My Father’s Room
By Kathy (McCarthy) Walsh ’86
When I was dropped off at Notre Dame in August 1982, my mom commented more than once that my new address sounded very familiar. I had come to ND as a late admission; much of my paperwork awaited me when I arrived. I did not learn my final dorm assignment until I arrived for freshman orientation. When my mother and one of my sisters, who had come along for the ride, returned home, they confirmed with my dad that my freshman room in Breen-Phillips was the exact same room my father, John Joseph McCarthy ’58, had occupied a few decades earlier. Since my high school sweetheart-parents corresponded between ND and Trinity College during their college years, the room number, 223, instantly rang a bell in my mother’s ear.
The Cleveland newspaper picked up the story and ran a small paragraph about our coincidence in their suburban news section. We laughed about it, and it gave me more than one creepy feeling when I later had the chance to see a black-and-white picture of my dad and his two roommates hanging out in what is now a female double. But unlike what I find today, during my late high school years my father did not actively promote Notre Dame as a college destination for me. I think back to the family vacation we took in the 1970s when we stopped at ND and saw a woman calling down from a dorm window to a passerby on the quad. Now my father—the father of four girls—embraced the feminist movement much sooner than most. But I recall a very silent drive from South Bend to Boulder. He was back to himself by the time we pitched the tent at the rim of the Grand Canyon!
So it was my mother who had planted the seed in my head about Notre Dame and performed cartwheels in order to steer me towards ditching my plans for the other college to which I had already orientated. I accepted the late invitation to ND, and I am eternally grateful to her for that. What grew between my father and me after my first night in his old room is a gift from God. I was fortunate enough to land right in the middle of his reconnection with Notre Dame, and the benefits I gained from that experience stay with me today.
A father and daughter have many opportunities throughout their lives to disconnect from one another. Sharing his alma mater is not as important as sharing his values, sense of humor and love. But it has brought joy to my life and helps keep a mutual respect over the miles and years. I recently heard a sermon where the priest described his belief that there are no such things as coincidences, just opportunities to do good. I don’t think our coincidence goes quite that far, but it has certainly been an opportunity to share more in the feast of life.
My experience at Notre Dame can be described in so many ways, and each element I brought with me from there has a different degree of importance to me at different times in my life. But aside from the wonderful friendships that blossomed there and remain today, the one thing which bolsters me right now is my faith. I live in the heart of the U.S. Catholic Church’s modern day crisis—the wake of the pedophile scandal, which broke here in Boston a few years ago, remains turbulent, with new front-page twists all the time. Thankfully, it was many years ago that I shook my childhood correlation between faith and the bricks and mortar. Otherwise, I would have been unable to maintain my faith as I read the unimaginable: that those who steered the church would allow such horrific weaknesses and ruptures to go unchecked. Nor did I anticipate the anger I would feel at the leader who betrayed those children and all of us—only to be whisked off to the Vatican for a rewarding appointment.
The foundation of my faith was laid painstakingly by my parents. My years at Notre Dame provided a rich environment in which my faith could grow. The trials and joys experienced by my family and close friends have sometimes severely tested and, at other times, renewed my faith in God. As I seek out my fourth parish in which to try to find reconciliation with the Church, I am weary from the task and often feel that perhaps staying away from Church would do my faith some good. My old, vibrant parish is a shadow of its former self—its pews are sparsely populated, the hymns sound hollow and forced. The pastor’s disconnect from modern problems is exasperating. My colleagues are not just trying different parishes but also different denominations to feel welcome.
So I connect with God elsewhere. I see the face of God in the friends around me who give their time, money and heart to come to the aid of a chronically ill child or to a family reeling from the suicide of their teenage son. I see the face of God in the grace of friends around me who rise to meet enormous challenges for which no school or guide or clinician can prepare us. I see His face in the courage and optimism of my parents and sister as they have battled against cancer and premature loss of mobility. I see His face again in another sister as she brings a toddler home from China, in a life-saving adoption, to love as her daughter, despite her known and unknown health issues. I see the face of God in my youngest sister, who invests her time and talents, day in a day out, to give underprivileged children, here and abroad, hope where there is little or none. I have found I don’t need the affirmation of the Church to maintain my faith in God. But I miss it.
To Break the Sooners` Streak
By Thomas P. Smith ’62
It was dark, damp and, chilly at the Circle. Fumes from the waiting buses were tight wisps in the November wind. Well dressed, athletic men gathered together. Some were conversing; most appeared very serious. I identified cheerleaders.
“Bring it home!” Encouragement. A challenge.
We exited our cabs, stood silently, and witnessed, to us, a remarkable sight. The players were embarking onto the heated buses.
A few were easily recognized: Nick Pietrosante, Al Ecuyer. They were calm and intent. They seemed quietly determined. They were about to fly that Friday morning to Norman, Oklahoma. There was a national focus on the game the next day.
“The Irish: too weak to break the Sooners’ streak ?” read a flier tacked up all over campus.
Kneeling, shortly thereafter, in the chapel of Fisher Hall, we reflected upon the beauty of the moment: the chapel itself, the quiet campus, the simple Mass. We talked, later, of the young men we had witnessed earlier, departing to play in the biggest game of their collective lives.
Breakfast in the South Dining Hall cafeteria, our group interview with Father Sheedy, a visit to the Grotto. As high school seniors from Massachusetts, this was our first exposure to the campus. We had enjoyed very little sleep during the overnight train ride aboard The New England States.
We observed the male students walking to Saturday morning classes and could feel a sense of apprehension in the air. The Huddle was quiet. As game time approached, the Rockne Memorial emptied.
Lindsey Nelson and Red Grange would broadcast the game, to be shown on closed-circuit television in the Drill Hall. Several thousand gathered, standing throughout, frequently shouting the familiar cheers, appreciative of the effort of the team.
The cacophony in the Drill Hall was overwhelming as Dick Lynch circled right end for the game`s only touchdown.
The weekend, the game, is crystallized in the mind`s eye. At that time in our young lives, it was the most exciting event that we had witnessed. Nor has, to us, to many, that excitement been surpassed in the great lore that is Notre Dame football.
That evening, the returning buses required an hour to navigate the length of Notre Dame Avenue. The great swell of students pressed against the vehicles. They were appreciative, proud. The players no longer appeared grim. They look tired but obviously pleased with their accomplishment.
It was November 1957. We had been borne up on the tide of great emotion. The Sooners` streak had indeed been broken. Our small group of six resolved to embrace the tradition, and to return as members of the Notre Dame Family.