Full Stride

Professor of management information systems Mark Frolick picked up his first camera at age 13—an old Nikon FTN that he bought for $300 from the high school newspaper photographer who lived down the road.

He started shooting sports. He liked fast subjects.

Years went by, and Frolick continued pursuing his hobby, adding sunsets, beaches and his pet cats to his list of photographic interests. Then, last fall, another subject caught his eye.

He was attending a fundraiser for the Cincinnati Zoo, and he saw a cheetah running. His eyes widened. “I’ve always loved cheetahs,” he says.

When he learned the Zoo lets the cats loose to run in a field on Saturdays, his imagination took off in a sprint as well.

“It’s like poetry in motion,” he says. “It’s what these animals were born to do.”

Frolick showed up with his camera the next Saturday. And the next. And the one after that. He got to know each of the Zoo’s five cheetahs.

“They have distinct personalities,” he says. “Like housecats.”

There’s Sara, the 12-year-old female, who holds the record as the world’s fastest mammal. (Four years ago, she ran 100 meters in 6.13 seconds.) There’s also Nia, Chance, Bravo and Tommy T.

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of only a handful of zoos that run their cheetahs. Keepers release the cats into a field, where they chase a mechanized lure—“basically a dog toy,” says Frolick. Cheetahs aren’t the easiest subjects to photograph. They run as fast as 70 miles per hour, and they turn on a dime.

“Imagine a running back, only running three times as fast,” Frolick says. “You shoot a lot and hope you get something. You spray and pray.”

In hundreds of frames, Frolick might have a few keepers. The rest? “I call them my cheetah butt shots,” he says. “Because that’s all you get. They’re gone.”

Frolick has compiled his favorite cheetah photos into an unpublished book. He’s already adding to that collection. The Cincinnati Zoo has the best cheetah program in the country, he says. He’ll be back documenting these quick cats “any time they’ll let me.”

Where is George Budde Buried?

Mysteries and myths continue to enshroud the life and death of George Budde.

The baffling circumstances of his death, certainly. And other quandaries: Where does Budde’s body now rest, for instance? Is he sleeping eternally in a family plot at an aging Cincinnati cemetery, as many believe, or is he still interred in the earth—half a world away—at a farmstead near a town called Mouze?

“It’s astounding how little information is actually out there,” says Price Hill Historical Society volunteer Richard Jones, one of those who have been tracking down elusive connections. “I’m disturbed to not find more about George Budde in the [burial] records.”

Jones and other battle buffs have made a mission out of delving for answers, plumbing through historical society and military archive vaults. Fortunately, some original source material does survive, not the least of which are fellow soldier’s correspondences from the wartime front.

Version one from a comrade: George’s body is buried on the banks of the Meuse River, about three kilometers below the town of Mouzon, and the grave was properly marked.

Or, by another official report: George’s remains were carried back across the river and buried near the Lasatelle Farmhouse on the road between Beaumont and Pouilly, about half a mile inland from the Meuse.

Yet another version has George’s coffin returned home.

There certainly was a ceremony back in Cincinnati. Newspapers report George being laid to rest at the Old St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Price Hill, after a glorious military parade from Holy Family Church. The funeral service itself was elaborate. A catafalque representing Budde’s coffin was draped with an American flag, “while 10 soldiers from Fort Thomas were on guard.” Khaki-colored candles flickered in tribute.

Cemetery records, however, state “No record of internment” of any body beneath the headstone at the family plot.

Family markers note the graves at Old St. Joseph’s today. George’s tombstone is still flanked by his parents and siblings. A huge catalpa tree towers over the gravesites, dropping palm-like leaves on the landscape. Each Memorial Day, members of the now-disbanded George W. Budde American Legion Post No. 507 gather at the grave for a commemoration ceremony.

If he is indeed buried atop these bluffs of Price Hill, George has a view of his home on Hawthorne Avenue.

On The Road

One of William Verbryke, S.J.’s, favorite stories of pilgrimage when he was in charge of novices in the Detroit Province involved two young Jesuits who decided to hitchhike together from San Antonio, Texas. Westward ho!

They began at a truck stop, sticking out their thumbs, thinking truckers would be more willing to pick up hitchhikers. No luck.

After awhile, a disheveled-looking man walked toward them. They worried that he would ask for money, and they had only $35 each to last the whole month. But the homeless man surprised them.

“If you’re looking for a ride,” he said, “you should go stand over there.” He pointed to a different part of the road.

Turns out, he knew what he was talking about.

“They were worried about having to give their money away to the old man,” says Verbryke, director of the Jesuit community at Xavier, “but instead they were learning to trust in God, because someone they thought they would have to help ended up helping them.”

The tradition of the Jesuit pilgrimage has had a long history since Ignatius Loyola experienced his own pilgrimage that led to the creation of the Jesuit order in 1540. The experience was so profound that he penned it as a requirement for men who wanted to join the Society of Jesus.

In the U.S., the pilgrimage has not always been a month-long trek on one’s own to learn how to trust in God. It has taken on various forms depending on the province, the decade and the politics of the times. Prior to Vatican II in the mid-1960s, for instance, life at the novitiates where novices first enter the Jesuit order was more insulated and monastic.

Novices were introduced to the idea of pilgrimage and might be asked to go through the motions, such as walking as a group one day from one parish to another and back, or counting volunteer work in a hospital as a pilgrimage experience. Doing an actual pilgrimage was considered not practicable—especially when the political atmosphere at the time made it dangerous.

John Heim, S.J., director of the Music Series at Xavier, recalls the anti-Catholic attitudes—directed at men who, by joining the clergy, avoided the draft—in the 1950s.

That all changed after Vatican II instructed the orders to revisit their foundations, Verbryke says.

When the Detroit province added a pilgrimage experience, it was a modified two-week trip. It has since become a month-long experience with the merger of the Detroit and Chicago provinces with the Wisconsin province, which has always practiced the monthly pilgrimage.

When Verbryke returned as a novice director in Detroit from 2002-2010, he found sending his young charges out into the world for 30 days with nothing but a little cash and a bus ticket quite nerve-wracking—for him. He required them to check in weekly to let him know they were okay. Usually the calls fall off toward the second half of the month as the novices become more accustomed to being on their own.

Novices spend time before their trip in discussion with their spiritual directors about what they want to accomplish on the pilgrimage and where they should go. Their trips vary—one novice went to Mexico City to tour the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and related sites, another spent the month reuniting with his sister. One decided he would spend the month walking, so he took the bus from St. Paul, Minn., to Milwaukee and started walking back, averaging 15 miles a day. He stayed at Catholic rectories, convents and monasteries at night and grew so scruffy looking that the novitiate received nine calls to confirm his identity.

Novices are supposed to encounter poverty and doing without typical comforts, but they are allowed to accept donations as long as it’s within reason. They carry a letter of introduction from the novice director explaining the purpose of the pilgrimage. Verbryke said he once got multiple calls from one parish that didn’t trust the novice’s story and wanted to make sure he was legit before offering him a place to stay.

“Most of our novices are willing to do it, but some are so fearful of the unknown and of being without the comforts they’re used to,” he says. “We tell them to be prudent and don’t take any risks.”

Matt Dunch, S.J., now teaching philosophy at Xavier, was one of the fearful ones. His pilgrimage was only for a week, but it nearly scared the pants off him. He took a night bus from Detroit to Washington, D.C., with plans of staying at a Benedictine monastery for the week.

“It was my first bus trip,” he says. “It was so foreign to my experience of flying with no connections. The bus was stopping in these God-awful places. I was just puzzled. It was not a negative experience, and I know that’s how most of the world works.”

When he got off the bus in the morning and made his way to the monastery by the early afternoon, he was greeted with a resounding “no” by the monk who answered the door in jeans and a sweatshirt. Dunch was stunned. This was not what he expected, but as he walked away he had an odd feeling of lightness and relief that his plan to hunker down at the monastery failed. Being rejected wasn’t so bad after all.

He got a warmer reception at a Jesuit community house, which let him stay for two nights. Then he stayed with a priest friend in Arlington who invited him to a dinner event for youth with the Archbishop of Baltimore. Dunch, who has a slim build, to borrow black clerical clothing that hung on him like a gunnysack. But he was happy to be in a place where he felt welcomed and to meet such an important member of the Church.

The next day, sitting near Capitol Hill, he was swarmed by an entourage of 200 members of Congress, led by senators Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who had just passed legislation raising the minimum wage. It was a heady moment for Dunch. He ended the week touring historic Jesuit sites and attending a friend’s wedding, happy to have survived his week of pilgrimage having learned something about himself in the process.

“My overall experience was that it loosened my grip on having to plan everything in advance,” Dunch says. “I was petrified of the idea of the pilgrimage, but I’m more trusting now.”

Stories like Dunch’s prove to Verbryke the value of the pilgrimage experience.

“They realize they do have a safety net, but so many of the people they meet on the road do not. They learn about a whole slice of humanity,” he says. “The only failed pilgrimage experiment is the one they don’t process. We always ask them later, where did you meet God in this?”

Learning to Trust

Matthew Lieser lies curled up in the dirt, shivering, his raincoat offering the only protection against the damp, chilly weather of the Pacific Northwest. Huddled between a row of bushes and a wall of St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Portland, Lieser is scared. Like so many of the homeless, he has nowhere to go and no one to help him.

Then he hears the voices.

It’s 2:00 a.m. The bars are closing, spewing their patrons onto the streets, and three drunken men are sauntering his way. Their voices grow louder as they get closer, and he begins to hear their words. They are shouting obscenities at the Catholic Church. Afraid, Lieser begins praying that he won’t be discovered. But as the voices continue to get louder and closer, Lieser begins to wonder: “Where’s God?”

[divider]•••[/divider]

The 67th paragraph of the Jesuit Constitution directs all Jesuit novices to do a month-long pilgrimage “without money… begging from door to door… to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging.” The tradition is a lesson in trust that began with the order’s co-founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose own experience of pilgrimage transformed him from a warrior into a man of God.

In America, each of the nine provinces practices its own unique version of the pilgrimage, and none is closer to Ignatius’ original directive than that of the Wisconsin province. Novices are sent off with $35, a one-way bus ticket and an order to be home for dinner at 4:00 p.m., exactly 30 days later. The cash and the ticket get them only so far. The novices, most in their 20s, must rely on their faith, their wits and the generosity of others to make it through.

It’s an experience that frightens some and energizes others. But the lesson is always the same—personal vulnerability and complete trust in God. Lieser can bear witness.

“I was scared,” Lieser says, recalling his encounter with the drunken men in Portland. “That was the low point of my pilgrimage. I thought, why am I doing this? Where’s God? But it opened my eyes to the fact that a lot of people have to deal with this.”

Lieser, a 2003 graduate, is not alone. Several other Xavier alumni—Jeff Dorr, Julio Minsal-Ruiz, Ryan Masterson—have all wandered through city streets or rural villages on their way to taking their vows. All are now in the First Studies program of academic studies at Jesuit universities in the U.S.

And all are wiser for their experiences. Here are their stories:

 
[divider]Matthew Lieser[/divider]
On April 15, 2010, Matthew Lieser boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Spokane, Wash. He carried a book bag holding four changes of clothes, a Swiss Army knife to open bottles and cans, a rain coat, a Bible, a journal and a spiritual guide. No phone, no bank cards, no computer.

Two days later, at 5:00 p.m., he checked into Spokane’s Union Gospel Mission, where he was required to take a breathalyzer test before being allowed to participate in his required evening chores and chapel. Then he was handed a bundle of pajamas and told to get in line for a group shower. Petrified, he thought of fleeing to the safety of the Jesuit residence at nearby Gonzaga University, but in deciding to stay, he met Chuck, a homeless man in a wheelchair who lost a foot to frostbite. Chuck wanted to visit the cathedral in downtown Spokane. With nothing on his agenda the next day, which began with a rude wake-up call at 5:00 a.m. and an order to leave the shelter, they took off, Lieser wheeling Chuck the two miles to the cathedral and back.

While there, Lieser got permission from the priest to speak at the morning Mass. His talk focused on his pilgrimage and so captivated the congregation that many waited in line 40 minutes to speak with him afterward. He received invitations of places to stay, money, a rosary and a small diamond ring to keep him safe. It’s inscribed “In Christ Always.”

The gifts made it difficult for Lieser to stick to his goal “to encounter discomfort materially and to learn to trust in God’s will.” In planning his journey with his spiritual director, Lieser chose to challenge himself by experiencing homelessness and poverty. He would stay in homeless shelters in every city on his journey, but he would not ignore God’s generosity from the people he met.

“In every city, I met people who took me out of the shelters and gave me food and offered me money,” he says. “I ended up making over $2,500 from people’s generosity. One lady bought me a plane ticket.”

From Spokane, Lieser traveled to Portland, Boise, Denver, Chicago and Cincinnati before heading home to Detroit, using the money people gave him to pay for bus tickets and an Amtrak train trip to Chicago. In Portland, he visited his cousin, a Catholic priest, and worked at the parish in exchange for a few nights’ stay. People he met at a church in Boise practically fought over the chance to take him in. And in Denver, he spent the night at a shelter that did not screen for alcohol or drug use with people who were “high, drunk and fighting.” Frightened, he moved to a cheap, dirty hostel for a few days and then to the Jesuits’ Regis University to rest up before moving on.

In Chicago he visited a Jesuit community where he lived for six months before joining the order. He gladly helped with mowing,

painting and in the soup kitchen in exchange for three nights on the rectory floor. And finally in Cincinnati, he came full circle with the place where his discerning about becoming a Jesuit began, when he was a student at Xavier and an employee of Chiquita. He stayed at the Drop Inn Center shelter in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, visited his brother, gave away the rest of his money and shot back up the interstate to Detroit.

It was his experience in Portland, however, that sticks with him as the most traumatic and transformative. Finding every shelter already full, he went to the cathedral and pounded on the door. When no one answered, it dawned on him that he would have to sleep outside.

He didn’t get a wink of sleep, he says. But as he waited on the ground, wondering what would happen next, he got a glimpse of what life’s like for people who are always homeless and scared. It met a goal of his pilgrimage: “to be in solidarity with the poor and experience poverty but not to ignore God’s generosity… and his care will sustain you.”

 
[divider] Julio Minsal-Ruiz [/divider]
Julio Minsal-Ruiz stood before a waterfall and marveled at his incredible fortune.

The waterfall was a consolation, a gift in the middle of a journey into the unknown. Ruiz and two other Jesuit novices were stumbling their way through a forest in the western Dominican Republic, taking the advice of local villages that it was a shortcut to a nearby town. The waterfall offered them a shower, a drink and a chance to regroup, but they were not quite sure of the path beyond.

“That’s what pilgrimage is,” he says. “An experience of bare, almost nakedness of humanity without technology or big-city commercialism. All of that is left behind and all of a sudden all you have before you is a waterfall, trees, a mango in your hand and a path before you.”

The companions discussed going back to the main dirt road. Though long, it was guaranteed to get them to Río Limpio and the end of their 30-day pilgrimage. But no, they decided, they would trust the villagers. So they followed the path away from the waterfall, up and down hills, catching glimpses of Río Limpio in the distance.

After awhile, however, they didn’t see the village anymore, just mountains. They began to worry. It was late, they were in thick woods, and giant thunderheads were looming. Suddenly the mountains boomed. Lightning struck. Thunder cracked. The rain turned the path into a slippery slurry. At a point of confusion, fear and near panic, the young Jesuits began emptying their packs to lighten their loads. Finally, the path just stopped. They were stranded alone at the top of a mountain in the middle of a rain-drenched forest and had no idea where to go.

Thirty days earlier, their journey had begun with a simple admonition from their novice director to put everything they had in the hands of God and surrender themselves to the experience they were about to face. They were driven from the novitiate in Santiago and dropped off in the town of Dajabon on the Haitian border. From there they fanned out in groups of three along dirt and gravel roads to various collections of villages. Each novice then peeled off to stay a week in a different village.

They carried no money or cell phones, just a few clothes, a water bottle, a prayer book and a letter of introduction from the novitiate, which proved unnecessary as the people were long familiar with the Jesuit practice of pilgrimage and welcomed the wanderers. Ruiz found just walking into a town could set off an argument over whose house he stayed in, where he ate dinner and how he spent his days.

“Many times the poorest people in the poorest towns were often the people who were the most generous,” Ruiz says. “They would move mountains to make things appear, like putting food on the table.”

Ruiz approached each community with an offer to work. “Our experience was to work alongside them and experience the work of the rural farmer,” he says. But for Ruiz, who grew up in Miami and graduated in 2009 with psychology and philosophy degrees, milking cows and plowing fields involved steep learning curves. “It was very humbling.”

He stayed in homes of simple construction—cement block with zinc metal roofs. Cooking took place outdoors around an open fire pit under a roof of cooling palm branches. The women cooked rice and beans in a big pot with a single spoon. Sometimes they had meat. Always they had mangos, which, Ruiz learned, are never in short supply in the Dominican. He always carried a couple whenever he traveled between villages, wearing his wide-brimmed hat an older Jesuit gave him to keep the sun at bay. “You could never go hungry, because mangos were everywhere. Even traveling, there was always a mango tree,” he says.

But standing at the top of the mountain, lost, Ruiz’s mind whirled with thoughts of hopelessness, even death, and the very real possibility that they would never be found. “When the path ended, we really kind of lost everything. We had no hope of anyone finding us. It was a very critical life or death situation.”

They had to do something. Hearing a river below, they decided to make their way down the mountain, follow the river downstream and hope it would lead somewhere. After about an hour, they came to a little shack with a well-tended garden. The farmer was helpful, pointing the way to Río Limpio—past oak trees and across fences, fields and more rivers in the distance.

Three hours later, at 8:00 p.m., they arrived—12 hours after they had set out that morning. They were greeted with warm food, dry beds and the company of their Jesuit colleagues. Ruiz realized that even though he had despaired, he’d been determined to complete the pilgrimage and had found hope in the process.

“We’d almost completed the objective of the pilgrimage which is to put everything we had in the hands of God,” Ruiz says. “Even the path we first thought we had was taken from us. The clothes were lost, the food was gone, but somehow God was there and leading us. All these things we thought were ours, but actually they’re things He has given to us. Everything we have is a gift, and that’s the main objective.”

 
[divider]Jeff Dorr[/divider]
Jeff Dorr stepped off the Greyhound bus and into the hot, humid air of Atlanta, tired and wrinkled after a 24-hour trip from Detroit. Wearing a plain brown T-shirt, khaki pants and flip-flops, Dorr intended to walk 20 miles southeast to a Trappist monastery where he was planning to spend his pilgrimage in prayerful, contemplative solitude amidst the natural beauty of the monks’ pine forests, lakes and blooming trees.

Within minutes, however, his plan vanished.

The first person he stopped on the street to ask for directions had just gotten out of prison. They talked for a few minutes, and Dorr was so moved that he gave the man $10 for train fare. A few steps farther on, he met Kenny, a homeless man with health problems. They talked, too, and Dorr ended up giving him the remainder of his cash so he could eat. He also dug a pair of socks out of his backpack to give him.

That’s when it hit him.

“I realized that I felt drawn to a new focus,” Dorr says. “I knew what homeless people looked like and sounded like, but I never knew experientially what it meant to be homeless. I thought maybe that’s where this should go. Something of that experience of being on the street and being without was what I was meant to be doing.”

So Dorr shelved the security of the monastery and took to the mean streets of Atlanta. He checked into the Atlanta Union Mission where he discovered that life at a shelter is unpredictable at best. Each day hundreds of Atlanta’s down-and-out check into the shelter, while across the street the Atlanta Aquarium welcomes the better-heeled into its underwater wonderland, and the World of Coca-Cola museum entertains the paying public at its “Home of Happiness.” The irony didn’t escape Dorr.

Among the dozens of people Dorr met was Vince, a big, tall friendly guy whose stories and engaging personality drew people to him. He hung out every morning at the CNN Center food court and sold cell phones he bought off the black market. Dorr tagged along, and when he asked where the phones came from, Vince simply said, “I don’t ask questions.”

Vince, a former drug dealer, was also fighting lung cancer. One night—after a man tried to pick a fight with him—Vince decided to leave the shelter and go to the hospital emergency room where he could get a bed and a check-up. Dorr went along and slept in the waiting room. In the morning, the hospital gave Vince a free prescription for his pain and discharged him back to the streets.

“I looked at Vince as a real friend,” Dorr says. “He was there with me as I was being exposed to the shelter. I presume that 50 percent of what Vince told me was lies, but I hung out with him half the days I was there. We’d wander around the city together. One thing I gained from the shelter was a whole new appreciation for who ends up there.”

A lot of shelter residents have addiction or mental health issues. Others were like Vince—people who had houses and jobs and then something went wrong, like a divorce. “And now they’re here,” Dorr says. Mark was another example. His strong, fit build and decent clothes—as well as his cell phone—made him seem out of place. One day, Mark looked at Dorr:

“What’s your deal?” he said. “You don’t belong here.”

“What do you mean?” Dorr replied.

“Look around. You’re different.”

Dorr told him his story. The next morning Mark woke up Dorr at 3:30 a.m. to walk to a Waffle House. At breakfast, Mark told Dorr his story—he was a divorced father of two from Chicago and was in Atlanta looking for a job.

In all, Dorr spent 18 nights at the shelter—more than half his pilgrimage. He eventually reported to the monastery, spending seven days digging a ditch, mowing the lawn, eating lunch in silence, attending four of the five daily prayer sessions and learning how to chant. He also stayed in the homes of five different families he met at churches or at the soup kitchens where he volunteered.

“The point of the pilgrimage is to spend the month letting go of our typical securities of home, money, community, and in doing that, come to trust more fully in God,” he says. “I realized how blessed I am, and that no matter what I do, I can’t experience life on the streets the way these guys do. It changed the outlook I had of what I was striving for and what God was calling me to. His message to me was to be with them, but you can’t be them.”

 
[divider]Ryan Materson [/divider]
Ryan Masterson was hungry, so he walked from the bus station in downtown Louisville, Ky., straight into an Applebee’s restaurant he spied nearby. It was a long bus ride from Detroit, after all, and a good lunch would give him energy for the next leg of his trip. He ate alone and enjoyed every bite, but when he went to pay the bill, it was like a sucker punch to the gut.

The bill was $17—half of the $35 he’d been given for his entire two-week pilgrimage. How was he supposed to get through the next 12 days?

Masterson was sent “to do time,” as he puts it, at the Trappist monastery, the Abbey of Gethsemani, south of Louisville. He’d been moved by The Seven Storey Mountain, a book by Thomas Merton, who left his position as an English professor at Columbia University to become a Trappist monk at the abbey in Trappist, Ky. So Masterson requested to spend time at the abbey connecting with the elements that had drawn Merton into a monastic, religious life. For Masterson, the abbey not only connected him to Merton, it became a door to his past—and the oddest place to run into old friends.

Although he arrived at the abbey unannounced, the monks let him in, offering him a room that contained a desk, a cross on the wall and a bed with a box spring “that was made before Patton took Germany.”

During his stay, Masterson ran into a woman who was there for a retreat whom he knew from his home parish in Columbus, Ohio. As they talked about his decision to enter the priesthood, Masterson began to feel an anxiety that gnawed at him in college about his career choice. “I was feeling the conflict of whether to continue on with the Jesuits or go back to medicine.”

The woman offered him a ride to Cincinnati, but he declined. He needed to experience the abbey. For the next four days he lived like a monk—prayers, chants, eating in silence. He thought about relationships he lost, about a cousin killed in Afghanistan, about friends from Xavier he left behind. He was feeling cut off from his world.

“Part of my second-guessing was boiling down to a lack of trust in God or a sense of being unable to trust in that way,” he says. “Our pilgrimage model was about trust but also about where are you lacking in trust and in your real ability to say where you put faith in God and his provenance, and for me that was in a sense of relationship with others.”

Then two things happened. One morning, while strolling the grounds, he walked into a graveyard, and the first grave he came upon was Merton’s. He knew Merton died accidentally in 1968, but he didn’t know he was buried there.

“It was a complete surprise to me,” he says. “I knew he left the monastery and died in Thailand. He was electrocuted, and his body was brought back to Kentucky, and he was buried with all the other monks. I actually got to pray next to where he was buried, and one of his things, his issues, was trusting.”

He also attended the funeral Mass of a monk who died of cancer.

“To see the care these men had for him and his fulfillment in his life was powerful for me,” he says. “They had different prayer periods during the day, and I went in at 3:00 a.m. and even then, I saw an old man reading prayers with a monk who had just passed. I gained a lot from being there for the funeral of someone who died in obscurity in the hills of Kentucky and was utterly happy with his decision to do that.”

When it was time to leave, he began walking down the road in front of the abbey toward Louisville. Just then, a farmer in a pickup truck pulled up and offered him a ride. Upon hearing his story, he gave him a $10 bill, half of which he spent on a modest sandwich at a nearby diner. Coming out of the diner, he looked across the street and saw John, one of his best friends from Xavier.

John offered him a ride to Cincinnati, and it was like a homecoming for Masterson. He saw all his old friends and stayed with a different one each for four nights.

They took him out to dinner and talked long hours late into the night. They not only asked Masterson to let them care for him, they told him they admired his choice of the priesthood. “One of them said, ‘Ryan, I am so proud of you, and what you are doing right now matters and needs to be done. You are happier now than I have seen you in years.’ ”

“It confirmed for me I was making the right decision, and I was ready to go back,” he says. “It was a very intimate pilgrimage through my own experience and learning to trust in the graciousness and charity of others and to trust the relationships I put so much importance on,” Masterson said. “It was a pilgrimage into myself really.”

Profile: M. Stephanie Martin

M. Stephanie Martin

Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts, 2008

Human resources assistant,

Military Science, Xavier Cincinnati

Flying the coop | During high school, M. Stephanie Martin spent a summer in New Jersey with her uncle, a command sergeant major in the Army. “I loved the PX and the commissary,” she says. “And I liked the uniform.” She also wanted to travel. When she graduated, she moved up to Detroit, enlisted in the Army and got a uniform of her own.

Traveling wings | Martin served her first two assignments at Fort Jackson, S.C. Then she went to Fort Bragg, N.C., where she saw her first maroon berets—members of the 82nd Airborne Division. “There was something different about them,” Martin says. “They walked with their chests out.”

Leap of faith | Martin married a paratrooper in 1982 and enlisted in the 82nd in 1983. She trained, endured fortitude tests and took one final physical to be cleared for jump status. That’s when she learned she was pregnant. Two kids later, she tried again. “My first jump was the easiest,” she says. “You just jumped. The second was harder. You’re like, Hmm, I survived that one. Do I really want to do this again?”

Jump status | Martin jumped 52 times in all. How does one fall safely from the sky? “Keep everything tucked and tight, feet and knees together,” she says. As you fall, count to four. If your chute hasn’t opened by then, pull your secondary. Yield to the lower jumper, and land in a roll with five points of contact—feet, calf, thigh, butt and back. (Although usually it’s more like “feet, knees, face, or feet, butt, back-of-the-head,” she says. “It all happens really fast.”)

Around the world | Women paratroopers don’t enter combat. “I was doing HR,” she says. “But, because I was a paratrooper, I got to hang out with some really cool people.” She also got to travel to Korea twice and was a courier to Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War. (Often she didn’t know her cargo. She got stuck in Spain once because she was carrying Class B explosives.) In 2002, she served in a Joint Special Operations Command force in Uzbekistan.

Boots on the ground | Today, Martin manages the paperwork of student cadets as the human resources assistant for Xavier’s ROTC program. “Sometimes I put my mama hat on, sometimes I put my sergeant’s hat on,” she says. She gives some students their first salute when they become commissioned officers. For that, she pulls on her uniform once again.

Continuing service | In 2011, Martin received the Army’s regional Civilian of the Year award for community service. A mentor for at-risk youth, she is also a caregiver for disabled people and a signer in her church. She stays busy, even with a bad back and knee from jumping out of planes. “There’s a saying: Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” she says. “I haven’t had anything boring in my life. Even now, I’m still having the adventures of a lifetime.”

Profile: Thomas A. Coz

Thomas A. Coz

Bachelor of Arts in History, 1976

Safe Environment Coordinator for Children and Youth Archdiocese of Cincinnati

On The Watch | Thomas Coz has his keen eye on some 79,000 church employees in Southern Ohio. As the new point-man responsible for protecting any child who attends the region’s 300 Catholic parishes and schools, Coz is busy overseeing a number of critical changes in how the archdiocese does—and will do—business.

New Beginnings | “During 2012, we will begin to implement a new national child-protection training program called VIRTUS, to allow us to more effectively track our training and compliance efforts.” The program emphasizes best practices to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, protect victims from any further abuse, discourage bullying and cyber-bullying, identify and punish offenders, and assist leadership in setting other priorities.

The Enforcer | You don’t want to find yourself fibbing to Coz; he has the know-how and FBI information network to assure that every worker’s personnel record is clean as a whistle. “I supervise the fingerprinting and background check work that we do to ensure that no person with a criminal background comes into contact with children anywhere in the archdiocese.“

Restoring Faith | Don’t think of him as just a snoop or private-eye. Coz sees his primary role “to protect, enhance and in some cases restore the trust that our faith calls for, between agents of the Catholic Church and the children and adolescents entrusted to their care.” His watch list extends to all clerics, staff, volunteers, substitute teachers and even those personnel furnished by third-party contractors. Be it the groundskeeper in the parish garden or a nanny in the nursery, he’s got his eye on you.

To Protect And Serve | The task is immense. “With over 79,000 names in our databases, keeping track of who has received the training, who is current with training updates and who is not should dominate my time,” Coz says. His territory covers 214 parishes along with 113 primary and secondary schools. If an employee at any of these locations is promoted or moved into any other role, beginning now, he or she must agree to be fingerprinted yet again. The Archdiocese will also forbid registered sex offenders from entering a church property except to attend Mass.

The Road To Now | The attorney finished his JD at the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1979, then spent his early years at PepsiCo and NorthAmerican Van Lines. More recently, he’s served as general counsel to Wild Flavors Inc. in Erlanger, Ky. The father of two sons and a daughter, he’s a member of St. William Parish in Price Hill. “Our family returned to Cincinnati in 1992 where we purchased the home that my wife (Maureen Murphy Coz, Class of 1982) had grown up in.”

Profile: Melissa Currence

Melissa Currence

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

2001 Interactive Media Project Manager, Greater Cincinnati Foundation;

President, League of Women Voters Cincinnati

Club Day | Her first month at Xavier, Currence went to Club Day on the Mall and stopped at the League of Women Voters table. As a political science major, she was interested in learning about the political process. They invited her to the monthly unit meetings, and she went—every month.

A Good Fit | “Campaigns are so focused on attacking each other, but the League was part of the political process without being part of that negativity. I would rather work toward something positive that empowers voters than be part of just saying you’re wrong.”

Her Other Job | Currence was asked to join the board after she graduated. She also managed the voter service election guides for four years and in 2009 was appointed to the state board. In 2010, at age 30, she was elected president of the Cincinnati League on the 90th anniversary of its founding.

Madame President | “I was really interested in giving it a try. The League has been around for 92 years, and Cincinnati is one of the oldest Leagues in the U.S. and the largest in Ohio. I want to do the League justice as its president.”

Big Gains | Currence focused on making the League more relevant to younger Cincinnatians by improving its online acessibility. As she wraps up her two-year term in May, she thinks about all she’s gained. “The League trusted me and gave me so much. It’s been my leadership training.”

Service To Others | Currence fed her interest in government in other ways, too—with a student internship with Sen. George Voinovich and an unpaid internship doing public relations for the Race Street Tenant Organization Cooperative (RESTOC), a low-income housing provider in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

Summer In The City | That led to a full-time job after graduation with RESTOC as a tenant organizer. She also wrote press releases and a newsletter, capitalizing on other communications work she’d done, including for the Xavier Newswire.

Hot Town | “The day I interviewed for that job was the day the civil unrest started after the Timothy Thomas shooting. I’d lived in Over-the-Rhine the year before, and it was heartbreaking, but I was really excited to see what I could do to help. It’s why I chose to take the job.”

Change of Plans | She left RESTOC in 2003 for a master’s in journalism at Ohio State University, which led to a job at Talbert House, a nonprofit social service agency where she was a public relations specialist for six years. Last year, she was hired by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation as the interactive media project manager. “I got that foundation from Xavier about servant leadership, and that’s why I’m driven to work for nonprofits because I think they can really make a difference.”

Profile: Ryan Krcmarich

Ryan Krcmarich

Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs,

2001 Owner, Tacos Without Borders

Indianapolis

Career Shift | After graduating from Xavier, Ryan Krcmarich spent six years organizing political campaigns. “I’ve always been a people person,” he says. “Meeting all the people, listening to them, that was always my favorite part of campaigns.” The 90-hour, seven-day workweeks got old, though. While studying for his master’s in public affairs, he found his next calling: the mobile food business.

Meals on wheels | Krcmarich had read about the food truck scene of Los Angeles, and he wanted in. First, he needed a city with little competition. He picked Indianapolis. Then he needed a vehicle. He bought a cranky, 27-foot 1998 Chevy, an old Doritos truck with a kitchen in the back. After a few repairs, Tacos Without Borders was open for business. “It was an interesting first year,” he says. “I was learning everything on the fly. I’d never even worked in a restaurant before.”

Tacos with a twist | Tacos are Krcmarich’s fare, but not your standard hard shell. “I want people to step away from Taco Bell,” he says. “I want them to try ethnic foods through the comfort of a tortilla.” His menu includes a Thai Penang curry taco, a spicy peanut taco, an Indian butter chicken taco and more. “To my knowledge, I’m the only one who’s ever come up with an African taco,” he says. “And I have three different ones.” All come with slaw, scallions and Cotija cheese.

International inspiration | At Xavier, Krcmarich was known for his cooking. One time, a friend called Krcmarich in a panic. He’d invited a girl for dinner at his place. But he was a hopeless cook. So Krcmarich went over, cooked dinner and left before the girl arrived, letting his friend take the credit. Krcmarich found international influence at Xavier, too. On Sundays he would join a friend from New Delhi for meals with his family. He’d never eaten Indian food before, but he grew to love it. Now Krcmarich seeks inspiration from almost 400 international cookbooks. “I’m trying to accumulate one from every country.”

Rolling along | Krcmarich was the second food truck in Indianapolis when he started in 2010. By the next spring, there were 12. Now there are 40. That’s no sweat for Krcmarich, who gets most of his business at company lunches and private events. Food bloggers in Indianapolis call him “The Elusive One,” since his truck is so rarely in public. He did work this year’s Super Bowl, and was even invited to sell at an NFL Players Association event. But otherwise, Krcmarich is happy to whip up his ethnic tacos alone, in the back of his truck. “I really enjoy cooking. You get in there, pop in your mp3 player and do what you’ve got to do.” Krcmarich loves the freedom his wheels bring. “I don’t ever want to work for anyone ever again. I just enjoy cooking, talking to people and being my own boss.”

Brian’s Fund

When a Xavier student can’t quite meet the monthly rent, handle a bookstore tab or pay off a niggling registrar bill, that’s when the McCormick family steps in to help.

Matt and Susan McCormick come to the table offering whatever it takes to keep a needy kid inside the Xavier classroom: “There have been over 60 kids now where, whether it be rent money or book money or registration fees, we’ve helped,” says Matt.

This is the very reason that the couple established The Brian McCormick Memorial Fund—to assist financially struggling students, regardless of academic abilities. “Brian’s Fund is for anyone in economic distress, it doesn’t matter, race, creed or whatever, they just have to be Xavier students in immediate financial distress,” says Matt.

Matt, who earned a BSBA in 1992 in finance and an MBA in 1995 in marketing, and his wife Susan, a 1991 communications major with a minor in business, are doing all this in the name and memory of Matt’s brother, Brian, who died suddenly in 2008 at the age of 33. Brian graduated from Xavier in 1997 with a BA in advertising. “We were truly blessed to have him for 33 years,” says Matt. “Brian loved his family with his entire heart and soul. He was truly one of a kind and would light up a room with his boundless energy, amazing humor and unforgettable zest for life. Brian also loved Xavier and enjoyed playing rugby for his school. He was one of Xavier’s men’s basketball team’s most passionate fans. He relished in our team’s victories, and absolutely loved beating UD in every way possible.”

The establishment of Brian’s Fund is a bittersweet moment.

“This is not what we wanted, of course,” says Susan. “We would much rather have Brian still with us. But this is a fund that Brian always talked about getting together. He was one of the biggest, most loyal fans of Xavier. Brian just had this awesome spirit about him. He loved Xavier and was always grateful for the chance it took on him.”

The couple was gratified by the immediate reaction and support for the fund. “So many people reached out to us when Brian died and wanted to know what they could do,” says Susan. “Thanks to them and their contributions, Brian’s memory will go on.”

“Can you imagine the multiplier effect from these 60 students?” says Matt. “We only ask they remember down the road, when they are in a position to help Xavier students in need, that they remember what the fund did. That would be a great end result.”

“The wonderful thing is we are not talking big numbers,” says Susan. “It’s small numbers, $200 here and $200 there. But the impact can be huge. Eventually, we’d both like it where the fund is self-sustaining and around Xavier forever.”

Matt is portfolio manager for Bahl & Gaynor Investment Counsel Inc., and Susan is president at Blarney Communications. Between the two of them, they spend a great deal of time thinking and planning for the fund. The couple’s latest project involved a huge Dana Gardens fundraising party before a Xavier-Dayton basketball game.

The love for Xavier and its community is a family affair for the McCormicks. “Our kids, who are age 10 and 6, are certifiably brainwashed about Xavier,” says Matt. “Let’s put it this way: Both have been going to games since they were three months old. My son can rattle off player numbers going back to David West. They also, honestly, enjoy the Dippin’ Dots at Cintas.”

“We have always had in our wills that we would give something to Xavier,” says Matt. “We wanted to formalize a process to make a contribution that will last longer than we will.”

Because I Came to Xavier I…

Each year members of the prestigious 1831 Society gather in the Cintas Center before a men’s basketball game to wine and dine before they head into the arena to clap and cheer.

The gathering is put together by the Annual Fund office as a way of saying thanks to those whose annual gifts of $1,000 or more make them the University’s top donors. While the wine and Pasta Pronto buffet were a nice thank you by themselves, the biggest thanks came from another special group invited to the event—the students who benefit from the Society’s donations, which go toward student financial aid.

As a different twist this year, students were given a button with the words “Because I came to Xavier I….” which they were asked to fill in. Alumni frequently tell Annual Fund director Leigh Ann Fibbe that they never realized when they were students how much Xavier would shape their future, so the buttons not only helped alumni reminisce about their time at Xavier, but helped the students start thinking about it now as well. And they did. Some of their answers:

• “Because I came to Xavier, I have grown in my leadership and have been open to new opportunities and perspectives.” —Ryan

• “Because I came to Xavier, I will work toward justice by serving as an advocate for society’s most vulnerable.” —Brianne

• “Because I came to Xavier, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with world changers! I’ve been able to welcome over 1,000 students to the home that is Xavier University.” —Bobby

“The purpose is to say thanks to this leadership group of donors,” Fibbe says. “They give over 80 percent of the Annual Fund dollars each year. The alumni love talking to the students. And the students love it. They come to me afterward and say they want to do it again next year.”