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible (which he steadfastly described as the most eloquent Catholic translation), an icon of St. Paul and a St. George medal from France that I wore until it broke free of its chain and was lost.

In those last months, Chris also gave me spiritual books and a bag of “holy dirt” he collected while on pilgrimage to one of his favorite shrines in Santa Fe.

Fulfilling a longtime dream, Chris received special permission to make his definitive promises as a lay member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites just months before he died – even though he had not completed formation.

The day before Chris lost his battle with cancer, I visited him one final time. As a wet cloth perched on his forehead, Chris rested in bed while his beloved canines lingered nearby. On the wall hung a framed copy of Jean-Francois Millet's familiar painting of peasants pausing in a field for the Angelus – a retirement gift from The Catholic Review editorial department in honor of the tradition Chris started at the newspaper of praying the Angelus every day at noon.

Soft classical music hung in the air as I thanked Chris for being such a good friend and mentor. Within hours, he was gone.

Christopher Gaul enjoys his retirement party with some of the people he mentored:
George P. Matysek Jr., Rachel Richmond and Jennifer Williams.

I often wonder what Chris would make of the changes that have taken place in the church since his death – the stunning and humble retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of the Argentine Pope Francis.

I suspect he would be intrigued by our new pope’s emphasis on mercy, since one of Chris’ favorite prayers was a soul-searching one he borrowed from the Orthodox: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

He would be pleased, I think, to know that some of the people he mentored at The Catholic Review are using the skills he honed in them to cover these exciting times with a sense of fairness, balance and perhaps even some of his style.

Yes, Chris is gone. His legacy is not.

Rest in peace, friend.

October 17, 2013 04:39
By George Matysek


Tom Clancy never flunked English at Loyola

It certainly makes for a good story: a scrappy kid from Baltimore flunks out of an English class at what is now Loyola University Maryland only to become an international bestselling author. 

The problem is that the oft-told tale concerning Tom Clancy is just as fictitious as Jack Ryan.

“It was an urban legend that just wouldn’t die,” said Carol Abromaitis, the English professor accused of giving Clancy an F in her class. 

For decades, Abromaitis urged English majors to let others know the truth. Her efforts bore little fruit.

“One major said to me, ‘Of course not. It makes us look smart,’” Abromaitis remembered with a laugh.

Clancy, who died Oct. 1 at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore following a brief illness, was, in fact, a friend of Abromaitis and her husband, Mike. The master of the techno-thriller sometimes played war board games with Mike Abromaitis. The couple also served as the godparents of Clancy’s eldest child, baptized at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Baynesville. 

Author Tom Clancy is pictured in an undated photo at his home in Huntingtown, Md. Clancy, best known for works including "The Hunt for Red October" and "Clear and Present Danger," died Oct. 1 at age 66 after a brief illness at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. (CNS photo/courtesy David Burnett via Reuters)

At Loyola, Clancy enrolled in Abromaitis’ 18th-century literature course and an independent study focused on science fiction. The professor remembered her friend as a man with a “gifted imagination” who thoroughly researched his topic before taking on a project. When he showed up for his independent study, she said, he had a briefcase filled with books that he expected Abromaitis to read.

Clancy’s prodigious talent was evident very early on. He wrote a short story at what is now Loyola Blakefield in Towson, bringing it to Abromaitis for a critique when he began studying in college.

“It was just fabulous,” Abromaitis said. “It was about a man-eating tiger in India who had a mutation that made him have a human brain. It was totally fantasy, but it was a really good story.”

When Clancy began “The Hunt for Red October,” his first book, he sent galleys to Abromaitis. She was impressed with the work and soon hooked her husband, Mike.

“I think it was his best book,” she said.

Abromaitis noted that Clancy’s Catholic upbringing was reflected in his characters.

“He had a sense of right and wrong, good and evil,” she said. “He had a sense of the obligation to protect the weak.”

Others who knew Clancy remembered him as a man who always had a keen interest in military matters. 

“I recall planning military strategies with him, playing with little toy figures of soldiers,” said Father Gregory Rapisarda, associate pastor of several Dundalk-area parishes and Clancy’s classmate at St. Matthew School in Northwood and Loyola Blakefield. 
 
Don Lavin, a senior lecturer in economics and business at McDaniel College in Westminster, was Clancy’s classmate at Loyola Blakefield. Clancy was a member of the “brain class,” Lavin said. 

“Those were the 22 or 23 people in our class who were the smartest guys,” Lavin said.

Monsignor James Farmer, pastor of St. John in Westminster and one of Clancy’s college classmates, said his friend will be missed. 

“He was a very hardworking and interesting guy,” Monsignor Farmer said, noting that Clancy made contributions to assist children with cancer. “He held strong convictions and had a concern for people’s needs.”

October 07, 2013 11:03
By George Matysek


Baltimore sculptor honors Brooksie

A statue of Brooks Robinson is unveiled Oct. 22 outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

Before the new statue of Baltimore's beloved Brooks Robinson was unveiled last weekend beneath a blast of black, orange and white confetti outside Oriole Park, the bronze behemoth rested in a foundry in Pietrasanta, Italy. Standing right next to the likeness of the Hall of Fame third baseman was a replica of Michelangelo's David.

Joseph Sheppard, the Baltimore sculptor who crafted the Robinson statue, remembered that a friend noticed the neighboring artwork and made a prescient observation:

"Florence has their David," the friend said. "Now, Baltimore has their Brooks."

Baltimore does indeed have its Brooks - a 1,500-pound, nine-foot homage to a man many consider to be the greatest third baseman of all time and one of Charm City's most beloved adopted citizens.

Sheppard, the man who sculpted the statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II in Baltimore and who painted a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI, called it an honor to be chosen to work on the figure. He examined nearly 100 photos of Robinson in action - choosing to depict Number Five standing at third base with ball in hand, ready to gun down a runner at first. The statue is aligned with the actual third base of Oriole Park, with Robinson facing first.

In recognition of Robinson's 16 Gold Gloves, a glittering glove of that hue is fitted over the figure's hand.

Sheppard told me that the baseball statue was "much more difficult" than the statue of Blessed John Paul II because it was so much bigger. By contrast, the papal figure is 850 pounds and stands seven feet tall.

On seeing the statue for the first time after its unveiling, an emotional Robinson declared it "beautiful" and called Sheppard "truly a genius."

A convert to Catholicism who has supported the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Baltimore charities, Robinson thanked a long string of supporters that included civic leaders, his wife and fans he described as "friends."

"God has blessed me abundantly," Robinson said.

And God has blessed us with Brooks.

Check out these photos and excerpts from Robinson's speech:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF7DVDwO3Cw]

October 26, 2011 04:31
By George Matysek


Mayoral candidate might be on to something with voucher proposal

Otis Rolley unveils an education voucher proposal June 13 in Baltimore. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

Otis Rolley is trying to shake things up in his bid to succeed Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as the next mayor of Baltimore.

During a June 13 press conference outside public school headquarters on North Avenue, Rolley said he wanted to close the city's five worst-performing middle schools and give $10,000 education vouchers to the affected students. The vouchers could be used at Catholic and other nonpublic middle schools in Baltimore. (See The Catholic Review story here).

During the news conference, I asked Rolley what he thought about the contributions made by Catholic schools in the city.  I was impressed that the former Baltimore City director of planning viewed Catholic schools as allies - not enemies - in the common goal of educating children.

"When I think of city kids in city schools, it's public, parochial and independent schools," he said. "All of these kids are our kids. All of these schools are our schools."

That's a sentiment that's not always popular in some education circles - although Dr. Andres Alonso, current Baltimore public schools CEO, has gained kudos from Catholic school leaders for keeping lines of communication open between the systems and for serving on Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien's Blue Ribbon Commission on Catholic education.

Rolley's plan isn't perfect, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Pamela Sanders, principal of St. Ambrose School in Park Heights, pointed out that it will face stiff opposition from teachers unions and others. Rolley will also have legal issues to overcome in appropriating $25 million from the city schools' budget for the voucher program.

Ellen Robertson, associate director for education with the Maryland Catholic Conference, said there might be some challenges with the candidate's requirement that enrolled children maintain a consistent level of achievement to be eligible for vouchers.

"These students are coming from underperforming schools to start with," said Robertson, who was eager to see more specifics in the Rolley plan. "It might be putting a lot of pressure on them."

Yet, as both Sanders and Robertson pointed out, it's a step in the right direction for a candidate to put vouchers squarely on the line for public debate.

"At least people are talking about it," Sanders said. "Putting the question out there raises awareness."

Catholic schools in the city have consistently produced students who go on to earn college degrees and become productive citizens. Yet, because of increased expenses and declining enrollment, they have struggled to stay open in recent years. Vouchers could be a way of bolstering Catholic schools, while also improving educational opportunities for kids stuck in underperforming public schools.

It will be interesting to see whether Rolley's proposal gains any traction. In the coming months, The Catholic Review will followup on the plan and explore where the other candidates stand.

Rolley deserves credit for including Catholic and nonpublic schools in his vision for making Baltimore a better place.

"I know defenders of the status quo will attack me and my ideas," Rolley said. "My plan provides hope to parents of current students."

June 15, 2011 12:05
By George Matysek


VIDEO REPORT: Baltimore remembers the first bloodshed of the Civil War

Last Thursday's issue of The Catholic Review reported on the 150th anniversary of the Pratt Street Riot in Baltimore, a bitter conflict that resulted in the first blood spilled in the Civil War.

The city officially commemorated that event with a procession along Pratt Street this morning.  I had a chance to cover it.  Check out this video report:



April 16, 2011 09:05
By George Matysek


Oh, oh, oh -- C'mon O-rioles!

After spending more than a decade in the baseball wilderness, long-suffering fans of the Baltimore Orioles have reason for hope on this Opening Day.

When the O's take on Tampa tonight in Florida, they'll do it with a solid lineup stocked with sluggers like Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Luke Scott, Brian Roberts and Mark Reynolds. They'll have promising pitchers, and - perhaps most importantly, a hard-driving leader in Buck Showalter who proved last year how much he can get out of his players.

In this week's Catholic Review, my good friend Matt Palmer has a cover story about the high hopes of O's fans this year. You'll want to check it out here. Also, a day after the O's legendary Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson was admitted to the hospital, you might also want to look at this story I did last year on the great third baseman's Catholic faith and how it helps him with his health challenges.

1997 was the last time the O's had a winning season, when they went wire-to-wire in the American League East. It's time the Birds got back in the game. I know this season ticket holder is as about excited as you can get. Let's go O's!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33lpnuDI5_o&feature=player_embedded]

April 01, 2011 06:54
By George Matysek


Mystery of George Washington's missing (and recovered) letter to Catholics

Part of a 1790 letter to Catholics written by President George Washington is shown in this photograph. The letter is housed in the archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. (Courtesy Archdiocese of Baltimore)

In honor of President’s Day, tomorrow’s issue of The Catholic Review will feature an article on a very valuable letter housed in the archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Written to Catholics of the United States by President George Washington, the March 12, 1790 note was in response to an earlier message sent to the new president by Baltimore Bishop John Carroll on behalf of American Catholics. The bishop had congratulated the new leader on his election and asked him to promote religious freedom.

“I hope ever to see America among the foremost Nations in examples of Justice and Liberality,” Washington wrote in reply.

In researching the historic letter, I was surprised to learn that the precious artifact had gone missing for an unknown period of time early in the 20th century. Neither the current archivist nor her predecessor knew the circumstances of the departure. Not even Father Michael Roach, an esteemed professor of Church history at Mount St. Mary’s University Seminary in Emmitsburg, knew of the mystery.

According to a 1922 biography of Carroll, written by Peter Guilday, the letter had been housed until 1865 in the archives of what then was the Cathedral of the Assumption in Baltimore. It  was loaned to John Gilmary Shea, a layman, that same year before it was returned  Sept. 7, 1866.

Guilday wrote that the letter went missing in 1908. It’s not clear how long it was gone or when it was returned.

According to a 1916 article in the New York Times, the letter had last been kept in a “fireproof vault beneath the sanctuary of the cathedral." Archdiocesan leaders realized it had vanished as they were indexing the many thousands of historic documents at the time.

“The envelope which contained it, marked ‘Original Letter of G. Washington to Catholics U. States,’” is in its usual place,” the New York Times reported. “But it is empty. A thorough search is being made, for the loss is a matter of great concern.”

If anyone  knows more about the history of the missing and recovered letter, let me know.  I’d love to be able to unravel the mystery.

February 16, 2011 11:56
By George Matysek


Vlad brings big faith with his big bat

2008 Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

With the much-anticipated signing of Vladimir Guerrero, the Baltimore Orioles are getting a proven slugger with a reputation for some amazingly freewheeling swings. (Two years ago in Baltimore, the Dominican superstar famously smacked a bloop single against the O's by connecting on a pitch that bounced in front of the plate).

Yet, there's something else the long-suffering birds might be getting with their latest signing: a man of deep Christian faith who says he takes his Bible with him everywhere he goes.

Check out these snips from a 2007 Los Angeles Times article when Vlad played for the Angels:

Two hours before taking the field for the game that would give his team the division title, the Angels’ best hitter is sitting on the floor in a tiny room behind home plate at Angel Stadium, a Bible in his lap.

Vladimir Guerrero may fear no pitcher, but he’s a little nervous about God.

“I comfort myself with the Bible,” Guerrero says. “It’s like having my family there.”

In that case, Guerrero is truly blessed on this morning because he has both: the good book and members of his extended family, namely the handful of Spanish-speaking teammates he gathers every Sunday for a short chapel service led by broadcaster Jose Mota.

Today’s reading comes from Galatians 2:20, in which Paul talks about commitment and example. So Mota asks the players to name the person whose example they’ve followed in life.

Guerrero breaks into a wide smile. It’s as if Mota has thrown a batting practice fastball right in his wheelhouse.

“My mother,” he says. ... Teammate Erick Aybar says Guerrero is humble, likening him to a second father.

“He’s a good guy,” adds the Dodgers’ Wilson Valdez, who works out with Guerrero in the Dominican each winter. “Everybody likes him.”

Guerrero, who habitually speaks of himself in the third person, believing the pronouns “I” or “me” to be boastful, laughs off such praise.

For Mota, among Guerrero’s closest friends, such modesty is a product of the two most important things in his life: faith and family.

“He’s seen the examples of guys that have not been humbled,” he says. “They move away, they come back and they don’t even relate to the people they grew up with. That’s what Vladdy doesn’t want to do.

“If this ended for Vladdy right now, he’d be out in the fields doing the crops. Happily. If this ended today, Vladdy would be Vladdy. Just somewhere else.”

 Much more here.

February 05, 2011 05:22
By George Matysek


Bishop Galeone, Baltimore's gift to Florida, says farewell

St. Augustine Bishop Victor B. Galeone is shown in his Baltimore days. (Catholic Review file photo)

In the course of more than 13 years writing for The Catholic Review, I’ve interviewed thousands of people. Only one asked to begin with a prayer.

Monsignor Victor B. Galeone had just returned to Maryland in 2000 after leading a two-week archdiocesan mission to Gonaives, Baltimore’s sister diocese in Haiti. Before I could get out my first question, the humble pastor of St. Agnes in Catonsville bowed his head and asked me to join him. After making the Sign of the Cross, he prayed for God to bless the interview. He then called on the Holy Spirit to guide my questions and his answers.

It was a simple, but powerful moment - one I've never forgotten.  Although priests and parishioners had often told me of Monsignor Galeone's holiness, that was the first time I experienced it personally. 

Almost exactly one year after that interview, I had the honor of covering Monsignor Galeone's episcopal ordination and installation as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida.  Addressing his new flock after his installation, Bishop Galeone said his vision for the future was to "make Jesus better known and loved and imitated as the Lord of our lives."

It seems Baltimore's much-loved gift to Florida has fulfilled his mission.

Bishop Galeone submitted his resignation letter to Pope Benedict XVI last year as required by Church law when he turned 75. A farewell Mass was celebrated in November. The Diocese of St. Augustine has posted tributes to the bishop - a spiritual leader unafraid to speak up in defense of human life, in support of marriage and in solidarity with the poor.

Here is Bishop Galeone's farewell homily, touching on the past, present and future:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmGXa7GGFPI]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8nuqi2wlik]

February 01, 2011 08:29
By George Matysek

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