“Years in passing cannot sever ties of new days from the old. We’re Ignatius men forever as we hail the blue and gold.”
With these lines, sung with vigor by the many alumni in the crowd, the Athletic Hall of Fame awards portion of this year’s Wildcat Roar concluded and the packed house moved from The Breen Center for the Performing Arts to the Mall where food, drink, and socializing commenced.
I love these events, and not just for the comestibles and potables provided by Director of Special Events par excellence Melissa Murphy. I love them because they are the personification of the last lines of the Saint Ignatius Alma Mater.
I get to see old friends like Karl Ertle ’79, President of Walsh Jesuit High School, and remember the “good old days” of our early teaching careers in the Theology Department. We had a chance to talk (and laugh) about our many drives out to John Carroll University for grad school classes, and to reminisce about our great friend and mentor Mike Pennock ’64 and his love of good red wine.
It was like that all night. Spending time with classmates Marty Berry ’77 and Mike Ginley ’77 as well as youngster Tony Coyne ’78 really helped to wash away the years, as did an unexpected but extremely enjoyable chat with John FitzGerald ’83 about the late Fr. Joe Moriarity, a beloved priest for whom I served Mass regularly while a 7th and 8th grader at Incarnate Word Academy.
A wonderful yet humbling highlight of the evening came early on as I ran into Joe Lang ’85. His class, which includes my colleagues Jim Brennan and Mike McLaughlin, was my first as a teacher and remains my favorite class of all time. Joe told a story that reminded me of the fact that God can work through the most imperfect vessels as he related that something I said to him way back in the 1981-82 school year was a small yet important catalyst in his journey back to God and the Church.
Later in the evening I ran into one of the Athletic Hall of Fame inductees, Drew Haddad ’96, and his classmate and teammate Dan O’Leary ’96 (Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2013). Of all the alums whom I saw throughout the evening – from the first, Kevin Cook ’86, to the last, Connor Walters ’09 – the one who I needed to see was Drew. And the fact that Dan was with him made the moment complete.
Earlier in the day, as I got ready for the evening’s festivities I pulled a photo off the shelf of one of our bookcases at home. It would have been taken in the late fall of 1995, and I am pretty sure that the photographer was Joyce Haddad, the mother of Drew and Eric ’94 (Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2005). In the photo are Drew and Dan, taking a break from football practice at Lakewood Stadium and posing with a 6-year old Kevin Healey ’07. For that young boy it could get no better than sitting on Dan O’Leary’s knee with Drew Haddad – fellow St. Angela Merici Bruin – right behind. For me, the dad of that young boy, it was a moment that at the time meant a lot and now, as I look back over the past 24 years, means even more.
The phrase is tempus fugit, and the translation usually goes “time flies.” Yet, with a nod to my great Latin teacher Dale Gabor ’66, I know that a better translation is “time runs away.” Time may run away, but photographs can freeze it and bring us back to those incredible moments where what we know today was as yet unknown and thank God for that. Looking at that photo on Saturday evening, flanked on my right by Drew and on my left by Dan, I felt a part of something beyond the three of us, something filled with the mystery of the love that God has for each individual person, especially when we gather to strengthen those ties that can never be severed.