Children Of The Greatest Generation: An Emotional History
By Frederick W. Lauck
Reviewed by Patrick J. McDonnell
All That Counts Is Who We Are, Not What We Have Accomplished
The Basilians first stoked their fiery, educational cauldron of Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge in Detroit, Michigan in 1928. Later, in our era in the late 1950s, the Basilian Fathers moved their 30-year-old glowing, red hot, bubbling cauldron over to 6565 West Outer Drive… the cauldron’s fires still being relentlessly stoked by the Basilian’s no-nonsense passion for excellence. To feed the cauldron’s ravenous appetite, its tentacles reached out to its “farm system”… the parish schools of mostly Northwest Detroit, but also as far away as Hamtramck, Southfield, Redford, Farmington and even Downriver. The cauldron had long established, trusty sources for its raw material.
Fortunately, before arriving at Catholic Central, the naive and unsuspecting half man-half boy urchins who were thrown into that “baptism of fire” cauldron had been (unknowingly) subjected to an intense educational, athletic and disciplinary preparation by the Bridesmaids of Jesus… the (show me no) Mercy sisters, the (“don’t do it”) Dominicans, Sister Servants from Monroe, (our) Precious Blood (gladly given) and many others. The outreach: St. Scholastica, St. Bridget, St. Suzanne, Epiphany, Christ the King, Gesu, Precious Blood, St. Agatha, Our Lady of Sorrows and my own St. Monica, among the many others.
In the fall of 1957, I was among the fortunate, naive freshman drawn out of St. Monica Parish… an abrupt ending to the carefree days in the old neighborhood of my Brightmoor youth and its joyful summers of baseball at Stoepel Park and my endless bicycles rides through the Hood delivering the Detroit News to the blue collar world where most of my grade school classmates lived. There were some “rich” kids (as we thought of them then) from South Rosedale Park, just east of Stoepel Park, but most of us from St. Monica came from a two block, middle class, Irish-Catholic ghetto… that rectangular no-man’s land that ran from Vaughan to Heyden and from Lyndon to Fenkell. There were fifty kids on my block of Vaughan alone, running between Eaton and Outer Drive… a block of three bedroom colonials crammed with four to eight kids each.
Now, flash forward to graduation day 1961 as Catholic Central sent forth its latest survivors of four years of Basilian inspired Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge. My classmates and I shot out of the 6565 West Outer Drive cauldron like comets on parallel paths streaking across the night sky… virtually all embarking on college careers, but some to the priesthood, some to the military, some to public safety careers and some to blue collar endeavors.
Time passed, and, along the way, those once parallel comets began to drift apart pursuing family life and different careers in different geographic areas. Their differing paths took them to: law, medicine, engineering, science, accounting, education, entrepreneurship, politics and public services and corporate leadership positions as “captains of industry.” In pursuit of those paths, some remained in the Hood, while others explored the far corners of the globe.
Our 1961 comets also found different political paths to express their commitment to the welfare of mankind. Some did so by fighting in Vietnam, others by protesting it. Some were more financially successful in life, others perhaps not as much. Along the way, a few of those comets met untimely ends… at least one to combat in Vietnam, Rick Tevens, one in a firefighter’s line of duty in the City of Detroit, Terry McHugh, and, later, some to accidents and illness, but the brotherhood of the Basilian’s relentless cauldron keeps their memories fresh.
Later, long, long after leaving the Basilian cauldron of Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge… the intensity of those trajectories began to moderate as the comets began to mature. As they did, another pattern began to appear. Those trajectories, once flashing across the night sky in apparent random and different patterns and intensity, began to come back to parallel. As they did, it became more apparent that the Basilian Fathers’ cauldron had not sent them forth just for the achievement of professional or financial goals. The comets finally came to understand the big-picture mission of the Basilian cauldron. It was the spiritual “journey” through life that counted… not the destination.
As I set down these thoughts, the comets are entering the final phase of their passage instinctively following in the footsteps of those before them, while the Basilian Fathers’ unerring mission, captured in the old, well-tested cauldron, continues to relentlessly send forth more and more young men of Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge… far better prepared to make a contribution to their fellow man than any of them can possibly understand.
Now, 50 years later, the trajectories of those 1961 Basilian comets of Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge are back in almost perfect parallel as they now realize the “relative” importance of academic, athletic or other accomplishments – once the source of pride, identity and reputation while inside the cauldron… have receded and now pale in significance.
What then is left? What is left is that which binds all Shamrocks over the course of past centuries and centuries yet to come. What is left is the indelible mark… a brotherhood of the Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge which was forged in us in that blessed cauldron that sent us forth into the night skies back in 1961. We take pride in the knowledge that each of us, irrespective of the differences of the past 50 years, is virtually identical… having earned our place in the company of other good men of integrity and intelligence in the sight of God, the Basilian fathers and our families. We have fulfilled our duty. We have passed along the franchise no worse than we found it.
And so the journey ends… right back where it began. In the final measure… all that counts is who we are, not what we have accomplished. And therein, I infer, is the point of my Shamrock classmate Fred Lauck’s excellent book, Children of the Greatest Generation: An Emotional History. I recommend Fred’s book to today’s Catholic Central students.
Thanks for the ride Fred. I look forward to seeing you at least once more where I can shake your hand, give you a hug and thank you for being the fine Christian warrior that you are.
Patrick J. McDonnell (Class of 1961)
Author... ''Everyone Wants To Go To Heaven (6 Steps To Organizational Excellence)''