Farewell to a friend
In many respects, I owe my life to Cardinal John P. Foley, the former head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who lost his battle with leukemia on Dec. 11.
In June 1982, I was a graduate of Penn State University with a degree in journalism and few job prospects on the horizon when I sent my résumé to my hometown newspaper, The Catholic Standard & Times in Philadelphia.
Msgr. Foley was editor at the time, shortly before he would be called to Rome by Pope John Paul II. He didn’t know me from Adam, but he must have seen something in my résumé that peaked his interest. He had no opening on his staff, but he sent my name and phone number to his friend, Charlie Carruth, the founding editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, who was looking for an editorial assistant.
I wasn’t expecting to make a move to Virginia, but I thought it would at least be good experience to go through the interview process. I had an aunt living in Washington, D.C., who offered me a place to stay. I spent two days in Arlington, which included writing a story about the dedication of St. John Neumann Church in Reston by former Arlington Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, another Philadelphia native.
Carruth offered me the job, which I started on Aug. 2, 1982. I thought I would work here for a year or two, gain some experience, then return to Philadelphia to be close to my family. It didn’t quite work out that way.
I had the chance to thank Cardinal Foley for unwittingly playing a key role in my 30-year professional career. I visited him in Rome in 1996 while covering the ordination of Bishop Anton Justs, the former pastor of St. Mark Church in Vienna. I also had the privilege of attending the consistory at St. Peter’s Basilica in which he was elevated to the rank of cardinal.
And of course, he always found time to attend the annual Catholic Press Association conventions, where his keen sense of humor and holiness were always on full display. He might have been a prince of the Church, but I think he always considered himself a Catholic newspaper editor at heart. Thanks to him, I’m proud to share that title as well.