Well, here’s where the journey down Radio Road takes a temporary detour.
From Kindergarten through 8th grade, I attended the parochial school connected with our church.
Anyone who attended Catholic grade school has heard the joke that we didn’t need security officers because we had nuns!
These ladies were absolutely “no nonsense” gals. Sister Maria Stella stands out in my my mind. She was a tough one but for some reason, I really loved her. In spite of her loud, harsh manner, I could also tell that she liked me.
In the 6th grade, I became an altar server. It was an exciting time to serve at Mass and assist at weddings and funerals. Funerals were especially sought after because we could miss class!
That’s where I served Mass. Those days, the church was known for its “smells and bells.” I especially liked the High Mass, when the scent of the incense was thick in the air.
Of course, the reason to do well in that school was to get accepted into Jesuit High School. Somehow, I got past the entrance exam and began the 4-year trip through the Jesuit process. What a ride!
That is the motto of all Jesuit schools. They also said to parents of incoming students, “Send us your boy and we will return your young man.”
It was rigorous and demanding academically. It also required a heaping helping of community service and strongly encouraged extracurricular activity. It turned out to be a life changing experience for all the fellows who made the journey.
The Jesuits are known for being extremely smart and they are skilled at helping form young men. They, too, were really tough on occasion. Over my four years there, I was heavily influenced by one Jesuit in particular, Rev. S.J. Rivoire, S.J.
He was the Prefect of Discipline, probably the most feared Jesuit in the building. Again, for some reason, I really liked him. Over time, we talked many times (and by my Senior year, daily) and he truly cared about how I was growing.
When he looked at you from a distance down the hall and said in a loud voice, “Mister, come here,” you knew that you were in for it. Yet, later I learned that his manner of discipline was “Ready…Aim…Cease Fire.” With him, the goal was to learn the lesson and not simply endure a punishment.
Father Malachi Cutcliff, S.J. taught Freshman Latin. He was a favorite of all the guys. With a drill instructor style in the classroom, he was determined that we would master this ancient language. I had been through two years of Latin already in grade school, so I was not as afraid as some of my classmates. As we gained confidence in our abilities, we had fun coming up with Latin phrases that were a little “out there.” “Illegitimi non carborundum” was frequently fun to use around your friends who didn’t know Latin, (“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”)
When I started at Jesuit, the school was located in a giant old building on Oak Lawn Drive. Only Seniors would enter by the Senior Steps in the front. The rest of us had to go in through the basement and climb the stairs to our classroom.
By my Junior year, the new school opened in North Dallas. Wow, what a change.
I was glad to have two years in each location. The new school had all the latest goodies, including our own closed-circuit TV station. When Jesuit hosted a huge speech tournament, 3 off us manned the TV center and announced results.
I was the anchor. Mike Redding ran camera and John Colwell (outside the frame) was producer/director. Those two guys also ended up involved with broadcasting.
From the summer of my Freshman year through graduation, I was also working in radio on weekends and full-time in Summer. All along, I was still trying to discover my “raison d’être” (“the most important reason or purpose for someone’s existence.”).
After all the years with the nuns and the powerful experiences with the Jesuits, I felt that the journey forward wouldn’t be all about me. As much as I loved radio, it was time to try a path of greater service… something in which you were helping people at their times of grandest joy or greatness sadness. Maybe…just maybe…I should be a priest.
So, with a deep breath, I jumped in. Mom was proud. Dad was supportive, but worried that the life ahead would be too lonely.
I began studies for the Diocese of Dallas. (I didn’t think I was smart enough to be a Jesuit.) It was the first year for the new seminary. 21 of us invaded The University of Dallas, a beautiful campus between Dallas and Fort Worth.
The new seminary complex had not yet been constructed. So, the “men in black” took over a dorm, Jerome Hall, as our home.
There were many incredible experiences during that year. Part of our time was in “Summum Silentium” (Grand Silence). We didn’t speak from 7PM until 7AM. It is amazing how your mind and consciousness expand when you experience quiet for that length of time.
Reverend Gerald Hughes was Vice-Rector.
We hit it off instantly, and I enjoyed my time becoming a kind of assistant to him. Still, he was a little surprised when, during the 2 week Christmas break, I told him that I would not be able to help with Midnight Mass because I was going to do fill-in DJ work for…KLIF.
As the year drew to a close, it was time for “Grand Sunday.” That’s when you appear before the seminary authorities and declare your intention to return or leave. (They also tell you what they think of your status.) I declared that, while the year was a part of my life journey that I would always treasure, it was better that I look at another path.
When I went home, I began to plot my next steps…back to radio. The two weeks of fill-in at KLIF introduced me to a great staff and I must have done OK because the next chapter would be full time at The Mighty 1190 and starting a second year of college.
I wasn’t sure what the years ahead would bring. But I knew that I wouldn’t be too lonely.