Sunday, April 26, 2015

Leo Alumni Banquet 2015 -Leo Man of the Year Dan McGrath '68

The Lexington House is the Home of Leo ReUnion - Begun at the La Salle Hotel in 1955

                                  The 50 Year Jubilee Class of 1965
          My Buddies Bill Murphy, John Linehan and John "Moose" Gilmartin
                                               John Linehan and Chris Burris
      Man of the Year and His Bride -Dan and Joanne McGrath
                         Emerald Society Piper Calls the Classes In
           Leo Class of 1967 - Cousin Mike Hickey and Mitch Miller . . .Mike McCann
                               WWII Heroes Jack Schaller and Don Hogan
                              Piper Calls Up Hall of Fame Inductees
                Jack Hogan Stopped the Wermacht at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944
                                                                   Leo Jubilee Class of 1990
       Man of the Year Dan McGrath paid tribute to Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. & Leo 2012

Jim Corbett '52 was Leo's Left Handed Quarterback Who Mentored Hundreds of Lions
        The Foe Shall Feel the Lions Might and Spirit of Our Teams Attack!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Battle Creek Catholic Ninnies Bow to Pressure and Offer Weasel Words of Re-Welcome to Cancer Hero 12 Year Old Rose McGrath

After no end of 'consideration and prayer' and no doubt gallons of "Uh-Oh!" soaking Father John's  undies and Spring-weight black gabardine's,  The Policy People of Battle Creek Catholic Schools have this to say:

"After much consideration and prayer, and in consultation with Mrs. Marcy Arnson, principal of Saint Joseph’s, we have decided to invite seventh grader Rose McGrath to return to our school as soon as possible.  We will continue to work with her and continue to provide as many accommodations that will help her during the remainder of the school year.
"We remain convinced that the accommodations provided over the past months were extensive, appropriate, and compassionate. It is unfortunate that the coverage of this issue has been greatly distorted both in the media and on social networks. We hope and pray that moving forward we can do so with mutual respect while providing continued privacy for our student.
"It is due to those privacy issues that we are not able to give a full account of the many hours of dedicated thought and loving efforts that the teachers, staff, and principal did in order to try and ensure Rose was able to progress in her studies so she would be able to succeed while managing her remission. We remain very happy that Rose’s health has improved.
"As we did before, we will continue to work closely with the McGrath family and invite them to take advantage of the accommodations throughout the remainder of the school year.  Our focus has been, and remains on the well-being and academic success of Rose."

That's nice, Father, distortion* can make a mess of things. Sorry you soiled your britches, but at least the McGrath Family and the little girl who battled cancer have had at least one of the nails, you clowns hammered into their cross,  removed.

Oh, and Father ?  After much prayer and consideration, Hop up and Kiss My Irish Ass!

* Getting caught.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Policy - The Place for Cowards Even in Catholic Schools

Rose McGrath beat Cancer and Was Expelled from a Catholic School Because too Many Absences. Catholic  Grammar School.?  A sick child?  I would give Rose McGrath a Leo High School Diploma! So would any real Catholic teacher.  Catholic "Educators" are gultless mediocrities.

Any Catholic School Superintendent, or Principal who hides behind these words -" It's Our Policy!" - needs to be shown the door.  Catholic Schools will continue to close, so long as they ape Public Schools.

Here is an example of Policy kicking the Gospels of Christ and the Jesus portrayed  in them squarely in the nuts.
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A young girl who has just finished fighting the biggest fight of her life has been dealt another blow.
In August 2012, Rose McGrath, of Battle Creek, was diagnosed with leukemia.
But last week, her family received a letter in the mail that would turn her world upside down.
The letter addressed concerns regarding Rose's attendance and academic performance, and stated that Rose had been dismissed from St. Joseph Middle School.
"I didn't do anything wrong, but they still got rid of me," Rose said.
Rose McGrath is beside herself.
She's been with the Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools all her life, but attending school got difficult when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012.
"Even though she's now done with her treatment you still have a very long recovery process because you've basically just put two and a half years of poison into your body. you're not recovering overnight," said Rose's mother Barbara McGrath.
The McGraths say despite all of the obstacles, Rose was on track to pass her core classes.
Now, just shy of the end of the school year, they say she's been pulled from the one place where she felt normal.
"When I'm at home, I'm sick, I don't feel well; no one else does that. But when I'm at school I'm like everyone else," Rose said.
According to the letter from St. Joseph Middle School, Rose was dismissed because she could not meet academic or attendance standards.
Rose attended 32 full days this year.
Gee, would that keep St. Joseph's School from being a Blue Ribbon Award Winner?

Catholic schools are not Public Schools run by PC ninnies, John Dewey Drugged Fat Heads and Godless Parses of Narratives, unless, they are run by policy cowards.

Catholic Schools should be all about the kids - especially, a little girl being mauled by cancer.  

I have taught for forty years and I have seen mediocrities who could not manage a classroom full of Honors Students for three minutes rise to Administrator Certificate Power Policy Overlordship.  They have matched stupidity for stupidity with the worst Public School in America. Why, because the mediocrity adopts a Zero Tolerance Policy for every waking moment in the day and avoids taking action, making a decision, or treating an individual as Jesus would treat them. They (mediocrities) should not be in authority. They are credentialed cretins.

  • They have the State Certifications and Licenses! (B EFFing Deal!)
  • They pray off of Xeroxed Copies
  • They attend leadership workshops
  • They could not name three students in school with a cocked and loaded Glock at their temples
  • They ascend the Diocesan bureaucratic ladder after each and every screw-up and disaster
  • They Are Never Accountable, because they are never challenged by people who should know better
Policy is for cowards.

Policy allows incompetence.

Policy is Smarm Prose for People who can not diagram a sentence.

Here is Policy -Image result for rose mcgrath battle creek catholic schools
"These were extraordinary circumstances, but so many accommodations were made we felt eventually it became a point where we really had to help Rose, by being able to make sure that she was getting the assistance that she needed and to learn," said Father John Fleckenstein, with Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools. ( emphases my own)

Get off the cross, Father.  A better Man knew what it was all about.

Oh and Father John?  Hop up and kiss my Irish Ass!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Man Who Shaped Francis Cardinal George: Jean Jacques Olier (1608-1657)

Jean Jacques Olier

One evening, Cardinal George asked me to bring two students from Leo High School up to the Cardinal's Residence in Lincoln Park, in order to pray with and for them. Leo High School's student population is 97% African American; these two young men were white and from Canaryville. Both young gents had very tough home lives and I'll leave it at that.

Cardinal George called me every once in while to ask about the status of certain young men whom he knew to be challenged. One African American sophomore had been shunted off to nine different foster homes and sat on the edge of life as a Gangster Disciple.  The Cardinal managed to lift this kid off of that razor's edge. These two white boys were freshmen at the time and had acted out enough at school  to indicate volcanic home lives.

The Cardinal's Residence has been and shall continue to be, in the Chicago and national media, portrayed as some kind of 1%er Xanadu and described as 'lavish.'  That is pure nonsense.  It reminded me of any  successful immigrant's  family home: clean, tidy, simple and proud. The well polished hard-wood floors creak. The media made my Cardinal's home into something opulent to point to as an anachronistic touchstone in  its arguments used to attack the Catholic Church, be it ordination of women, Gaza Flotillas, redefinition of marriage, abortion, or attacking School Choice. Bullshit is King in Chicago.

The Residence is a nice rectory with a lot of chimneys and that is all. Lavish?  My broad manly ass.

Well, the media won that one.  The Residence built and maintained by Catholics will go away. The Nuns who worked with Cardinal George lived in a convent behind the Residence and they are real people who will now be tossed out and eventually put their love and talents elsewhere and fade from Chicago's flabby memory.

That night when me and the guys visited?  They were not taken by any opulence, but hospitality. Two boys learned what a woman's love is all about because of the Polish nuns who work with George and the spirit of a 17th Frenchman who served as the Cardinal's model.

These are two teenagers who had been ear-bombed with abuse and pummeled with all manner of neglect, including abandonment.

The boys were greeted by the wonderful religious women  like they were favorite nephews. The ladies are members of The Albertine Sisters. The boys were treated to home baked treats and tea served in lavish cups.

Cardinal George wore a sweater and his clerical collar and welcomed the boys.    Cardinal George took the brace of tattooed youngsters into a study  and I was dismissed.  The sliding doors closed and the three of them laughed loudly . . .about me, I'll bet.

I walked around and looked at the portraits of Chicago's great Archbishops, Feehan, Quarter and Mundelein, the icons and the statuary. One simple wood carving  I did not recognize*.  It was a wood carving of a 17th Century Frenchman.

After about forty minutes, the Cardinal and the guys reemerged from the study. I asked the Cardinal about the wood carving.  " That is Jean Jacques Olier.  He is not a canonized saint, but I have very special attachment to his life and works.  Read up about him, Pat," was this great teacher's advice.  I did.

Jean Jacques Olier was a 17th Century man of Christ.  He moved easily among Kings and Counts and lived with people swimming in the gutters.  A first rate intellectual and fierce man of action, Jean Jacques Olier opened seminaries, orphanages, asylums and organized soldiers and notorious street duelist to combat the plague of dueling -street violence, or sword violence, depending upon whether one has Chicago values, or not.  Olier fought equally. the heretics and orthodox fanatics within the protection of the Church

To know Francis Cardinal George, one needs to add an understanding of the man who served as his historical and spiritual model to the compelling narrative of the kid with polio who became a bishop.

Cardinal George was no hair-shirt.  He was a genuine Chicago tough guy - a guy who can take it.  A guy can take anything, as long as he honors the virtues that endure. Those virtues are learned through a piety and a dignity shaped by other persons.  Persons like Jean Jacques Olier.

The two kids had their lives oiled and comforted by Cardinal George, but what they took away from the Cardinal's Residence on north State Parkway was a bag of baked goods and the love of great women. That was all either one of the boys talked about - the women who treated them like they were meant to be treated in their lives - Jesus, living in Mary.

They can thank Cardinal George and a 17th Century Frenchmen for that introduction to love.

Cardinal George prayed this every day.

O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in your servants, in the spirit of holiness, in the fullness of your power, in the perfection of your ways, in the truth of your virtues, in the communion of your mysteries. Rule over every adverse power, in your Spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen. Jean Jacques Olier, S.S. (1608-1657)

* Correction:  the wooden carving is of St Eugene de Mazenod who founded the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1816. I got onto Jean Jacques Olier with the Cardinal by some other icon.  My bad.  Thanks to the sharp eyes of Tom Zbierski. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fast Pitching! The Game Killed By Nintendo and i-Phones

The last time I played Strike-Out/Fast Pitching was in the late 1970's in Ottawa, Illinois at the old Shabonna Elementary School.  My Buddy Charlie Olson and I were clearing out his late-father's house and selling items.  It was hotter than twenty- two rats making love in a pair of old knee socks and we took a break. After a guzzling a couple of quarts of Rhinelander, we decided to play 'fast-pitching' at the school across the street from Charlie's Pa's house.

There was a nicely chalked box already there.  We grabbed a bat and rubber baseball that was as pock-marked as a teenage boy and  called 'play ball!'   Charlie was and remains a superb athlete and could bring the heat.  I am a spaz - nevertheless, when Charlie burned one low and outside SAMAAAASH!!!!!!!!! That sonofabitch sailed for what seemed . . .a few minutes and   the rubber missile sphere shattered upon reaching the sub stratosphere!  Thus, ending the game. " Hickey!!!!!!!"

So ends my glory days.

I played fast-pitching all over the south side as a kid.  We had a dried up cholera infested viaduct ( now) sealed up with concrete) at 75th Place at Wood under the Metra tracks.  Both walls were chalked by the likes of Jimmy Shea, Al McFarland, Maurey Lanigan, Larry Fiscelli, Terry Smith and the Walsh Brothers.  Mostly we played at Clara Barton Elementary and on rare occasions the Hamilton Dairy Barns at 75th Place and Paulina.

Every surface of smooth concrete was a PlayStation.

One rarely sees little guys playing fast pitching, or little girls chalking Sky Blue patterns on sidewalks.

Chicago author Dennis Foley has a movie about to be produced and shot in my Morgan Park/Beverly neighborhood.  It called Old Bob: A Story of Hope. Dennis uses the chalk box as art work for the yarn.

Younger persons will be lost on the meaning.  Drive-bys, Nintendos, I-phones and adult inspired organized fun have permanently damaged a child's ability to play, it seems to me.  Innocence demands active imaginations and electric gizmos do not help and neither do needy adult supervisors living their shallow dreams through kids.

I vote for more pick-up baseball, football and chase games organized by the kids themselves.  I am blessed to watch the little girls and guys in Morgan Park play sewer cover rules baseball at the corner of 108th & Maplewood, but rarely see it going on anywhere else.  And I get out alot.

So do others.

Chicago architecture critic Lee Bey wrote a wonderful piece for WBEZ a while ago that explains the game of Strike Out aka Fast Pitching.
"So seeing two on a single wall in one day caught me by surprise. I didn't even have my camera with me. I had to make do with my cellphone cam.
"In Strike Out, a pitch inside the box was a strike, but a hit was judged a single, double, triple or homer, depending on the distance the ball traveled after leaving the bat; there were no bases for the batter to run. If the ball was caught on the fly by the opposing team, it was an out. If the pitcher caught the ball on a single bounce, it was an out.
"The building was an important part of the game because you needed one with a flat brick, concrete or limestone surface with enough mass to absorb the energy of the fast pitch, yet return the rubber ball without enough velocity to reach the pitcher on a strike. And no glass near the box. Strike Out was great way to play baseball without having 18 people. A team could be as few as one to four players.
"I was wearing a suit and had my baseball-loving daughters (two teens and a 'tween) with me when I photographed the Strike Out box. Maybe I'll double back one day with a rubber baseball to see if my 44-year-old arm has the stuff, still. Just gotta remember to bring the shoulder ointment."

I'd love to see our young people give the thumb-dummy addiction a rest.  I'd love to see kids get out and play. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Apostrophe Chicago - Shootings and Shut Up.

I was at Leo High School for a couple of hours yesterday.  I left around 3PM. When exiting the Sangamon Street (west side of school) door, I heard at least six seperate CPD buzzers and sirens and saw CPD cars and SUVs shoot west on 79th Street.

This occurs, if not daily, all too frequently.  The cars of the 6th District sweeping past Leo High School and shortly St. Sabina's Faith Community, operated by Rev. Michael Pfleger.  I'm not a fan.  Father Pfleger is a political minister who has harmed Leo on more than one occasion, in my opinion. He has his agenda.  I have mine.

What brings this up, is a conversation I had shortly after leaving Leo with a guy who lives not too far from me.  He happens to be a very devout liberal Catholic and Democrat.  He wears his heart on his sleave and looks for his heart on mine, as well.  I mentioned that I had just come from Leo and noted the parade of squads and TAC unit vehicles.  He told me, " Oh there was a shooting at 79th & Wood Street."

I used to pass many hours on that corner in my teen and early college years.

My friend a Catholic who wants the Church to be Unitarian Universalist added, " Thank God for Father Pfleger, Huh?"

" How so?"

" He does so much good over there."

" How so?"

" He does"

" How? Killings go on. Hookers crowd ladies trying to get downtown to clean offices away from the bus stop at 83rd & Racine every morning. People in the two flats are looking for work Pfleger Industries is doing just fine, but everyone I talk to is bearing the cross. ."

" He raises awareness of gun violence!"

" I think everyone is pretty aware of guns in the hands of soulless thugs. Forty shootings since Friday, Brownie.  This one took place on my old corner hang-out. "
79th & Wood Streets 1969

" Oh, wow.  Still demanding to live the white flight fanatsy of the Old Neighborhood?"

"How does that follow?"

" Well you hate Father Pfleger. I can see that.  That is obvious."

" You have some powerful eyes, there Brownie.  Didn't you live at 77th & Aberdeen?  Father Pfleger could use some of your time, treasure and talents."

" @#$%, You! Man. You are @#$%^ing Bigot."

"  I get that alot.  Great seeing you, Brownie! See you in church. Keep Hype Alive, My Bro!"

Some opinions are not allowed. This, I know.  And I really could care . . .less.  The shooting had nothing to do with Pfleger, but Brownie needs to goad.  Goads of this stripe generally go un answered.  Perhaps, I should swallow my gum and move on?  Nah.

Life is too short and bile builds up.  Never allow a counter wind-up to go un-used.

The thing is Brownie will initiate similar chat in no time at all and similar scenario will unfold.

Actually, I will not see Brownie in church,  because we attend different Catholic parishes.

A robust dialog grounded in the purest of spirits always makes me tingle up a storm.

Terry Sullivan Jazz Happenings Up-Coming Dates & Artists

At the request of Jazz lover and patriot Seb Costin and all other of my contemporaries who eschew Twitter/Facebook & whatnot. I post this. 

Jazz Diva Terry Sullivan Jazz Happenings -upcoming dates and featured artists:

Coming Concert Performances – Terry Sullivan

Sunday, May 3, 2015, 3:00 pm
Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church
250 Woodside Road, Riverside, IL
(Desplaines Avenue and 31st Street)
with pianist Bobby Schiff and bassist Stewart Miller
Free will offering
Saturday, June 13, 2015, 5:00 pm
St. John’s Episcopal Church
3857 N. Kostner, Chicago
with pianist Tom Muellner and bassist Stewart Miller
Sunday, July 12, 3:00 pm
Sunday Afternoon Jazz Supper Club
Pianoforte Foundation
1335 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago
with pianist Tom Muellner and bassist Larry Kohut
Tickets @
“Supper” can be had at Kurah Mediterranean Tapas Restaurant (1/2 block south) before or after the show. Mention the Pianoforte Jazz Supper Club for a 15% discount.
— with Terry Sullivan Jazz Happenings.

TJ & The Cardinal 2012

Thomas(aka TJ) Ph------ has his arm around Cardinal George's shoulders in a 2012 photo I took celebrating the Cardinal's visit. Thomas is at college and Cardinal George is at home with Christ.

At Leo in 2010,  He was Thomas.  At St. Cajetan's, prior to admission to this rock of manhood on 79th Street, my daughter and her pals called their classmate TJ.

TJ?  Like he was right out of some Disney Afternoon Special and wore Bev Rat Northface clothing and accessories.

Thomas was what PC educators might call . . .willful.  Here at Leo, we'd say JUG fodder at best . . .usually a pain in the ass. It was during Thomas'  freshman year that my daughter informed me that one of her classmates from St. Cajetan grammar school, a largely white Catholic elementary school in Morgan Park, was attending Leo.

"Dad, do you know TJ?"


"Yeah, TJ Ph-------!  He's real funny and was Jack Collins buddy"

I know a Thomas Ph------!  Wait.  Thomas, Mr. Y'all Street Ph-------is TJ?  TJ?"

That was all I needed.

I am, like Thomas aka TJ, a dedicated . . .pain in the ass. Like TJ. . .er Thomas, I needed an epiphany.  I got mine from Father John Gavin O.S.A. in 1966.  I was mopping the locker room as punishment for one of my recent academic, or social crimes and misdemeanors, when the red-headed athlete priest wandered in reading his Divine Office in full Augustinian habit.  He closed the breviary and smiled brightly, " Hickey, you know how you always are?"

" Yes, Father."

" Don't be that way."

With that, he opened his tract and walked quietly away.  I was a chang . . .modified man.

Thomas was bright, funny, tardy, absent and any where near an occassion of sin, In short, Thomas was for his freshman and sophomore years at Leo High School a typical Leo guy.  He was the diamond in the rough, the first draft, and unlicked cub, who, after several metaphorical lickings, chin wags with his elders and betters on his way to becoming a superior young man.

It helped to know of Thomas's BevRat sobriquet. The next day shouted out my friend Thomas in the act of 'just playing!'


His blood went cold, in the manner of all men caught out in the hard truth of whom they really be.

" How you know that?"

"Clare told me. Well, Lookee here, White Boy!  You wear FUBU here and about, or do you really wear Northface, a rolled brimmed green White Sox Cap and watch Hannah Montana?  Man, it'd go hard on a gent who is all Cheef Keef and such."

"Please, Mr. Hickey don't let that get out. Man, I'm Thomas!

"And so it shall stay under the following conditions . . ."

You see, these kids need street cred, even though they are far from street.  Their families send them to Leo High School to avoid the street and all that it stands for, but the kids still need to get here from Roseland, Grand Crossing, Englewood and Canaryville.  They pass gang territories and need to put up a front. Or, they think that they do. All they need is to believe in themselves.

All they need to do is be a good guy. Respect women, the elderly, their faith, their traditions and the rules.

Thomas remained a scamp, but a great guy.  He was a fearless D-Back for the Lions and a great boxer and his GPA shot up to where it needed to be for college.

Watch Thomas on this video.  He is boxer in the dreds wearing black gear. BTW - Leo boxing coach Mike Joyce is a cousin of Cardinal George.

Thomas is a sophomore at Missou, now. After an epiphany, Thomas was on his way.

In 2010, he sidled up to Leo President Dan McGrath at an open house where eight white boys attended with their folks. " Mr. McGrath, we going to get all those white boys?"

President McGrath, replied, " Well Thomas, it won't be for lack of trying,"

" Good. This school needs some diversity!"

We got it. White boys and Mexican kids thickened the cultural stew at Leo High School and Thomas was the most open-handed greeter in his junior and senior years. He took the lead in making these urban pioneers welcome.

In 2012, Francis Cardinal George spent the day with the Leo gents.  We do not put on a dog and pony show.  Take us as we are! Cardinal George had a ball and graced our boys. Thomas plunged in to make Cardinal George as welcome as flowers of May.

Thomas is at college, but visits every time he is home.  Cardinal George is a home with Christ and visits Grace upon this wonderful school for tender-hearted tough guys. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Beauty and the Priest - Leo Board Member Tamara Holder and Francis Cardinal George

 Great souls by instinct to each other turn,
Demand alliance, and in friendship burn;
A sudden friendship, while with stretched-out rays
They meet each other, mingling blaze with blaze.
Polished in courts, and hardened in the field,
Renowned for conquest, and in council skilled,
Their courage dwells not in a troubled flood
Of mounting spirits, and fermenting blood:
Lodged in the soul, with virtue overruled,
Inflamed by reason, and by reason cooled,
In hours of peace content to be unknown.
And only in the field of battle shown:
To souls like these, in mutual friendship joined,
Heaven dares intrust the cause of humankind. Joseph Addison The Campain (1704)

I took this photo of Cardinal George and lawyer, advocate, Leo Board member, Fox News Legal Analyst and easy on the eyes tough Jewish Chick, Tamara Holder in 2011 at Leo High School.

Tamara Holder no longer lives in Chicago full-time, because her talents require that she spend more time in the Big Apple, where she works for Fox News and runs a sports analysis site, as well make stand-up comedy appearances.  Tamara continues to offer legal, financial and marketing advice as a member of Leo Advisory Board.  Tamara is Jewish and proudly practices her faith.

In May of 2011, Francis Cardinal George became the first Archbishop of Chicago to visit the young men of Leo High School, since George Cardinal Mundelein blessed the corner stone this school on 79th & Peoria wing of the school in 1926.

Our Advisory board consisted of Irish and African American males blessed by God with talents and faces for radio, until Tamara accepted Leo President Dan McGrath and Board Chairman Bob Sheehy's challenge to serve.  Immediately our Board's looks improved.
Tamara meets Cardinal George:  in the backdground from the left Big Shoulder Fund Tom Zbierski, Advisory Board Chair Bob Sheehy and Leo Hall of Fame Alumnus and Teacher Bill Hession.

Cardinal George and Tamara took to one another immediately - both are very smart, honest and good-hearted persons.  Joseph Addison had it right - great souls by instinct to each other turm.

These pictures make me smile at a very sad time.

My Neighbor is Home with Christ- Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.
Saint Patrick

 No man lived for Christ like Francis Cardinal George, O.M. I., Archbishop of Chicago.  I witnessed this simple, but tough, priest.

Cardinal George had a powerful intellect, but never allowed his gifts to smother questions, doubts, or take advantage of the follies of other people.  He was not a big shot and therefore never became a media darling.

He was tasked by our Church to lead a huge and very combative Archdiocese that had lost a favorite shepherd in Cardinal Bernardin.  Upon assuming his duties, Cardinal George knew that he had a tough act to follow and did not presume Brotherhood with us.  Rather, he introduced himself as Our Neighbor.

My brother and sister know every grain of dirt beneath my fingernails, every weakness and every gap in my armor, because they have lived with me and not near me.  My neighbor knows of me and will only get close enough to me as I will allow.  My neighbor does not presume to cross the property line without an invite.

I invited the most powerful American Bishop to be my brother and he was not too busy, too big, too disinterested to take up my call.

In fact, Cardinal George called me.

Shortly after he, Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, was inducted into the College of Cardinals, a friend was unceremoniously and very publicly removed from her role as Principal of a Catholic Girls High School, where she has raised enrollment, student and faculty morale, spiked fund-raisisng and elevated the status of that school in the public eye.

The religious order operating that school decided to take another direction.   Bob Foster, then President of Leo High School, hates bullies and injustice and asked me to write a couple of letters to the editor for the Daily Southtown.  I did.

In the letters, I asked Cardinal George to look into the matter.  Cardinal George was in Washington D. C. leading the American Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The letters appeared through the week.  On Monday, I was told that I was to be fired.  Bob Foster lit into the powers-that-be in the bureaucratic branches of the Chicago Archdiocese - on the phone and with his characteristic force and rhetoric.

The Archdiocese is a Corporation - a Public Person - and that person's feelings were hurt by the Director of Development for Leo High School.  Leo High School is a school of Archdiocese of Chicago. Most people assume that Leo is independent of the Archdiocese, like St. Rita, Fenwick, Brother Rice, or St. Lawrence. The fact is Cardinal Mundelein ordered the building of Leo.  Irish Christian Brothers never sponsored Leo, only operated it and were long gone.

From the moment, the Christian Brothers bailed out of any responsibility for Leo, Bob Foster and the Leo Alumni paid down the debts, raised tuition, secured the grants and initiated the on-going campus expansion and all without subsidy from the Archdiocese. Therefore, Bob Foster would not allow "policy," a changeling tool for the unimaginative, to dictate on a technicality.

Lawyers, crumbs and money, to paraphrase a rock and roll tune had other ideas.

My youngest was in third grade at St. Cajetan's and had come home with the flu. As a single Dad, I remained home with her keeping the possibility of losing my job to myself.

At around, six o'clock in evening I got a call on my cell phone.
 " Hello, is this Pat Hickey?"

" Yes, It is. . . ?"

" This is Cardinal George."

I though for a moment. It was Bill Gainer*, who had pulled that gag on me before, " Up Your's Eminence!"

There was genuine laughter on the other line, " No, really, Pat.  This Cardinal George.  I understand that I fired you."

" Gainer.. . ."

" Relax, it is the genuine article, Pat.  Now tell me why I fired you. This is the first I have heard of it. It's something about some letters you wrote to the papers?  I have this note, but I have not even heard about the firing of the Principal.  Fill me in, please."

I explained the chain of events and of my request that the Ordinary -Archbishop of Chicago - look into the capricious removal of a great Catholic woman as principal of girl's high school within the Archdiocese.

The Cardinal laughed and said, " Easy for you to say.  The religious order as a corporation can fire any employee.  It is not right, or just but certainly is legal. Look, I'll go over there and talk to the parents, staff and people representing that Order. Why are you home, by the way. Did Bob Foster suspend you? That does not sound like the man I know! Ha, ha, ha,. . ."

Again the genuine humor from a man who did not need to call an employee about a matter that put him in the middle of a controversy of another's doing.  Yet, here he was.

" No, Your Eminence, I am taking care of my little girl who is down with the Flu."

" Poor baby. Is she school age?"

" She goes to St. Cajetan's."

" Would like me to speak with her?"

I took the phone to Clare and she and the Archbishop of Chicago chatted about school her up-coming First Holy Communion and Hannah Montana from one end of phone anyway. The Cardinal gave Clare a blessing for good health and grace.

" Pat. You have your job.  I did not fire you.  In any bureaucracy people will say 'The Cardinal says, this and Cardinal says that and all without asking Francis George what he thinks.  They mean well."

We chatted some more and I learned that his father belonged to Local 399.  Like my father and his father before him, Francis Cardinal George's Dad was a stationary engineer.

We shared some more laughs about life in the Chicago Archdiocese.  I continue to work at Leo.

Cardinal George worked for Leo.  He counseled five students who had very tough lives.  He helped us raise money for new buses and blessed those buses.  Francis Cardinal George was made a Leo Man in 2011 and inducted into this school's Hall of Fame in 2014.

He was my neighbor - a great neighbor.

Cardinal George went home to Christ on Friday, April 17th.

* Bill Gainer is a guy from Roseland. Like Cardinal George, Bill does not know the first thing about being a "big shot."