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

 

 

Archive

August 2016
July 2016
Go

Email Subscription

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Comments

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

VIEW POST

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

VIEW POST
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


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


Name tags go high-tech in Gambrills

Visitor name tag from School of the Incarnation, Gambrills.

Last week, while spending some time at School of the Incarnation in Gambrills for a heart-warming story on homeless outreach, I was amazed by the Anne Arundel County school’s snazzy system for admitting visitors.

As soon as I was buzzed in, I was asked to present my driver’s license – which a receptionist electronically swiped and used to print out a name tag with an image from my license, along with the date and time I checked in and the purpose of my visit.

What I didn’t know, but was later told by Lisa Shipley, principal, was that each time the driver’s licenses of visitors are swiped, a computerized system instantly checks the sex offenders registry to see if any names match. Using a software program called “Raptor,” the system instantaneously notifies the school of potential problems.

“Parents are very happy with it,” Shipley said. “It’s an extra measure of security.”

Should the system identify a sexual offender, an alert is sent to Shipley’s cell phone and other responders. School officials immediately notify the police. The system also has a customizable feature so that if a certain parent does not have custody of his or her child, the school will know if that person is attempting to pick up that student.

Incarnation began using Raptor this year. The software costs between $400-$500 annually, plus expenses for the label printer and labels. In addition to driver’s licenses, it can scan passports and other government identity cards.

Shipley noted that the school has not had any problems with someone coming on campus who should not be there. The system cross checks birth dates and addresses so that those with common names are not misidentified. Photos of sex offenders with the same name as a visitor are shown on the school's computer screen as another visual aid for confirming a person's identity. Once a parent or other adult is scanned in the system, he or she does not have to provide the license again since the information is kept on file to be re-scanned with a bar code.

"Our staff uses it to sign in and out," Shipley said. "It's nice because we can see who is in our building at any time - staff or visitors."

Sounds like a pretty good system to me.

December 20, 2011 05:12
By George Matysek


Voucher-fueled enrollment boom in Indiana

A new school-voucher program in Indiana is prompting a spike in enrollment among Catholic schools that were once on the verge of closing. Bloomberg Businessweek has the scoop:

Under a law signed in May by Gov. Mitch Daniels, more than 3,200 Indiana students are receiving vouchers to attend private schools. That number is expected to climb significantly in the next two years as awareness of the program increases and limits on the number of applicants are lifted.

The vouchers are government-issued certificates that can be applied to private tuition, essentially allowing parents to channel some of the tax dollars they would normally pay to public schools to other institutions.

Until Indiana started its program, most voucher systems were limited to poor students, those in failing schools or those with special needs. But Indiana's is significantly larger, offering money to students from middle-class homes and solid school districts.

Nearly 70 percent of the vouchers approved statewide are for students opting to attend Catholic schools, according to figures provided to The Associated Press by the five dioceses in Indiana. The majority are in the urban areas of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Gary, where many public schools have long struggled.

John Elcesser, executive director of the Indiana Non-Public Education Association, said it's not surprising that Catholic schools are receiving so many of the vouchers, even though they make up fewer than half of the 415 schools in the group.

Most Catholic schools already had state accreditation, which some private schools lack. And they are more established and have more space available, he said.

John West, an attorney for a group suing to stop the Indiana program, said during a hearing on the issue that only six of the 240 private schools that have signed up for the voucher program are secular.

Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School in South Bend is among those institutions reaping the benefits of the vouchers. Just two years ago, it was threatened with closure by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. At the time, the bishop said several other schools were at risk of closing, too.

Now enrollment at Our Lady of Hungary has jumped nearly 60 percent over last year, largely because of an influx of voucher students. The halls are bustling more than they have in years.

"This has exceeded all crazy expectations," Principal Melissa Jay said.

Read more here.

 

August 31, 2011 08:08
By George Matysek


Man in the know thinks archbishop will be good fit for Holy Land

Bishop Denis J. Madden (second from right) joins archdiocesan leaders at an Aug. 29 press conference highlighting Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien's appointment to a Vatican office. (CR Photo/Bill McAllen)

Bishop Denis J. Madden knows something about the Holy Land.

From 1994-1996, Bishop Madden was the Director of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine office in Jerusalem before serving as director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association from 1996-2005.

Among his duties while with the CNEWA, Bishop Madden was the chief negotiator among the three ecclesiastical authorities responsible for repairing the dome of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem.

As Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien prepares to take on a new role defending Christianity in the Holy Land as pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order (Knights) of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, he will find a knowledgeable friend in Bishop Madden.

I asked Bishop Madden about the news of Archbishop O'Brien's appointment and the challenges the archbishop will face in the Holy Land. Bishop Madden praised Archbishop O'Brien for showing courage in addressing difficult challenges in Baltimore. He also described the archbishop as a good fit for the Holy Land. Take a listen to Bishop Madden's responses below.

August 29, 2011 04:10
By George Matysek


Treat everyone as if they were good

Todd Whitaker speaks Aug. 22 at the Convocation of Catholic Schools in Baltimore. (CR Staff/George P. Matysek Jr.)

Do you know how you come across to others?  If you do, there's a good chance you are highly effective in your job and other areas of your life.  If not, well, you might want to make a few changes.

In an Aug. 22 keynote address to more than 2,000 educators from across the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Todd Whitaker talked about what makes great teachers - and people - different from others. He challenged  educators to treat everyone as if they were good -- even the so-called "crummy" kids, teachers or parents.

Whitaker is a professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University and author of the best-selling, "What Great Teachers do Differently."

Here's an audio clip from his talk, which was delivered at the Baltimore Convention Center.  While directed at educators, the message applies to everyone.  It's worth a listen.  Whitaker is an engaging and funny speaker.

Click here for complete Catholic Review coverage of the convocation.

August 24, 2011 01:12
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


Dr. Nancy Grasmick's retirement is a loss for Catholic schools

Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, superintendent of Maryland public schools, meets with Dr. Ronald J. Valenti, former superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, in 2006. (CR file photo/Owen Sweeney III)

Today's announcement that Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick is stepping down as the longtime superintendent of Maryland public schools may well be a loss for Catholic schools as much as it is for public ones.

During her 20-year tenure, Dr. Grasmick has been a consistent ally of the Catholic school system - a rarity in a nation where public and private systems often view one another with suspician.

With her support, Maryland's private and parochial school athletic associations approved standards of competition for athletics, with the state sanctioning Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association events.

Dr. Grasmick's department has long administered the state program that provides nonreligious textbooks in nonpublic schools. She also supported a plan that allows teachers in the Catholic school system to process their re-certification requirements through the archdiocesan superintendent's office.

For the last several years, Dr. Grasmick has served on Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien's Blue Ribbon Committee on Catholic Schools that has examined ways of strengthening Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick visited Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore in 2006. (CR File/Owen Sweeny III)

I interviewed Dr. Grasmick in 2006 after she spent some time visiting Archbishop Curley High School. She was investigating the Baltimore City school to gain insights that might be applied to the reform of public high schools.

Dr. Grasmick told me that some of her counterparts in other parts of the country react with "pure shock" when they learn of her cooperation with private schools.

"In most states, it's a very contentious relationship between the public schools and the nonpublic schools," she said. "There's no communication and little respect. It's like a competition."

The superintendent said she believes that education, whether offered in public or private schools, must benefit all children. 

For the good of education throughout the state, let's hope Dr. Grasmick's successor feels the same way.

March 30, 2011 04:46
By George Matysek


Parents say summer vacation matters too

Not everyone is pleased with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' decision to extend the academic calendar by 20 days in its Catholic elementary schools.

Ava Baldwin, a former presdent of the Parent Teacher Organization at St. Joseph Elementary School, says any lengthening of the school year should be made after consulting with parents. "The vast majority of us don't see the need," she said. (Stephen Carr/Press-Telegram)

Nancy Brown, whose children attend St. Cornelius Catholic School, 3330 Bellflower Blvd., said time out of the classroom, for traveling, summer camp and family outings is just as important.

"The church has always said its focus is on the child as a whole," she said. "There's more to a child than just the academic production."

"We prize our time with our children," added dad Alex Fraga, whose two children attend St. Cornelius.

Paul Regan, whose children attend St. Joseph, said the diocese should consider adding 45 minutes to the school day, which would amount to the same time as a 20-day increase.

"Twenty days is too long; they're basically adding another month," he said. "There should be another way."

The tuition increase will vary from school to school and the diocese has said it would work with low-income families.

The increase from a 180-day to a 200-day academic calendar will affect most of the diocese's 210 elementary schools and more than 52,000 students in the archdiocese's area, which includes schools in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Long Beach's Press-Telegram has more here.

January 31, 2011 06:52
By George Matysek


Los Angeles archdiocese extending school year

Cardinal Roger Mahony announced last week that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is extending the school year for Catholic elementary schools by 20 days. 

The Tidings, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, has the story:

At a time when California public schools have fewer instructional days due to the state budget crisis, Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese will be moving to an extended school year this fall, adding four weeks of instruction.

According to Kevin Baxter, archdiocesan superintendent of elementary schools, the plan as announced at a principals' meeting last week is for as many schools as possible to adopt a 200-day academic calendar for the 2011-12 school year, increasing instruction by approximately 20 days.

All of the archdiocese's 210 parish elementary schools, with an enrollment of 52,000 students, will be operating under the 200-day calendar by the 2012-13 school year. Local Catholic schools will retain flexibility in setting start and end dates for individual site calendars, though the academic year must conclude by June 30 each year.

The increase in the number of days will essentially add four weeks to the calendar, establishing an 11-month school year vs. the 10-month year currently maintained in alignment with California state requirements.

In 2009, due to the ongoing recession, the California legislature reduced the minimum number of days of schooling to 175 from the U.S. standard of a 180-day school year.

"The U.S. is kind of at the bottom with regard to length of the school year," Baxter pointed out. "A lot of countries --- like Indonesia, Japan, China and Singapore --- have 220-230 days and they outperform us on international tests because we're really in the middle of the pack."

He noted that extending the academic calendar is a school reform idea that has been heralded for years, including recently by President Barack Obama.

"The relationship between more substantive, effective time in an academic setting and increased student performance is clear and the elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are responding to this critical national issue in order that our students grow up to be successful leaders in the global workforce," said Baxter.

Under the extended school year plan, elementary schools will have 200 academic days, plus three designated teacher development days and one day allocated for spiritual retreat. The 10 percent increase in instructional time will result in a 10 percent increase in salaries for staff. An increase in tuition cost is expected at most schools, although anticipated enrollment increases may offset the level of increase.

More here.

January 30, 2011 07:04
By George Matysek

« Older Entries