Keeping Good Company
Faculty, staff bring cheer to elderly Jesuits with monthly visits

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

    Their ranks include a Vatican astronomer, a teacher of high-school Arabic returned from Baghdad, and retired deans and professors who taught generations of students at Boston College and the College of the Holy Cross.

    Now, these senior priests and brothers residing in the Weston-based Campion Center retirement home after a lifetime of service regularly enjoy a renewed connection to BC and the outside world, thanks to a group of faculty and staff volunteers.

    Since November, members of the BC Senior Faculty Forum have made monthly trips to join Campion residents for coffee and conversation. The visits, inspired by a similar program at Holy Cross, have been arranged by Campion Center Activities Director Peg Farrell and William McInnes, SJ, moderator of the Boston College chapter of the national Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Nu.

    Fr. McInnes - ex-president of Fairfield University, the University of San Francisco and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and a former Carroll School of Management associate dean - said he had an interest in "visiting people I knew who were growing old and feeling isolated."

On a recent visit to the Campion Center, College of Advancing Studies Administrative Assistant Elizabeth Strain catches up with an old friend, Rev. Robert Hoey, SJ. The two worked together during the 1960s at the School of Education. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

    Fr. McInnes proposed the idea to the Senior Faculty Forum, a group of long-time University employees who frequently gather for discussions on BC, and 17 volunteers signed up immediately. The visits to Campion, a 70-bed assisted-living facility operated by the Society of Jesus New England Province, have become an eagerly anticipated event for all.

 "We don't want to forget those people who were our partners at the university," Fr. McInnes said.

"The biggest thing they get out of it is company and a chance to reminisce."

    He recalled a recent visit, in which Campion resident Rev. William Guindon, SJ, former head of the Physics Department, swapped shop talk with ex-Chemistry Department Chairman Prof. Emeritus Robert O'Malley.

    "They were having a great conversation," said Fr. McInnes. "They had a bond of common memory...a very important thing."

    "It's a wonderful connection to the outside, especially when the visitors come from Holy Cross or BC," Farrell said. "It's a connection back to what they know. It keeps them in the loop. You have a quiet fellow and a visitor will spark a memory, and you can get a conversation going. Reminiscence is a big thing with the elderly."

    For longtime College of Advancing Studies Administrative Assistant Elizabeth Strain, her recent trip to Campion meant a reunion with an old friend, Rev. Robert Hoey, SJ, a former associate dean of education at BC whom she hadn't seen in 30 years.

    "It was delightful," said Strain, who was registrar of the School of Education in the 1960s when Fr. Hoey was a dean. "We were talking about old times."

    The elderly Jesuits have no shortage of stories to tell and welcome the chance to renew old school ties. Among the senior priests welcoming BC guests recently were Rev. Edward Nowlan, SJ, who traveled the world raising funds for the Gregorian University in Rome; Rev. John Collins, SJ, who helped start the Finance Department at BC, and Rev. Joseph Scannell, SJ, who founded the departments of art, music and theater during 45 years at Holy Cross.

    "It's a plus sign for us," said Rev. John Mahoney, SJ, a native of Milton who for years taught English, Arabic and mathematics at Baghdad College, a Jesuit high school in Iraq.

    Br. Vincent Molinaro, SJ, who served for years as a kitchen worker and general handyman on the Boston College campus, said he enjoys reminiscing about The Heights.

    "The students were very good to me," said Br. Molinaro with a broad smile. "They liked to pull my leg. But I enjoyed them, I really did."

    Another Campion resident who looks forward to the monthly visits is Rev. Martin McCarthy, SJ, an astrophysicist who has been affiliated with the Vatican Observatory for 40 years, during which time he has lived upstairs from five different popes, from Pius XII through John Paul II. ("Wonderful people," the Lowell native said.)

    Fr. McCarthy, who has been convalescing at Campion for the past year, said the visits from BC and Holy Cross staff are "always an occasion of renewal.

    "It's a question of knowing our family. It's a big family, and to know them is to love them," he said.

    All in the BC community are invited to join the visits to Campion Center, said Fr. McInnes, who may be contacted at ext.2-8192 or by e-mail at



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