Friday, December 2, 2016

What we have in common

When I was much younger, I thought Catholic university students were all alike. I stereotyped them as young, white, Catholic, middle-class or wealthy, straight, and backed by generations of college graduates.

As we see at Madonna, that stereotype doesn't hold. We're young, old, white, black, Asian, South American, European, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or Agnostic. We come from all socioeconomic levels, and some of us are members of the LGBTQ community. This presidential election, we didn't all vote for the same candidate.

We're such an unlikely mix here, so what pulls us together? I hope it's our humanistic, Franciscan values, values that extend far beyond whichever theology one subscribes to (or doesn't). They include 1) respect for the dignity of each person, 2) peace and justice, 3) reverence for creation, and 4) education for truth and service. I'd like to focus on the first value listed.

It's essential to focus on the dignity of each person, especially now. As of November 18, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 867 hate incidents since the presidential election (Miller & Werner Winslow, 2016). These attacks have targeted Muslims, Hispanics, Jews, blacks, Asians, individuals with disabilities, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. Racists and xenophobes are slithering out from under their rocks, erroneously believing that anyone who isn't exactly like them isn't a "real American." White nationalist groups like the Ku Klux Klan are emboldened, trying to revive myths of racial superiority.

As a values-driven community, we need to stand up to the bullies. When we hear racial/ethnic/religious slurs, we need to stop them without hesitation. If we see someone being harassed, we need to intervene or call someone who will (the number for Public Safety is 734-432-5442). 

And yes, this is our business. Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” If we live our values, "doing nothing" in these circumstances is not an option.

For all our differences--and they are many--surely we can agree that fear and intimidation are not humanistic values. Let's keep the poisons of racism, xenophobia, harassment and debasement out of our discourse and out of our Madonna community. 

If we stand for anything, let's stand for each other.

To report a hate incident to the Southern Poverty Law Center, fill out this form:

-- Frances E. FitzGerald, Editor


Miller, C., & Werner-Winslow, A. (2016). Ten days after: Harassment and intimidation 10 days after the election. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gift of Life (Time Travel), by Joshua Johnson

Creative people dream of traveling through time and space. It turns out people have a better chance of landing on the Saturn than traveling through time. However, that does not mean it is entirely impossible. The chances are about one in a billion. Over Christmas break, that number didn’t seem so large after noticing the changes that had been done after successfully time traveling. For this to happen to me at a young age that goes to show the ratio is just a group of numbers meant to inhibit people from believing.

Around late December on Cambridge Street, everyone was pleased to know Christmas was around the corner and was well known as the most delightful time of the year. Much like every other year for me, the days were spent thinking of my past misdeeds. It was nearly impossible to remain well behaved for a month, let alone a year only to learn about financial problems on the on Christmas Day. My days were spent playing outside.

One day while playing outside in the six inch deep snow, cousin Nickolas came riding in the back seat of his mom’s car, excited to see me. My mom welcomed his mom (my aunt), with a cup of egg nog while Nick decided to stay outside and frolic in the snow with me. Once the women walked away, Nick revealed his moms spare car key and an unusual ticket which Nick immediately gave to me as a present. We put our phones in the snow to avoid pocket dialing while we took the car for a joy ride around the neighborhood. Nick parked the car on the side of a building and we continued on foot. We made it to a sign that clearly read “Danger Ahead!”. We both continued over the gate confusing the words “Danger Ahead!” with “Dessert Ahead” and thought this was a must.

Once both of our feet were planted safely on the ground, nothing seemed right. My cousin vanished in thin air and the atmosphere changed instantly from safe to sorry. At that moment it was assumed hallucinations were responsible for what was being seen right before my eyes. Comparable to a hologram, misdeeds were being presented in a surrounding grey glowing cloud. Since it was happening one by one, and sat about six feet away before the next event took place, it was stopped it and the following event appeared in its place.

After feeling confident to take on the next few problems, Nick reappeared in confusion, put a tight grip on my arm and we both reappeared in a small closed-in box. The only sounds we heard were each other’s strong breathing pattern and wind hitting up against the side of the box as if we were soaring through the sky. The wind grew silent. Then everything became completely silent which made me paranoid. Nick had fainted about an hour after and getting some sleep seemed the only logical idea to help the ever increasing anxiety.

We both woke up to the sounds of kids running down a flight stairs. They were screaming what they wanted to see once they opened their presents.  Two little girls opened the one we were in and oddly, we were just as surprised as they were because the girls were our mothers about 20 years ago. The ticket that I had in my pocket was now attached to the present we were slowly making our out of. As our mother took a few steps back, that’s when we made a break for the front door. After jumping off the porch as fast as we could, we became at ease once we found ourselves getting up from the snow where we had left our phones three hours ago. Our stories were very much alike. However, the car was still parked in the same place while my ticket and Nick’s mom’s spare keys were gone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Through an umpire's eyes, by Brett Hebel

“Strike three! You’re out!” This was something I didn’t have shouted to me as often as others, but when I did, I was the first person to blame the umpire for making a bad call. I wasn’t the type of player who liked getting called out on strikes, but then again, who is?

I started playing baseball when I was just five years old on a t-ball team in my local community. The first team I was on was the Pittsburgh Pirates t-ball team, where I learned a lot about the new game I was getting into. However, there are no umpires in t-ball because there is no need for them at that age. When I grew older and got into kid pitch leagues, that’s when umpires became needed. That’s where it all started. 

The umpires who my local community used were high school kids with a strong baseball IQ for the most part. As a young player, I wasn’t focused on the umpires or what and how they did their job. As much as I didn’t pay attention to the umpires, I did always think to myself, “I bet I could do that. I am very knowledgeable about the game of baseball, and how hard could it really be to call balls and strikes or safe and outs?” Even though I had said those things, never did I think I’d ever become an umpire. Little did I know, my baseball life was going to forever change some years down the road.

I became an umpire in the summer going into my freshman year of high school. Becoming an umpire completely changed my point of view on how the game of baseball is played, run, and called. It showed me how difficult it actually is to call a game and deal with arguments from players, coaches, and even parents.

To start, honestly, the biggest reason that I originally decided to become an umpire was because I was looking to get a job. I did not want to work at a fast food restaurant like some of my friends. So since my dad was on the baseball board for my community league, we already knew the umpire coordinator, which meant I was guaranteed the job if I wanted it. There were many positives to the job, such as only two-hour games, I was paid $40.00 per game, I was outside in the fresh air, I was around the game I loved and grew up playing, and I was getting paid twice what my friends were making at a greasy fast food restaurant per hour, along with not having to pay taxes. It almost seemed like the perfect job for me.  

I was field umpire for a nine- and ten-year-old league. I was super nervous going in, but once it got started, I grew comfortable with my role and did it well. Even the coaches told me after the game that I made some great, tough calls out there, which helped with my confidence. My first game working behind the plate was a little different experience, though. It was tougher than I ever thought, walking onto the field where I once played as a kid, waiting for the umpire to start the game to now having these kids do the same. This time I was the behind the plate making the calls. The game didn’t go terribly, but it took some time for me to get the feel of being back there and making the correct calls, which lead to little chattering from coaches. However, that game was a great learning experience, and I finally had my first one under my belt. I thought to myself, “It can only get easier from here right?”

Next, I learned to see baseball from another point of view. As an umpire, I had to deal with arguments from players, coaches, and even parents. This is without a doubt the worst thing about being an umpire. Dealing with arguments can get out of control. As crazy as it may sound, the parents are the worst. Being a five-year veteran umpire, I’ve fielded plenty of arguments. Most arguments that come from the parents are only for a few reasons. Often it’s because their kid had something called against them. Parents think they know more about the game than the umpires, or they just flat out don’t like that umpire. I’ve had to give many parents warnings to calm down over my five years of umping. The one question that I always get, asked by people when they find out that I am an umpire, is whether I’ve ever had to throw anybody out of a game. The answer was “no” until this past summer.

I umpired in Hartland, which is where I live. Every year they hold a travel baseball tournament for divisions starting at age eight, all the way up to 15, called “The Hartland Blast Tournament.” It’s a three-day tournament that starts Friday night and ends Sunday afternoon. Well, over those three days, I was scheduled to ump nine games, including two championship games. All the games went perfectly fine until Sunday. It was the nine-year-old travel playoffs. The first game was the Riverdogs vs the Grasshoppers. The winner went on to face the Eagles in the championship. I was the plate umpire. The game went great; the coaches had no problems with me. Riverdogs won 20-4, so it was the Riverdogs vs the Eagles for the championship. I was umping that game also. That’s when it happened. In the fourth inning, the Riverdogs were frustrated because they were losing. A play at the plate happened to end the inning. The Riverdogs’ third-base coach sent his player from second home on a single, but the Eagles got the ball to the plate in time to get the runner out by two steps.

The Riverdogs’ first-base coach came running over and yelled in my face that the catcher was blocking the plate, which he was allowed to do if he had the ball. He told me I had messed up five calls and hit me on the chest. That’s when I drew the line and tossed him out of the game. Then he proceeded to accuse me of getting paid to call the game in the Eagles’ favor. I told him to leave now or his team would forfeit. That’s when he finally left. The game resumed and the Eagles ended up winning it all, which they deserved, and I was off to umpire the ten-year-old championship game. So now when people ask that question, the answer is yes.

Overall, becoming an umpire completely changed my point of view about the game of baseball. I’ve learned so much about baseball from being an umpire. Now I know what it is like not only as the player, but as the umpire. Everything relied on me to call the game to the best of my ability. As hard as it is to be an umpire, I would never give it up. If it wasn’t hard, then everybody would do it.

Bells & branches, by Delvonta’ Pinkston

I see a forest stretched out before me.
Attached to its branches are bells ringing in the wind.
Corresponding sounds echoing against one another
Sounds vibrating on a frequency I can’t understand, yet am desperately yearning to.
Never in my life have I been able to see the forest for the trees, but here I don’t have to.
The bells serve as my guide and the branches as my comfort to lean on.
Spread out throughout time and full of color, the bells exist as interdependent fixtures that are manifestations of thoughts of those that wonder.
Each is a different shade of a different color and each shape corresponds to another.
Stretching out against the gravity of time, these branches know no bounds
but here I stand stuck in the trenches of
forgotten roots.