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Inside NCR

New board members, but few new holy fools

NCR is happy to welcome two new members to the board of directors of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company.

Joan F. Neal, a native of Chicago, is a graduate of that city’s Loyola University. She is president and founder of J.F. Neal & Associates, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and organizational development for businesses and non-profit organizations. She had previously been a career banker for many years, with an ongoing emphasis on civic affairs, community relations and public image.

Neal’s community involvement has included working with United Way; Leadership Greater Chicago (member, board of directors); Women’s Commission of Chicago Archdiocese (vice chair); Catholic Theological Union (member, board of trustees); National Association of Urban Bankers (member, board of directors); St. Xavier University (member, board of trustees); and membership on Gov. Thompson’s Task Force on Private Sector Initiatives.

Her awards include the first annual “Phenomenal Woman” award from Today’s Chicago Black Woman; “Volunteer of the Year” from United Way of Chicago; Chicago Urban League’s “Beautiful People” award; and the Archdiocesan Augustus Tolton Award.

Fr. Michael G. Ryan is pastor of St. James’ Cathedral, Seattle. He studied at Rome’s Gregorian University and was ordained to the priesthood in 1966.

Ryan’s many former assignments include serving as Newman chaplain; membership on the Archdiocesan Commission on Sacred Music; secretary-treasurer of National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors; serving as chaplain of the Seattle Serra Club; and membership on the Archbishop’s Board of Consultors. Ryan was chancellor of the archdiocese of Seattle, 1977-1988, and vicar general of the archdiocese, 1984-1996.

It was just an innocent suggestion -- if you fancy yourself a humor writer, send us your best stuff (NCR, March 20) -- but now the piper must be paid. The lively response seems to say NCR is in need of more humor. We warned readers that we couldn’t respond to individual writers -- an inspired precaution.

We wish to thank those who wrote. If we did not identify any holy fools, this could mean they are ahead of their time.

“You are reckless indeed, good sir,” one writer commented. I’m not going to name names -- well, except for a few.

“Faster than a Speeding Rosary,” was one promising title. Many flashes of promise failed to deliver.

“I’m enclosing SASE for your convenience in turning me down,” one wrote. Another complained about my lament that the gospels were not written by an early Woody Allen. “Alas, the gospels are full of humor,” this writer wrote. “We just don’t get the jokes.”

Another offered a parade of issues “more vexing and silly than humorous.” Others did ditto. There’s the rub. Life is full of vexing stuff. But humor is the devil to write.

Anyway, here are some samples, first from Francis Eugene Moore of Attleboro, Mass:

If you mention a word, a place, a person or an event, the odds are that my dad, my brother Marty or one of my cousins could tell a funny story about it. I grew up surrounded by such stories, and quite naturally picked up the bad habit. ... If, for example, you were to say “wedding,” I would tell you about standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my tall cousins, Tom Lynagh, Jack Hutchinson and Francis Lynagh and my brother Marty at a wedding in Pennsylvania. If you were to sneak a look behind us you would see the reason for the shoulder-to-shoulder. Uncle Tommy, whose wife Anna did not like him to drink, would be hiding behind us having a shot or a beer or both. Periodically he would peek out from behind us saying, “Jesus Christ, where’s Anna? ... “

And an excerpt from Fr. Tom Sullivan, now in a parish in Jacksonville, Fla., but before that ...

... My stories go back to the ’50s when I had a country parish in Korea. Back then, we had four hours of confessions every Saturday, and some country people feared us foreign priests like they feared God.

We had a two-step springtime ritual: Before Easter, every Catholic had to pass a catechism quiz, then go to confession. They got a little ticket when they passed the quiz, then they’d drop the ticket in a box as they’d come into the confessional.

One particular lady said she put her ticket in the box. I said “Fine.”

She went on, “I put my son Yacobo’s ticket in too.”

I told her he’d have to put his own in. And she said she understood.

I heard her sins, then I realized she was confessing Yacobo’s boyish sins. I told her she couldn’t do that. I explained how confession was a one-on-one meeting with God. Yacobo would have to come himself.

Again she said she understood. I gave her the usual Hail Marys for penance. As she got up to leave she turned back to ask, “The same for Yacobo?”

Fr. Timothy Gray does a satirical, early news report from Houston:

Controversy rages over a new gospel, reputed to be written by the Apostle John. Since the recent death of the last living apostle, his followers have been pushing to have this gospel accepted as a “Fourth Gospel” to take its place alongside the accepted three.

Not since the infamous “Council of Jerusalem,” when Peter and Paul faced off, have emotions been so heated. Church figures who have spent the ensuing decades patching up the differences between these two groups fear a new schism.

Deaconess Angelica, the controversial leader of a group of communities connected by courier so that her homilies are read simultaneously in dozens of churches, stormed off a protest: “This new gospel contains no nativity story; obviously it’s an attempt to subvert the doctrine of the incarnation.”

“There is no Mass celebrated at the Last Supper, an obvious attack on the Eucharist,” she went on. Deaconess Angelica has sent out word: “In my communities obedience will be zero.”

Archdeacon Ratzinger of the pope’s household is rumored to be completing a “synopsis” of the current three gospels that would eliminate the differences and thus avoid confusing the simple faithful. ... It seems certain that a new, totally different gospel would not fit into these plans. ...

Then there’s Goldie and Jim Taunt of Phoenix whose story has one advantage: “It is all true,” Jim says.

Goldie and I and our now-departed mates were friends for nine years. ...

We live in a retirement community. I’m the handyman on the street. I get to fix the leaky faucets and stuck toilets. After Gordon, Goldie’s husband, and Grace, my wife, died, I stopped in to ask Goldie if she had any plumbing that needed fixing. She said no, but one thing led to another.

When we finally got to the deacon for the marriage paperwork, he said, “There is a six-month training period.”

“Six months! After all, we’ve got more battle experience than you and the pastor have in your vocations put together. Goldie was married for 48 years and I for 44.”

“We’ll see what the diocese has to say,” he said. He then asked if we would raise our children Catholic? “Hell, Al, we are both over 70. Our family tree is going to be about as long as that tree stump in the yard.”

“I had to ask,” he responded defensively.

The big day arrived. Our church, Corpus Christi, has a cry room that doubles as a bride’s dressing room with a rest room and clothes hangers. The groom dresses in the tool room off the sacristy. I hung my street pants over the lawn mower handle.

When you’re over 70, not much intimidates you. So when Goldie entered the church and the organist began “Here Comes the Bride,” I started to clap. The congregation chimed in. In the big church it was a long clap.

We had a wonderful wedding. Fr. Hoorman asked if I had any Kleenex. “I got Kleenex in every pocket,” I answered.

Goldie and I had selected a hotel room, on a special half-off deal. The room they showed us had mirrors on the ceiling. When we went to claim our room, though, the hotel had a change of heart: They couldn’t give us the mirrored ceiling room for half-price. Goldie was relieved and so was I, because the room we got was complementary. That is the way to start a marriage.

Now the fun began. Goldie forgot her makeup kit at her house, the South House. We called the S.H. and told them we were coming back to pick up the kit. When we got there, a party was in full swing.

One night on our honeymoon, Goldie felt water. She thought I was playing a trick or, worse, had a plumbing problem. After a couple of elbows in the ribs I got up to find water dripping from the ceiling. But there were two beds, so we put a waste basket under the drip and moved into the other bed.

Goldie is taking the RCIA course [in preparation for joining the church]. Since we are the oldest couple, we are sort of grandparents to the group. I’m a nonconformist Catholic, so I get a lot of private questions.

Our priest introduced us to a new word. Saying God wanted us to be happy, he said whenever he is counseling a couple with marriage problems, he always asks: “When was the last time you had coitus?” God wants you to have fun, was his drift. The whole class went off in search of dictionaries to find out how to have fun.

National Catholic Reporter, June 19, 1998