After the Storm

True to the forecast, 70 miles north of Joplin, Mo., it begins raining. It is cool, cloudy and blustery, feeling more like fall than spring. The combination creates an almost ominous feeling, a harkening back to what it must have felt like two years earlier, on May 22, 2011, when a similar cluster of clouds and rain spawned an EF-5 tornado that ripped a hole through the heart of the small, southwestern Missouri city.

The National Weather Service, however, also dutifully promises the return of sunshine and a break from showers and thunderstorms, which is a good thing because a celebration is planned. It’s a party in the park marking the two-year anniversary of the tornado, which killed 161 people, injured more than 1,100 and inflicted $2.8 billion in damage. It’s a citywide festival of perseverance and progress—proof with barbecue and frozen yogurt that the human soul can overcome even the greatest of tragedies. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is going to be there, as are Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, the CEO of the American Red Cross, a healthy collection of local officials, plus journalists representing the complete spectrum of news media.

A grim coincidence already has Napolitano in the region, about 200 miles west in Moore, Ok., where the day before a mile-wide tornado, packing winds of more than 200 miles an hour, removed a significant amount of the city from the earth’s surface. Now the national media is looking to Moore for the story and Joplin for the backstory.

Joplin has garnered a reputation as the standard bearer for disaster management and response—a reputation built by Joplin city manager and Xavier grad Mark Rohr. Two years ago, as bodies were being pulled from the rubble, the responsibility of rescue and rebuilding the city fell on Rohr. rohr

With square-shoulders, military-style haircut and mustache, Rohr looks more like someone you’d expect to see stepping out of a cruiser after being pulled over by the state patrol. But he’s not a uniform kind of guy, wearing a soft blue zip-up shirt, blue jeans, white khaki belt and surprisingly fashion-forward white Tom’s slip-ons. Even though his current wardrobe is more J. Crew than dress blues, Rohr emanates a sense of calmness that belies the events that forever changed the city of Joplin—and him.

 

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The Joplin city manager’s office is located on the second floor of City Hall, which is now housed in a renovated five-story department store, constructed in 1910. It was the first building in Joplin to have electric lights, and it features a Thomas Hart Benton mural above the first floor elevators valued at around $8 million.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/IMG_0046.jpg”]IMG_0046[/lightbox]Though it’s not often an interview topic, Rohr’s tenure as city manager has also seen the refurbishing of building facades, sidewalks cityscaped with vintage-style lampposts, flower baskets and benches, plus a gasoline powered citywide trolley system. Not bad for a town that until two years ago was probably best known as being a stop along Route 66, a temporary hideout for Bonnie and Clyde, zinc mining and the location of some unidentifiable bouncing orb known as the spooklight.

In the past two years, though, Rohr’s responsibilities have transcended the relative simplicities of trollies and lampposts. He’s become the international media’s go-to guy for disaster response.

“I was on CNBC this morning,” he says. “I didn’t really anticipate what the questions would be, but they asked me what recommendations I would make to the citizens of Moore.  I thought, ‘Wow.’ I came up with something. I said, ‘Just don’t give up hope. Persevere.’ ”

The on-deck lineup cuts across a wide demographic: interviews with Real News from TheBlaze TV at 5:00 p.m., MSNBC at 5:30 p.m. and CNN’s Piers Morgan at 8:00 p.m. It’s not that Rohr has a mania for public attention. He’s just using media to get out the message of Joplin’s recovery.

In nearly every interview, Rohr recounts the storm and the recovery. Even today, as Rohr details the circumstances in an easy monotone from the officious but cozy confines of Joplin’s City Council chambers, it’s spine-tingling to imagine how everyday events and life-changing catastrophes can occur.

“The tornado formed right on the edge of the city,” he says. “Hurricanes you can see coming ahead of time, and if you have any sense you get out of the way.  Tornados, especially this one, not a whole lot of advance notice at all.”

The tornado sirens sounded twice—24 minutes before and then four minutes before.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/copter.jpg”]copter[/lightbox]An hour before it hit, more than 400 graduates of Joplin High were walking across the stage at the Leggett and Platt Athletic Center on the Missouri Southern State University campus, about five and a half miles from the tornado’s epicenter. When the storm struck, they were on their way to Wal-Mart for graduation cakes or gathering in backyards.

The tornado ran west to east, bisecting the city just south of the center. Winds peaked at 250 mph. It was between a half-mile to three-quarters of a mile wide and stayed on the ground for 12 miles. Everything in its path was gone.

Rohr had no idea. On the edges of town, it was just another storm.

“It was Sunday night and I was getting ready to watch the Cubs play the Red Sox,” he says, “The phone rang, and I didn’t get to it in time because I was busy doing chores so I could get caught up and enjoy the game. It was our fire chief, Mitch Randles. He left a message. He said, ‘We’ve had a bad storm. You need to get into town.’ ”

 

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The only way to feel the full impact of the storm and fully appreciate the rebuilding efforts is to see it firsthand. So Rohr stands up, walks out of the council chambers and heads to the parking lot where he slides into the passenger seat of a car and becomes a de-facto tour guide to the storm’s path through the city.

To an out-of-towner unaware of the history, it could appear Joplin is just a city in the midst of an urban renewal. But it’s not.

“We had 7,500 homes that were impacted—3,500 destroyed and 4,000 damaged,” Rohr says, reciting the numbers well-etched into his memory. “We had 540 businesses either destroyed or damaged. Today, 85 percent of the homes and 90 percent of the businesses have been rebuilt or had the permits pulled to do so.”

Turning onto Main Street, Rohr narrates the path he followed that night[lightbox link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWLvve8KN20″ target=”_blank”]videoimage[/lightbox]

“I knew where the fire chief was because he had described it to me over the phone,” he says. “But because of all the downed trees and power lines, I had to run two or three blocks from where I parked the car to where he was. The first thing I saw was a green minivan with the windows blown out. There were two deceased citizens right there, five feet away from me. I realized then, this was a pretty serious thing. I took a deep breath, gathered my thoughts and decided what needed to be done next, because it was my responsibility to deal with it.”

Continuing on Main Street, Rohr calmly points out various landmarks—where the Mexican restaurant used to be, where the green minivan was. “That green van sat in this parking lot for months afterward.”

As the car approaches 20th Street, a major thoroughfare through the city, Rohr instructs the driver to turn right.

“We looked ahead and saw the vocational school was completely flattened. And the high school, which was nearby, was half gone. And it just got worse the further we went.

“We went over the railroad tracks, just passing the high school, and a lady flagged us down and told us a church had collapsed, there were people trapped and they needed our help. So we went out there and saw a little bit of everything.

“We tried to help pull people out of the debris and do whatever we could. There was one lady who had lost her leg. I pulled another lady out with a broken leg, then another lady that I was told didn’t make it. I sat her down in the grass and went about helping some other people. There was an interesting story that developed about that later on.”

 

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It doesn’t take long to discover one aspect of Rohr’s personality—he’s a compartmentalizer, with an ability to feel and think deeply. Events can be horrifying, incomprehensible. Yet, to him, still interesting and worthy of study.

It’s that interest, and the thinking, that has enabled him to create a path for a city and its citizens out of devastation, and stay on a path that’s become a model for the rest of the country.

When the nation turned its attention and television cameras to Joplin, Rohr intentionally stood in front of a twisted tower of trucks and cars smashed together by the force of the winds. The site was Cunningham Park. At the time, the spot demonstrated the extent of the destructive power the storm had delivered. Today, it stands as the symbolic city center for both progress and remembrance.

“Cunningham Park is the oldest park in the city,” he says. “It’s right there that the storm went from an EF-4 to an EF-5. It was literally wiped out.”

Probably what was most striking about that interview was not what he said, but what the reporter said in closing: “I know it’s a busy day for you sir, and best of luck.”[lightbox link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZDGqAA5j9s” target=”_blank”]rorhimage[/lightbox]

Rohr remembers it more from a personal perspective. “Yeah, I was wearing a torn hat that I had on when I left my house and was still wearing the next day.”

It would be nearly 30 hours before Rohr would be back in bed. And for the next 28 days, he worked an average of 16 hours a day.

 

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Larger cities tend to have mayors who become the face of a major event—most famously New York’s Rudy Giuliani during the Twin Towers attack and New Orleans’s Ron Nagy during Hurricane Katrina. No one knows who the city manager of New York was at the time, because they didn’t have one.

A city manager is the full-time professional who works with elected officials, most of whom are part-time. In Joplin, there are nine council members and they pick their own mayor every two years, from amongst themselves. With this structure, the bulk of the burden to actually run the city and do the work rests with the city manager. It can be a daunting task, and Rohr’s skills at it haven’t gone unnoticed. Earlier this year Governing magazine named Rohr manager of the year, calling him “The Builder.” In reality, though, Rohr is more of a planner. Or as he puts, “My sisters said I could plan the fun out of anything.”

He laughs.

“I may not be the funnest guy to be around all the time, but planning sure came in handy.”

You rarely hear someone say, “I want to be a city manager when I grow up.” Rohr certainly didn’t say it. He was raised on the border of Blue Ash and Evendale, two northern Cincinnati suburbs. “I went to Moeller High School and grew up right across the street from Blue Ash and saw it transform itself.”[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/walmart.jpg”]walmart[/lightbox]

Through planning, Blue Ash rebuilt itself from a small village into the area’s major northern business hub. It doubles its population during the day as a result of the number of offices and medical facilities, and then spends the taxes it collects on its residents, increasing property values by maintaining the streets and building luxury items such as free pools and parks.

The concept wasn’t lost on Rohr.

“I didn’t realize it until I got my master’s in public administration,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to land an internship in Blue Ash, and got to see how it all worked. I saw what the city manager did and said to myself, I think I can do that. That pointed me in the direction of trying to be a city manager. My first job as a city manager was at the ripe old age of 27.

“Lucky for me I had 24 years of experience as a city manager by the time the tornado hit. If I had been a neophyte, I would have been overwhelmed. Before the storm, there was a manual. In theory, it’s an operating guide in case of a natural disaster. But there’s nothing that says, ‘You have an EF-5 tornado and a third of your town is gone, flip to page 23.’ ”

 

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As Rohr continues his tour through the town, he points out different pieces of history and tragedy. One thing, though, becomes apparent: The story of Joplin is just as much about what you don’t see as what you do: empty sign frames, concrete slabs and neatly mowed fields with flowers blooming in random places—bits of landscaping leftover from now vanished houses.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/IMG_0108.jpg”]IMG_0108[/lightbox]He points to an open field. “The old hospital, Mercy Hospital, was right over there, about where that dirt patch is. It was nine stories tall and moved four inches off its axis.”

Then a concrete slab. “That’s where the church was. Where we pulled the people out.”

There’s a 30-foot tall iron cross at one end of a parking lot. “See the cross? That was the Catholic Church. It was destroyed. The priest was found in his bathtub under rubble. He was OK. The church was gone. The school was gone. But the cross was unscathed.”

At Cunningham Park, the car comes to a stop and Rohr gets out. It is blustery. Thick, dark clouds roll in from the west.

“These trees were stark white, because everything got scoured. The wind was 200 miles an hour, and they were debarked. The experts were telling us they’re dead. The leaves sprouting are the stored up energy, but we’ve left them. We didn’t want to go around taking trees down. Why not wait a couple of years after the newer trees have developed?”

There’s also a plaque next to the fountain with the names of the tornado’s victims. Rohr points to a name and recounts a story of bad luck, tragic twists of fate or boundless bravery.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/tree.jpg”]tree[/lightbox]Will Norton. “He had just graduated high school an hour before. He was going to attend film school. He was on his way home with his dad. His mother and sister made it into the garage. He gets sucked out through the sun roof, his dad is injured trying to hold him and they can’t find him for three days. Finally, they found him in a nearby pond.”

Christopher Lucas. “He was the Pizza Hut manager and strapped himself to the freezer door to protect the people inside. He’s like 27, and makes a split-second decision that saves 15 people’s lives and forfeits his own in the process. His mother will be laying a commemorative wreath at the ceremonies tomorrow.”

There’s one name not on the list. “Remember the lady I pulled out of the church that I thought was dead? She ended up living. She lost her sister and her daughter and they’re on here.”

It’s getting late, and Piers awaits. Rohr climbs back in the car and heads back to City Hall.[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/park.jpg”]park[/lightbox]

“What I’ve learned is that a lot of cities just do what I call ‘grass and trash.’ Cut the grass, collect the trash and tomorrow’s another day. Through planning, you can make your city the kind of city you want to make it. Meaning you just don’t have to accept the way things are. You can make a difference.”

Tomorrow, when the sun is out and skies are clear, Napolitano and others will stand here, remember the tornado and praise the town for all it has done. Rohr will be seated on a chair behind the podium, happy for the attention the city is getting. Happy for the people. Happy with what Joplin is becoming after the storm.

 

 

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[button link=”#” size=”small” target=”self”]Additional Content[/button]
• See a photo gallery of the tornado and the rebuilding efforts from photographer David Eulitt.
• Read a story from Esquire magazine about the tornado.
• Mark Rohr’s 10 Tenets of Disaster Recovery

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Main Musketeer

Greg Christopher was hired as athletic director in March. We asked him about himself and his vision for Xavier sports as the University enters the Big East.

Q: What attracted you to Xavier?
A: Really three things. First and foremost is the institution. It’s a first-rate institution with a values proposition that, quite frankly, our society needs. Secondly, it’s the athletic part. There’s a tradition and a history of winning here, and there are the resources to be successful. Selfishly, as an athletic director, the thing you want the most are those resources. They give you the ability to be successful on a national level. And then, from a family standpoint, my wife and I spent at least six years in this corner of the state, so we knew what a great area Cincinnati is.

Q: How familiar are you with the Jesuit ideals? That a nun has the authority to tell a coach his star player isn’t going to play.
A: That’s different from what you might see at a public school. I think a lot of the private schools have that type of a values proposition. But I don’t care if it’s a nun, the president, the coach, the athletic director—the short version is there’s accountability. If you’re a student-athlete and you come to a Xavier, you adhere to that. That’s part of why you are here, that accountability. Is that going to turn off a few recruits? Perhaps. But if it does then I don’t think they would be great fits for Xavier anyway.

Q: You created the Falcon Leadership Academy for student-athletes at Bowling Green. What is that and can we expect something similar here?
A: I would never be presumptuous enough to take something we did at Bowling Green and bring it here to Xavier, but after I accepted the position Fr. Graham laid out three or four priorities for me and that was one of them—some form of character development/leadership that is specific to student-athletes. Another prong about why I was attracted to Xavier is that in terms of a leadership academy, that already exists here. I think what will probably happen is we’ll take what the coaches are already doing, what’s already being done on campus and incorporate a few new things and develop it into something that is specific to student-athletes.

[button link=”#” size=”small” target=”self”]Watch the interview[/button]
Watch a video of the interview

Q: What were the other priorities you were given?

A: The first was anything and everything related to revenue. As we move to the Big East and all that come with that, the message is clear: Athletics needs to generate more revenue on its own. There will certainly be an institutional commitment, and that’s not wavering, but what are the opportunities we have to generate more revenue? The second was all things Big East. It’s a big moment for the institution, a great opportunity, but it also comes with some challenges. We just need to make sure we are big enough for the stage, that we are an equal partner and not just a tag-along. The character development of our student-athletes. And the fourth was to create a strategic plan. You have a lot of things coming together to make that important right now: The University just finished its strategic planning process. You’ve got a brand new athletic director walking in the door on the heels of an AD who was here 15 years. Take that plus the Big East layer and it’s time to develop a new road map for athletics.

Q: You helped raise $111 million at Purdue and $60 million at Bowling Green. So we can expect you to do a lot of fundraising as well?
A:
It clearly needs to be a priority, but that is true for any Division I institution. And it’s not as simplistic to say going out to people and asking for money. It’s looking at really how are we integrated and cohesive across the board and how we drive revenue or look at revenue within athletics. And even beyond that within the institution. The fact is there’s a business side to what we do. You can’t gouge your customers. That’s not the message I want delivered in any way shape or form. But are we as efficient as we can be in operating from a revenue standpoint?

Q: You mentioned the Big East as a priority. Can we compete?
A:
I’ve been to two Big East meetings so far, and you sit around that table and a couple of things jump out at you. First and foremost, we’re in the right group. Conferences ought to be about ideology and being with like-minded institutions. And I think that’s why the new Big East makes so much sense on a lot of levels. Second, it’s terrific for Xavier in that joining the conference is strategic not just from an athletics standpoint but from an institutional standpoint. Ohio and the Midwest are not tracking the right way from a demographic standpoint to try to grow an institution. So you have to look a little more national. And the Big East is in the right markets for Xavier going forward. And then the third part that readily comes out as we talk is that we are built the right way. Every single school in the Big East, the bandwidth of budgets is really tight. We’re not the top budget in the Big East, but we’re also not the bottom. We probably have some gaps that we’re going to need to address. We’ve also got some places that we’re absolutely built to compete. Are we going to walk in the dominate? No. The bandwidth is too tight. But I think we can be very successful out of the gate.

[button link=”#” size=”small” target=”self”]     Additional Content     [/button]
[The competition: A listing of Big East schools and how Xavier compares.]

Q: How will joining the Big East help grow the institution as whole?
A:
It’s not easily measurable, but you don’t make this kind of a move if you haven’t thought it through from an institutional standpoint. Absolutely it’s about getting Xavier visibility in some key markets that are important to the University. We have to think more nationally from an admission and enrollment standpoint as we look out over the next 10, 20, 30 years. Also it reframes the institution a little bit in that when you look at our peer groups, it’s not just a more external group from the athletic standpoint, but also the academic standpoint. For the institution, to maximize this, let’s make sure we’re visible from an academic standpoint, not necessarily the students in the classroom and their engagement from a research standpoint, and also making sure they are using the platform to get the Xavier message out.

Q: Will Xavier add any new sports?
A:
Each school has its own sports portfolio and that will be something we do take a look at through the strategic plan. Do we have the right sport mix, especially under the ender equity standpoint? The good thing is all of our sports are under the Big East umbrella—we won’t have any orphan sports off in different conferences. I think it’s a good portfolio of sports that we do have, and now it’s our job to make sure they keep getting better.

The Sisters

Xavier is known for its Jesuits, but the order of priests have not been the only religious presence in the history of the University. Nuns have also had a place at Xavier, even though the Jesuits don’t have a corresponding order of women religious. While the nuns were mostly students and instructors in the early years, they have in later years become full-time faculty and members of the University’s administration.

The number of nuns on campus peaked in the early 1980s after Xavier bought Edgecliff College, which was run by the Sisters of Mercy. Those who came to Xavier with the merger have all retired. With their departure—paralleled by the overall decline in women entering religious orders—the number of nuns on campus has dwindled. The four who remain hold strategically important positions at Xavier—Nancy Linenkugel, chair of the Department of Health Services Administration; Jo Ann Recker, professor of modern languages; Rose Ann Fleming, special assistant to the president; and Rosie Miller, professor of theology. But they are all advancing in years and may be the last nuns at Xavier.nunsvideo

Xavier magazine sat down with the four nuns at a roundtable discussion and spoke with them about a wide range of topics, from their history to modern issues such as the Church’s investigation of American nuns and how their lead organization must now undergo a five-year reformation for not following the teachings of the Church. (Click on the image to the right to watch a video of the conversation.) Here are their thoughts on a few of those subjects.

 

Q: What has been the role of women religious at Xavier and what special gifts do you bring to the University and its students?

Rose Ann Fleming: “One of the gifts that women bring to the University campus is the gift of love and the gift of sharing and hopefully students in our classrooms have been able to find that gift in reality with us and enjoy their time with us as Xavier students because that gift.”

Jo Ann Recker: “I would add that it brings a balance because as where Pope Paul VI said, ‘Where’s the other half of humanity?’ The other half deserves a presence. And where I have seen women be helpful especially to women students is that sense of balance and advocacy for women’s issues.”

Rosie Miller: “I think another gift as a woman religious is bringing the feminine side of the Church into the classroom. It’s another window of how to read the text as a woman particularly as a woman who stands in the Church committed to church ministry.”

linenNancy Linenkugel: “I recall being a student here in 1971 shortly after women were allowed to take classes here—I had a habit on at the time—I was teaching at a school in Cincinnati and needed a bachelor’s degree. So I came here and there weren’t a lot of others like me around here at that time. There were very few women but hardly any other sisters. I didn’t think too much about it because I had a job to do. But today, now that I am back, I think there’s a powerful presence that women religious provide to this campus, and I would add I think I stand for something of value that our students maybe don’t think about all the time. I start every class with a prayer and when I let students take over and introduce a guest speaker they have to start with a prayer or reflection and only after the semester is over do they say that was really helpful. So I think we can stand for something higher in life for our students.”

 

Q: Do you think the trend toward fewer women entering orders will be reversed or reach a plateau? Or are you the last nuns at Xavier?

Nancy Linenkugel: “With the decline in religious women, I think we’re at new frontier moment. Today there are young women who say to me, ‘I don’t have to become a sister to do what you’re doing. I can teach, I can be nurse, a manager, make money, go off and pray and live how I wish to live in a holy manner. I don’t need to be a sister and give up everything.’ So where I see the next frontier for religious life is in about 25 years, I believe there will be one kind of religious life, and it will match the men’s orders such that women will have a choice of being ordained or being deacons or like the brother Jesuits. I believe this will be the next wave. What does the Church have to offer the rest of society, the women? I don’t think we’ll continue on with the type of religious life we have now. We might be close to the last of the current kind of sisters that everybody knows in society, but I don’t think we’re the last. I think there’s a bright future.”

flemingRose Ann Fleming: “I think our job is to help define what the future of religious life is going to be. A lot of that will come out of talking with women I have met on this campus who are extremely dedicated to the needs of the poor. As religious women, we have seen over time how our order has helped change cultures. The whole Catholic school system changed cultures, and if we can look in the future and harness some of the vision some of these women are coming out with, we’re going to be in very good shape as far as religious numbers are concerned.”

Jo Ann Recker: “That’s good. If you look at Jesus’ model, he formed his apostles and his spirit and then left because they were evangelized. That’s what we’re trying to do with our sponsorship ministries.”

Rosie Miller: “I think we’re beyond reaching a plateau. I think we’re on the other side of the decline in the sense of our numbers. One of the ways I view that is that since Vatican II, we as religious women took very, very seriously reforming the Church and we moved onto that bridge. I always saw most of my ministry as a bridge between the laity, which I am member of as a religious woman, and that of the clerical side of the Church. In my early ministry, it was important to empower and train the laity, and I moved into jobs where I was paid very little, but then eventually parishes or communities who hire people were able to pay appropriate salaries for people who are raising a family. I think we are also still those bridge makers in the sense that for the increased role of the laity, the time is now.”

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[button link=”#” size=”medium” target=”self”]Their stories[/button]

Rose Ann FlemingRosie MillerNancy LinenkugelJo Ann Recker

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Q: How will this increased role of the laity affect Catholic education as a whole and Xavier in particular?

Nancy Linenkugel: “When it comes to Catholic schools and even Jesuit Catholic schools, the key to keeping them going is to pass on the mission to lay persons. Xavier does a wonderful job of that with AFMIX and other programs. It’s no different in Catholic elementary schools in that the lay leaders and the teachers all must understand why they’re there and the important legacy to hand on to the students. I attended a Catholic grade school and even back then lay teachers were extremely key to maintaining the school. That role has only increased. Priests and sisters have done their jobs if lay persons understand the school’s mission and take that forward.”

Rose Ann Fleming: “I think that the future of Catholic and Jesuit education is bright. It may have to be delivered through media with which the population is familiar. The decline of religious women in the schools has largely been offset by the rise of extremely well-educated laity who are willing to dedicate their lives to continuing the tradition of Catholic schools. The teaching of religious doctrine and religious values is worth the expense to date. The schools appear to be prospering.”

reckerJo Ann Recker: “Interestingly, I just came from a three-hour presidentially appointed committee meeting on what it is that makes Xavier a Jesuit Catholic university. We are charged with clearly articulating this. And it behooves most religious congregations to do something similar so as to educate and form the laity who will follow in maintaining our educational heritage and charisms. I think that if the heritage and charism are ‘owned’ and embodied in those who follow, we will be in good shape. Isn’t this what Jesus did when he entrusted his church to his followers?”

Q: Will all of this be impacted by the investigations into religious orders and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious?

Jo Ann Recker: “I do know that an early step taken by Pope Francis was to reaffirm the mandated reform of the LCWR. But as long as men cling to power in the Church, along with total responsibility for serious decision-making, and continue to see women religious [and women, in general] as holding ‘special’ [but not equal] roles, I don’t see this long history changing. The problems of the contemporary Church are many and well-documented, but women religious are not really among them. However, a focus on the LCWR is, from my perspective, but a diversionary tactic. It gets people talking about something other than the problems in the Church and the exodus of many from the Church.”

Rose Ann Fleming: “At this point, Pope Francis has indicated that he will not abandon the investigations into religious orders and into the LCWR. I volunteered as a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to an interview. The sister with whom I met wanted to know about my work at Xavier with the student-athletes. Then she asked about vocations to the Sisters of Notre Dame. I responded that I knew they were plentiful in Africa where we have a large number of sisters, but that there were few in the United States. She asked if this was a concern and directed my attention to data that indicated factors that seem to attract vocations to certain orders and that distinguishing dress was one of these factors. When I asked her what she was suggesting, she simply said to look at the data.

“From what I can discern, the LCWR is anxious to work out with the Church perceived problems that could be cultural since women in the United States have much more freedom than women have in other parts of the world. Because our order is international in scope, the Church’s observations of our order may be misunderstood on a global basis. Such cultural issues are resolvable.”

millerRosie Miller: “It’s too quick to really know what Pope Francis feels and thinks about this. I read his whole speech [to the international group of superiors] and I think he was very astute using traditional Vatican language, but he keeps using the term ‘feel,’ that sisters should feel their way, so I think he was walking a delicate dance. I think as a new pope, you would not normally go in and change things immediately. I’m still hopeful he might review this.”

Nancy Linenkugel: “Pope Francis certainly seems to be a pastoral individual who is interested less in the traditional ‘pomp’ of the Papacy and more in being a servant-leader. There’s no shortage of serious issues with which he must deal—financial problems, human justice, ultra-conservatism movement within the Church, the issue of women being disenfranchised by the male-dominated Church. While I personally don’t feel called to the ordained priesthood, I think there are many women who do. What a wonderful ministry to Catholics that could be. Just think of how many parishes have closed due to the shortage of priests, which only brings heartbreak and further alienation. So if the parish is still viable financially, and a woman priest could step in, wouldn’t that be a win/win, especially for the parishioners?”

Game Changer

The official announcement of the worst-kept secret in college sports happened March 20: Xavier is leaving the Atlantic 10 Conference and joining a newly restructured Big East. Talk of the change was a shadow story throughout much of the past year, and making the announcement official was not only a relief, it formally moved Xavier to the place it has been aiming at for the last 30 years—the national stage.

Xavier’s elevation into one of the most dominant basketball conferences in the country was met with a packed Cintas Center conference room and a great deal of pride among Musketeer alumni and fans. But what was lost in the announcement was the fact that the move into national prominence wasn’t an overnight event. Rather, it was the culmination of a well-planned, concerted effort that was decades in the making, starting back even before Xavier entered the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1979.Team 5 LIP 8-20-12 DC

There were little steps along the way—ditching the “Xavier of Ohio” tag, ignoring the “mid-major” label, teaching people that it’s not pronounced “Ex-avier.” There were big steps as well—moving from Schmidt Fieldhouse to the Cincinnati Gardens, joining the A-10, building the Cintas Center. But like walking up a flight of stairs, each step elevated the University until it has now reached what could arguably be considered the top flight.

The question remains, though: Now what? The new Big East is in some ways an experiment in athletic dynamics. It’s now the nation’s only non-football, basketball-centered power conference. It’s also made up of nine Catholic schools and one private school. What does all that mean in terms of national interest? In terms of television revenue? In terms of quality?

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[button link=”#” size=”medium” target=”self”]     Additional Content     [/button]
• New athletic director Greg Christopher shares his views on Xavier joining the Big East.
The competition: A listing of Big East schools and how Xavier compares.
A video of Xavier sports highlights from the past three decades.

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20121011_BASE_BlueWhite_Richard_5In some ways, the creation of the conference is a relief to the plethora of conference realignments driven by television exposure and revenue that have been taking place over the last five or six years. Its creation wasn’t spawned from a drive for more money and power, but from a protest against that.

The old Big East was crumbling from the inside out as its football and non-football schools (informally known as the Catholic Seven) engaged in an internal tug-of-war. By rejecting the idea that football comes first and breaking away on their own, the Catholic Seven not only found relief from the stress of financial inequality, but they found freedom as well—freedom to play for reasons other than commercialism.

“In a mercenary college athletics world drunk on dollars and disdainful of both common sense and the common fan,” Yahoo sports columnist Pat Forde wrote, “it’s nice to see one group declare that something else matters more. Identity matters more. Equality matters more.“083112_OleMiss_001

Arguably, so might mission. With all of the schools except Butler being Catholic, it offers the opportunity for subtle preaching of values and service through its on- and off-the-field actions. Before the first game has even been played, the new league can already boast about one record that most other conferences can’t—academic success. All of the new Big East schools have an NCAA graduation rate of at least 90 percent, with the exception of Butler, which is at 83 percent. Xavier’s 97 percent graduation rate is the best.

David Gibson, a writer with the Religious News Service, even posed the question, “Can a Catholic hoops conference save college sports?” By “the conference’s breaking away in protest,” he wrote, “the schools are offering a corrective example to the way big-money programs, especially in football, are driving (some would say warping) amateur sports.”

It’s a lot of added pressure—being able to compete at the highest level while not engaging in the kind of athletic and moral malfeasance that has dominated sports headlines of late. Still, it could set a benchmark other conferences may be challenged to meet.

Whatever ripple effects the league might have externally, joining the conference will certainly have a ripple effect internally for Xavier. Its effects will be felt in the admissions office and classrooms and bookstore as new audiences of potential students, fans and donors become exposed to Xavier and all it has to offer. What will that mean? Time will tell.

Time begins this fall.

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Tapping Roots: Learning about yesterday brings job for today

Thomas Jordan attended his wife’s annual family reunion in 2008 and wondered why his own family didn’t do the same. Then he realized his father’s death, when Jordan was only 7 years old, had left an historical void. His immediate family didn’t know who their relatives were or where they came from.

So he decided to find out—to map out his family tree. But all he had to start with was the name of a man who might be the descendant of his grandmother’s sister. Felix Wilder. In Charleston, W.Va. Maybe.

Jordan found a phone number online and left a message, explaining he was Aunt Clara’s grandson. Wilder called back, and Jordan learned Wilder was the last surviving son of great Aunt Bee, his grandmother Clara’s sister.

From there, the floodgates opened. Wilder gave him the name of a cousin who died in 1995 at age 100. Jordan found the obituary online, which led him to King Hill cemetery in Georgia where he found not only the cousin’s grave but also the graves of his great-great-grandparents, James and Almira Webb. Both were born in the early 1800s, during slavery.

He also learned that his great-grandfather, Felix Jordan, donated the Jordan Grove Baptist Church in Roberta, Ga. Jordan had hit the jackpot. He’d found a connection to his past and a whole new family to boot.

“I’ve been meeting new family members who, until five years ago, I didn’t know I had,” he says. “Now I have literally hundreds.”

Jordan, a 1987 graduate who works at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, is gaining recognition for his research skills. He has given presentations about genealogy on a TV show he hosts and has been invited to the Public Library of Cincinnati, the African-American Genealogy Group of Miami Valley and the Ohio Genealogical Society.

And it all started with a phone call.

 

Class Behind Bars: My Overnight Stay in County Lockup

It must have been later than midnight, and I was counting the squares on the ceiling. My sleeping bag was a few inches short of being long enough to cover both my toes and shoulders, and a dead spider lay on its back six inches from my face. My cellmate, who had smuggled in chewing gum, was popping it between her teeth.

There were no clocks, no windows. I could only guess the hour. Eventually, the tiles bled together under the fluorescent light, and the gum smacking turned into ambient noise. That’s when I finally fell asleep. Then I heard the gum pop again. And again. And again. And again.

The popping. I needed to get away, even if only for a minute. Irritated, I looked through the cell windows and saw a key on a table just outside. The woman in charge was asleep at the monitors near the key. Her cell phone was turned over so I couldn’t see the time.

Ready for a change of scenery, I pressed the red button above my cot to catch her attention. Her eyes were still closed. I pressed it again. Not even a stir. As I stared at the key and pressed the button for the third, fourth and fifth time, it occurred to me that the whole experiment might be a conspiracy in disguise, designed to keep me there until I lost my mind. I might not actually be getting out in the morning. She needs to wake up right now, I thought, before I do some damage to my cellmate’s gum stash. I started to panic, extending my finger and pressing the red button with more urgency.

She woke up, rubbed her eyes and glanced my way. My pointer finger was rigid, ready to press again in case she did not see me. Thankfully, she did. She walked over and unlocked my cell.

“Feeling it a little too hard?” she asked.

I shook my head yes, pulled up my four-sizes-too-big, jail-issued pants and walked out of that cell before my sentence was up. I only made it six hours behind bars.

Part I: Criminal History


My night in jail was part of Xavier’s Inside-Out Prison Exchange, a course taught inside of the Lebanon (Ohio) Correctional Institution by criminal justice adjunct professor Christine Shimrock. The exchange brings together University students and incarcerated students, and is designed to create dialogue between the two.

When my editor heard that the course culminated with an overnight stay in a county lockup in Mason, Ohio, about 20 miles north of campus, he thought it would be fun to send a writer along. Since none of my coworkers volunteered, I was nominated to cover the story—all 24 hours of it.

This semester, there were eight “outside students” in the class, and 10 “inside students.” The purpose of the overnight exercise, Shimrock says, is to get the outside students to see things from the inside students’ point of view. This is the eighth year that she’s organized the exercise for her students.

“It’s not supposed to scare or intimidate anyone,” she assured me by telephone a few weeks before. “But it’s pretty revealing—I try to simulate the real experience as much as possible. Students come out of this exercise with different perspectives.”

By the time I parked my car at the municipal court, I was nervous. The other students weren’t. They were chatting in a group outside the courthouse, saying things like, “This is way better than having to go to class,” and “So-and-so took this class last year, but he wouldn’t tell me any of the details.”

We walked in at 6:00 p.m., and police officers instructed us to go to the bathroom and change into orange slippers and baggy prison garb. After that, we were cuffed and told to wait silently on the cement benches for our turn to be fingerprinted and processed. We watched as police-trained K-9 units searched our belongings.

My pants were too big and my slippers didn’t fit. When my turn came and the officer waved me over, I thought about asking him for a new pair—preferably one that had two shoes of the same size. Then I saw the solitary confinement room behind him and decided against it. I knew it was going to be a long night.

Part II: Time Served

I’m not going to pretend to know what it’s like to be incarcerated just because I spent an evening in a municipal court cell. County lockup isn’t the same thing as prison. Having sleeping bags or being allowed to buzz your guard to let you out isn’t the same thing as being in prison, either.

For me, the worst part was the mind-numbing boredom. The tile counting, the gum popping and the lack of windows turned minutes into 60 seconds of stretched-out nothingness. I never want to go back.

The best part happened the morning after, when I returned to get the students’ reactions. They were tired, but I could tell that they, unlike most who sleep in a jail cell, didn’t regret staying overnight. Certainly, everyone was happy to head home, but that happiness was undercut by the knowledge that the inside students couldn’t go home too. We left feeling lucky. We also left with a little more understanding of what life’s like on the inside—an important lesson for criminal justice majors.

“I recommend this class to anyone and everyone,” said one student. “I learned so much, and we became close with the inside students. They would be laughing at us right now if they saw how much we complained. This isn’t anything compared to what they go through.”

 

Goetta Life: Saving meaty meals the vegan way

Bratwurst. Chili. Goetta. Cincinnati, nicknamed Porkopolis, is known for its quirky carnivorous dishes. But what if you live in hog city and don’t eat meat? That’s what Caitlin Bertsch, a 2006 math and sociology graduate, asked herself when she cut animal products from her diet in 2010.

“The switch from non-vegan to vegan was easy because I always loved vegetables and fruit,” says Bertsch. “But when my family and I would get together to eat, it did feel like something was missing. I knew that I wasn’t the only person looking for meat-free alternatives to typical Cincinnati foods.”

Bertsch missed goetta the most, which is a German-American sausage that’s made up of spices, ground beef, pork and steel-cut oats. It’s traditionally served with eggs for breakfast or as a sandwich for lunch and dinner.

So she decided to take matters into her own hands. Literally. Using old family recipes and the Internet, she eventually perfected a vegan goetta recipe. The responses from her family and friends were so encouraging that she went back to the kitchen and set her sights on vegan-izing other dishes, like Cincinnati-style chili and macaroni and cheese. They, too, proved to be palate pleasing.

So in 2011, with the help of instructors from SpringBoard Cincinnati—a class that helps creative entrepreneurs start businesses—she launched Vegan Roots, her own meat-free food business. Bertsch cooks from her kitchen at the Brew House near Eden Park and sends her products to restaurants and markets across Cincinnati. She hopes to expand her business to a storefront and is looking into catering options. Ultimately, she’s glad that a different version of goetta is on the shelves—and on her family’s dinner plates.

 

BrewCakes: A tasty blend of business, beer and cupcakes

The taste of a good craft beer is hard to resist. And cupcakes are too. So it makes sense that the two, if brewed together correctly, could make a perfectly delectable dessert.

At least that’s what Emma Royan and Sarah Kinisky thought when they met over a beer one day after work. So they took their thought to the kitchen, and the outcome was the birth of BrewCakes, a business devoted to the irresistibility of cupcakes made with beer. And so far, their plans of world domination by batter and booze have been working out.

Featuring seasonal and traditional flavors, each cupcake recipe is inspired by a different craft beer and includes a shot of liquor in its filling. Royan and Kinisky even have a special place in their ovens for Xavier fans: The Xavier Blue Velvet cupcake is a red velvet Rivertown Hop Bomber IPA cupcake dyed to a perfect Xavier blue. It’s filled with a white chocolate vodka ganache and topped with a vodka-based vanilla buttercream. Xavier’s blue color, the women say, took them hours to perfect.

Together, Kinisky and Royan—like their beer and cake recipes—forge a formidable business partnership. Royan, who works as a special education teacher at a charter school, draws on her communication skills to control the marketing side. And Kinisky, who works as an accountant for Nestle, uses her background in math to figure the company’s financials.

“You know your job is awesome when your bar tab is a work-related tax deduction,” says Royan.

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Emma and Sarah’s Favorite BrewCakes

Irish Beer Bomb

A chocolate cupcake made with Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Conway Irish Ale. Filled with a chocolate ganache whisky shot and topped off with Baily’s Irish buttercream frosting.

The Morning After

A light pancake cupcake made with Rogue Voodoo Donut beer and filled with homemade alcoholic blueberry jam and a maple syrup float. Topped with maple buttercream frosting and bacon.