As I began reading “Joe Slovinec comes home,” I realized I had met him. I am an Adrian Dominican sister living in Adrian, Michigan. One of my roles was to prepare the vigils and funerals for the sisters who died in our health care center at the motherhouse. Joe had an aunt who resided there. His aunt, Sister Dorothy Folliard, died April 1, 2018. In preparing for services, I invite family members to actively participate. During that time, I received a couple of calls from Joe, but he was not able to sustain the calls. I mentioned this to a niece of Sister Dorothy, who told me of his condition.
More than a year later, Joe called and said he would like to come to Adrian to visit his aunt’s gravesite. He came by Greyhound from Chicago and stayed at our retreat center. The next morning, November 9, 2019, we visited the gravesite and Joe offered a beautiful spontaneous prayer. I realized this visit was a very special time for Joe. I was surprised to read that he died January 22, 2020, only two and a half months after his visit.
I will add to our congregation’s prayer list Joe and his friends from the Notre Dame Class of 1980, whose love and concern brought him home, and I plan to visit his grave at Cedar Grove Cemetery.
Sister Pat Dulka, O.P.
The details of Joe Slovinec’s life and passing are very meaningful to me. Joe was a senior at Marist High School when I was a freshman there, and I am a Notre Dame parent and the nephew of an alumnus who lived a life much like Joe’s. You could see the Pacific Gardens Mission from the L tracks as we approached the Adams station — not the place I would ever have expected a Marist grad and ND alum to end up. However, my Uncle Jim ’63 died penniless a few years ago. It was a very difficult family situation. He had not been able to work — or decided he did not need to work — for most of his life and ended up on Medicaid, moving from center to center.
There is an important message here that we sometimes lose sight of. We tend to create expectations and judge people based on our measurements of success and achievement, and someone like Joe, or my uncle, teaches us more about life than many successful ND/Marist grads. Joe’s friends and my mother showed kindness and the need to “meet people where they are at” — by being patient, not judging, seeking to understand and not be dismissive, and helping when you can. Thank you for sharing Joe’s legacy and the lessons of acceptance and friendship.
Downers Grove, Illinois
Holy Cross sisters
When I attended my 40th reunion many years ago, many of the alumnae of the first graduating class of undergraduate women were there. I teared up because my first thought was how much talent the University had missed out on by not going coeducational sooner. This excellent article (“The Women of Past Presence”) shows that women actually have been at the forefront of this great University’s development from the very beginning, and it is not only fully justified but also very important to recognize their contributions in a significant way.
Bob Mason ’67
NIL and college sports
Your 50th anniversary issue contained much of interest to me, including the thoughtful piece on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) payments to college athletes. I am convinced that unregulated NIL payments will be the death of college football. It began as the well-intentioned notion that athletes should be paid something when their face appears on a box of cereal or their name on a jersey sold at the bookstore. But things have already gotten out of hand. Witness the huge payments and promises of huge payments to young athletes who have never played a collegiate down or inning or quarter. I share the widespread concern that such payments are being used to “market” athletic programs and entice young recruits. Disgraceful.
William T. Little ’73
Two stories, “As If There Were No Tomorrow” and “Reading, Writing and the Risks of Failure,” reminded me that our nation could benefit from greater abilities in critical thinking through a more robust approach to education at every level. Instead, we risk falling into the trap of limiting children to what is perceived as “comfortable” to them because of the fear of diverse ideas. In many places across the country, educators are being censored for bringing up controversial topics. Since January 2021, 35 states have introduced 137 bills limiting what schools can teach with regard to race, American history, politics, sexual orientation and gender identity.
All of this directly contradicts the goals that Anthony Walton so effectively identifies. Placing irrational limits on what can be taught not only compromises the richness of our American story, but it also further limits our ability to employ ingenuity, one of our best qualities. A fearful mind is not a creative mind. Our ingenuity and creativity should have been unleashed years ago to begin addressing climate change. We could benefit from thinking about how many of today’s crises and responses — or lack thereof — will be viewed through a historical lens 100 years from now.
Mike Tranel ’81
Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming
The issue of runaway consumption addressed by Scott Russell Sanders (“As If There Were No Tomorrow”) actually only scratches the surface of the problem. Together with all living creatures on this planet, humans are equipped through evolution to gorge themselves when given the opportunity. This is because, for 95 percent of human existence, before the invention of agriculture, we literally did not know where our next meal was coming from. While this trait helped our species to survive on the savannas of Africa, its effects can be seen in our times as materialism and obesity. Whether humankind will be able to overcome our inbred propensity to consume is our ultimate test. It will determine whether we actually are an “intelligent” species or have simply been pretending to be one.
Guy Wroble ’77
At the age of 94 and having been a priest for 67 years, I feel blessed to be able to serve as pastor in a small parish (156 households) in eastern Tennessee. I would like to thank you for the many times that I have found inspiration for homilies in Notre Dame Magazine — for example, “As If There Were No Tomorrow” in this winter’s issue.
Rev. Robert Hofstetter ’50
Schools and America’s future
Anthony Walton ’82 accurately alarms us about our country’s future, given the state of education that prevails for most people (“Reading, Writing and the Risks of Failure”). He says we need to reinvent education to rebuild our body politic. Maybe so, but how? Certainly the answer is not just to spend more money on a system that has failed us. And as Walton says, we are already asking schools to do too much, from preparing students to acquire the skills demanded by the gig economy to advancing in social and moral knowledge.
What is the solution? Walton suggests we refocus the purpose of an education to help young people become good citizens, to provide intellectual, moral and social instruction to them. That’s good. But is the school the primary gateway for this to happen? And by funneling millions of dollars more into a system that does not work?
Walton himself indicates the correct solution: imitating what his parents did for him when he was young, which was to encourage him to work hard and see how diligence and perseverance pay off. Is this the province of schools? We need to rely more heavily upon families to pass on the virtues and faith that young people need to take their part in society.
Joe Billmeier ’74
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Thank you for “What Happens Now?” by David Gibson. It is encouraging to see such a positive understanding of the purpose of the Second Vatican Council. One hopes Notre Dame can be a place where fruitful engagement and dialogue with the contemporary world can take place. The council wanted the Church to be a “leaven” and a “light” penetrating society with what Pope St. John XXIII called the “life-giving and perennial energies of the Gospel.” The University is poised to make a strong contribution to our world by exploring the harmony between divine revelation and truths accessible to human reason. May we see more articles on this theme.
Rev. Jerome L. Kriegshauser, OSB, ’61
Although the reasons that Americans are leaving the Catholic Church are probably numerous and complex, one that stands out is a reason not mentioned in the article: Minorities, immigrants and social progressives do not feel welcome. When the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Los Angeles’ Archbishop José Gomez (himself an immigrant), characterizes social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter as Marxist-inspired “pseudo-religions” based on profoundly atheistic ideologies that are hostile to Catholic belief, he is reflecting an opinion that archconservatives hold within the American Catholic Church. This opinion is not consistent with the message of the Vatican and Pope Francis and shows a severe misunderstanding, ignorance and insensitivity.
Instead of targeting secularism as the only cause of decline, Church leaders need to ask themselves why churchgoers are whiter and whiter, whereas our country is becoming more and more black and brown.
Robert John Perry ’72
The Catholic Church started down the slope of “less of us” well before the sex scandal. Try the 1960s. Free love, the pill, abortion, gay rights and how few view the Eucharist as the Body of Christ. The “I am my own god” concept helped immensely. Public schools added some very consistent anti-Catholic rhetoric, and Catholic schools closed. CCD failed miserably, and two parents went to work from many families, destroying the family unit. Studies have shown that the father may drive the car, but the mother puts the kids in church. That ends when we’re two-income families by choice. When life is a fungible commodity (abortion, birth control, etc.), why would anyone pick a church of old white guys 2,000 years removed? The Catholic message doesn’t resonate and can’t compete with Hollywood or Wall Street. Try saying you’re Catholic out loud. We’re viewed as anti-feminist, anti-gay, intolerant, bigoted archconservatives who belong to a long-gone era. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pope Benedict XVI prophetically said the Church would shrink greatly but would come back stronger. He is correct on one point and I am praying diligently for point two.
Stephen Restaino ’76
The article’s subhead says, “Perhaps the way forward requires a new look at timeless tenets of faith.” I did not see any timeless tenets questioned. Here are a few suggestions:
End the rule of celibacy. It was never part of the Church to begin with. Make it optional if it must be saved. Christianity thrived for a thousand years without it.
Permit women to become clergy. They led services in the early Church, and the religion spread like wildfire. This is not a new idea or giving in to a movement.
Allow Catholics to openly do what they do anyway — practice birth control. When most of the adherents of a faith ignore one of its prohibitions, that should be a message.
Then, preach the same four gospels without change. The message of Jesus will be intact. And then see how many of the 30 million in the United States who left the Church return.
For too long the Curia has held the faithful in a headlock. As the author said, “All of this means change, and change is challenging.” It also often leads to renewal.
John Koeppel ’69
More than frozen food
I came this close to passing over the story about Clarence Birdseye. C’mon: a story about frozen food? I’m glad I didn’t. Turned out, really, the piece was about quite a bit more than Mr. Birdseye. Pretty satisfying, in fact. Indeed, I’d say that about the issue generally.
Tom Walsh ’83