Chapter III: The Christian Culture Series

There was another plan taking form in my mind, in the years 1938-39, and 1940. I was beginning to miss, in the Rochester area, the refreshingly Catholic and intellectual atmosphere that had pervaded St. Michael's College in Toronto for some ten years. Professor Etienne Gilson, from France, was there. His lectures I followed. They were in English.

Jacques Maritain had come to live with us there. He served Dr. Phelan's Mass each morning to the Pullman Chapel at St. Mike's, and his devout thanksgiving on the back kneeler was edifying. That daily close-up of Maritain not only demonstrated holiness and learning could co-exist, it proved they should. I would arrange my schedule so I could breakfast with him and Dr. Gerald Phelan. It kept me on the periphery, at least, of what was going on in the world of the Catholic mind. Father Bellisle had old Father Bobby McBrady brush up our French for Maritain. It didn't work out but there was a bond fused, even in French, when Jacques talked.

Frankly, I missed it -- the general climate of advance Catholic thought, then at St. Michael's. I was yearning for an identification with it. Three years of Aquinas had some small spark of that intellectuality present, but by no means was is glowing in the Rochester set-up. It seemed that someone should stir things up. If we could not go to these greats, then arrange for them to come to us.

Many times I would gaze out across the back campus, from my third floor chemistry lab at Aquinas and see the girls from the fairly recently-founded Nazareth College for Women going to and from their old building at 402 Augustine Street. This was soon to become our residence, when Nazareth College moved to East Avenue. Occasionally, the thought would come to me, "This is fine for the Catholic girls, but what about our boys? Why should Aquinas grads be uncared for? Most can't afford to go out of town. Why don't we have in Rochester a college for men?"

During these years and into the summer of 1940, I became great friends with the Langies, Maloys, and Donovans. The wives were three sisters (the Kreig girls), respectively, Gerry, Clare, Rosalie. We assembled in their homes for social affairs and bravely attempted intellectual soirees. I would fill them in on the greatness of Maritain and Gilson; the new horizons Frank Sheed was pointing to; in general, the revival in Catholic thought. We would read from their works as well as from the Companion to the Summa by Father Farrell which was becoming popular at that time. It was their encouragement that moved me to make the effort more definite and expand it. With their help and promise of support, much of the leadership being given by Louis Langie, we toyed with the idea of starting in Rochester a Christian Culture Series. Father Stanley Murphy, my classmate, had one prospering at Windsor. I did not copy his format nor consult him on whom to select. His was a college-sponsored affair. Detroit was across the river. His audience potential was much greater than Monroe County, New York, could supply.

The financing of it, they would help me on; the direction of it, selection of speakers, and other things they would leave to me. By the end of the year 1940, the idea had taken root. The greatest cooperation was promised by my superior, Father O'Loane, which he gave, and by Bishop Kearney to whom I had broached the idea, and also, I am happy to record, by my conferees at Aquinas.

An instance comes to mind of the generosity of these friends in my first year in New York. All of them had known New York for years. They were graduates of various Catholic colleges there and in Washington and Baltimore. They had briefed me as to what to expect in New York City and I had prepared to go there in July, 1940. I was with them all at the Maloys the night I took the train to New York. They told me that I would go to sleep in Rochester and would wake up in a new world. They were so right! It was, in truth, a new world for me.

Finances were rather tight in those early years at Aquinas and Father O'Loane gave me a check for $85.00 for the summer. I was to work out a way of supplementing it while in New York, which, at that time, was completely unknown to me. After I had paid my tuition at Columbia University, which amounted to $70.00, I had $15.00 left with which to do the whole six weeks summer course. The Tenth Avenue street car was operating in those days, and the ride up to Columbia was 5 cents and the return 5 cents.

I discovered a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant near the Columbia campus where one could get a fairly good bit of lunch for 20 cents. It looked like a long stretch over the summer, but "God feeds the ravens." At least once I received from each of the Langies, Donovans, Maloys, a check for some $15 or $20 with the instruction, "Buy yourself a good meal. See a good show." It was like manna from heaven. Both the Dodgers and Yankee ball parks provided clergy passes. When Father Voight returned at the end of July, we joined the clerical hang-out at Sacred Heart Rectory on West 51st Street. Father Scully was the pastor, later to become Bishop of Albany. Father Bryan McEntaggart was a frequent visitor. He later became Bishop of Ogdensburg, New York. It was a wonderful place to pass the evenings. All of the New York priests, it seemed, were my height, six feet.

The project for which I went to New York, namely, to whip up a curriculum for a Public Speaking course to be submitted to the New York Regents, was begin. It required a second session at Columbia in the summer of 1941. Before I left for that summer session and the same hostelry arrangements at Mt. Carmel Home for the Aged, on West 54th, the Langies and others had assured me that they would back me completely in setting up a Christian Culture Series in Rochester. Much of the summer I devoted to the selection of speakers and coordination of dates. This introduced me to another business: the business of the lecture agent--Colston-Leigh, Lee Keedick, and others. Through it I came know the office life of New York, the public relations people, the promotion experts--all very fascinating.

When I reached the point when I had ready a fall announcement, I wrote to Father O'Loane and Louie Langie, suggesting that I return for a weekend at Rochester and lay the whole program before our friends. Both agreed.

The first swarming was in the home of Louis Langie's sister, Mrs. David Lawless. Louis and Adele had worked out a printed invitation with no explanation as to what the announcement would be other than that Father Haffey would be there that evening. It was a wonderful meal the Lawless family provided and a lovely setting for the announcement. Everyone seemed enthusiastic. There had been no coaching but Mr. Jerry Hickey, Sr., led off the reactions as though he had been briefed. From this initial meeting stemmed the Aquinas Christian Culture Series, which would begin in the Fall of 1941 and would carry through under my direction until Spring, 1949. For nine seasons, Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen, later to become Bishop of Rochester, opened every series except the first.

At this point, after we had been in Rochester for some four years, there was not the slightest intimation of the foundation of a college for men. One exception to this would be the isolated instance in late fall of 1937, when Bishop Kearney supped with us, crowded into the small dining room at the old residence at 9 South Street, shortly after he had arrived at Rochester to take over the See. I recall being seated at a side table when the door opened. Father O'Loane entered, and then Bishop Kearney, who smilingly remarked, "Why, we have enough men here for a college of men!" That was the only reference to the idea that I had heard. None of us in Rochester at the time thought any more about it. The instance may show, however, that the college was already "in petto" in the long plan of the far-sighted Bishop.

The Aquinas Christian Culture Series was an important step in changing our status in Rochester as educators. Here we were on a high school level, but every other weekend we took on the trappings, at least, of a university. We gave our auditorium and provided the setting for leading writers and thinkers to bring their message under Catholic auspices to the people of Rochester.

Dr. Ricardo E. Alfaro, the former President of Panama, was our first speaker in October, 1941. He was the best we could get of the available international figures. Frank Gannett, Rochester publisher, introduced him. The series was assured after that evening. In that first season a tremendous event occurred on December 7, 1941 -- Pearl Harbor. Our speaker the following evening was Father Martin D'Arcy, S.J., from England. The entry of the United States into the war had changed everything for him. Overflowing with gratitude, he produced probably the most confused speech we ever had in any season. He had suffered the bombings in London, the perils of trans-Atlantic travel, and had come to America not knowing whether the United States would ever get into the war and support his native England. The shock could be felt in his every line. Louie Langie and I put him on the train, after the train was already moving. Father D'Arcy ran for it and made it, but lost his hat.

I prepared a brochure for each of these series of lectures. I happen to have kept one of the brochures announcing the 1943-44 series. On the first page are my remarks which reflect the preoccupation of those years; also the fact that I wrote differently in my youth.

The series of lectures here outlined is designed to help you. You'll be thinking about the 'Four Freedoms.' You'll wonder how they will fit in the postwar world. You'll be doing more thinking. Everyone has to this time. You see the truths of the Four Freedoms. But everyone doesn't; that's why we're at war-truths and minds are made for one for the other . . . This lecture series may help us. It strives to build up from those basic truths. Absolutely non-profiting, the Basilian Fathers gratis its direction and its setting. It is a public service to the Rochester area. World renowned Jews, Protestants, Catholics are listed. They've had a better chance to know and reflect than most of us. They are men of good will. Why not see and hear them? . . .

The brochure promised (for $5.50) a definite seat at all lectures, your name on all programs. "You become identified with this great cultural movement." It was this last line which bore our message to the Rochester community. I believe it helped to build the college-mindedness which we would later need. The third series was begun by Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen, on Sunday, October 10, 1943. If our speakers were not then headliners, they often became such. Among them that season were Frank Sheed, Mortimer Adler, and lastly, Leonard Feeney, S.J.

The following list of "Patrons Who Make The Series Possible" represents the nucleus of the people who were to be enlisted in the cause of St. John Fisher four years hence:

Mr. Arthur A. Barry
Miss Harriett L. Barry
Mr. and Mrs. John P. Boylan
Dr. Kathleen L. Buck
Mr. and Mrs. Kendall B. Castle
Mr. and Mrs. Harold J. Coleman
Mrs. Frank J. G. Connor
Mr. Thomas J. Craig
Mr. and Mrs. Harry B. Crowley
Mr. James Cuff
Mr. Augustine Cunningham
Justice and Mrs. Benjamin B. Cunningham
Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Cunningham
Mr. and Mrs. Donald A. Dailey
Mrs. Arthur J. Delany
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Denniston
Miss Adelaide Devine
Miss Louise Devine
Dr. and Mrs. J. Arnold Donovan
Dr. and Mrs. Benedict Duffy
Mr. James P. B. Duffy
Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Dwyer
Mr. and Mrs. Francis J. Dwyer
Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Farley
Surrogate Joseph M. Feely
Mrs. Elizabeth Finigan
Mr. and Mrs. B. Emmet Finucane
Mrs. John Foley
Mr. and Mrs. Richard T. Ford
Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Gannett
Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Ginna
Miss Eleanor Gleason
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph E. Gore
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur W. Kane
Miss Elizabeth Harper
Dr. and Mrs. William S. Hartigan
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Hayes
Mr. Raymond F. Healy
Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Hickey
Dr. and Mrs. Matthew J. Hoenig
Miss Katherine F. Hogan
Mr. and Mrs. Harold Jenkins
Mrs. David Jewett
Mrs. John L. Keenan
Mr. and Mrs. F. X. Kelly
Mr. and Mrs. Howard M. Woods

Miss Alice Kirk
Mr. Cornelius V. Knapp
Mr. and Mrs. Eugene H. Langie
Mr. and Mrs. Louis A. Langie
Dr. and Mrs. Leo F. LaPalm
Mr. and Mrs. David F. Lawless
Miss Elizabeth Lawless
Mr. Matthew D. Lawless
Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Lawless
Mr. and Mrs. Raymond F. Leinen
Mrs. Beekman C. Little
Miss Helen Little
Justice and Mrs. William F. Love
Mr. and Mrs. Daniel G. Macken
Miss Ruth Mahon
Mr. Charles Maloy
Mr. and Mrs. William J. Maloy
Mr. and Mrs. T. P. McCarrick
Miss Minnie McCort
Mr. and Mrs. Leon McGrady
Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah G. Menihan
Mr. and Mrs. William F. Miller
Miss Grace Murphy
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Murray
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph J. Myler
Dr. and Mrs. Harry I. Norton
Congressman and Mrs. Joseph J. O'Brien
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick J. Odenbach
Dr. and Mrs. William J. O'Neil
Mr. and Mrs. Henri P. Projansky
Mr. and Mrs. Edwin S. Quinn
Mr. and Mrs. Harold D. Ritter
Mr. and Mrs. Rudolf C. Siebert
Miss Lucy Sheridan
Mr. and Mrs. Otto A. Shults
Mr. and Mrs. Harper Sibley
Dr. and Mrs. Leo Simpson
Mr. and Mrs. John Rothwell Slater
Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Smith
Mrs. Charles H. Stearns
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Tettelbach
Mrs. Libanus Todd
Miss Esther Trant
Mrs. Charles F. Ward
Mr. and Mrs. W. Raymond Whitley

 

Bishop Kearney was an ardent supporter of the series. Each year he gave me a fresh approach in his letter which I reproduced in our brochure. Here is the text of his letter for the 1943 brochure.

Dear Father Haffey: The announcement that you plan to conduct the Christian Culture Lectures again this year is most welcome. Knowing the difficulties you had to overcome last year, I hardly dared to hope that we could have the pleasure of another of your series of outstanding lecturers. I sincerely trust that your courage will meet with an appreciative response on the part of the public. If for no other reason than gratitude for the fine things you have given them in the past, they should encourage you in this new effort. I sincerely wish you great success in your contribution for the spiritual and cultural life of the community. May God bless you and your efforts. Your devoted Bishop, James E. Kearney

Both the Bishop and the patrons were consistently loyal to me all through these succeeding seasons. There would be few if any drop outs from the patron list for the annual series. After the war we added some, such as Gerry and Nancy Kennedy.

The series not only interested these people in things of the mind, but became a bi-weekly news item for all the Rochester papers. Mr. Frank Gannett, owner and publisher of the papers, had assured me that his papers would co-operate to the fullest. They did. The advances, photos, reports, and social notices kept the Catholic Community in the news. I tried to supply the press with the copy by personal delivery. Thru these visits to the newsrooms I came to know Bill Lewis, city editor of the Democrat & Chronicle, Joe Adams of the Times-Union, Ira Sapozink, the women on the Society desk, Elliot Cushing and Matt Jackson on the Sports. These folks showed a sincere interest in everything we were doing. It all paid off later.

The various social events which surrounded the series were always occasions for publicity for Aquinas, for the Basilian Fathers, and for the Catholics of Rochester. It was at these social gatherings that I came to know the wonderful non-Catholic and Jewish people of Rochester. We were doing what Jacques Barzun advocated much later when he stated that "a social basis is necessary for intellectual interests".

In addition to the patrons, a much larger section of the community became subscribers. The following 1945-46 list of subscribers serves to show the wide appeal of the Culture Series:

Dr. Carl Allen
Rev. Gerard L. Amann
Mr. Anthony A. Aratari
Mr. Fred W. Armbruster
Ellen C. Ashe
Mary M. Ashe
Mr. Louis C. Attinasi
Catherine M. Aubin
Ida M. Bamann
Edna E. Bayer
William J. Beahon
Marie Bennett
Rt. Rev. William F. Bergan
Maude Boehm
Eugene F. Bopp
William J. Bosch
Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Brown
Mary Brown
Rev. Charles J. Bruton
Hortense Brutsche
Mrs. William E. Burdick
William E. Burdick II
Mrs. Harold Burke
Rt. Rev. George V. Burns
Mary Burns
Thomas J. Byrnes
Walter B. Byrne
Rt. Rev. Joseph S. Cameron
Adelaide Carroll
Grace Carroll
Grace M. Carroll
Mr. and Mrs. Carroll E. Casey
Eleanor Chapuka
Esther Chippendale
Angela Cimino
Mary J. Clancy
Michael F. Cleary
Margaret Coleman
Rita K. Conley
Mr. and Mrs. B. C. Connelly
Margaret J. Connor
Rev. Thomas F. Connors
Mrs. James Connolly
Mrs. Michael Conroy
Mrs. William M. Cousins
Anna Coyne
John P. Culhane
Maurice Culhane
Miss A. T. Cummins
Mrs. Leonard G. Currier
Virginia Ann Currier
Dr. John B. Dalton
Dr. and Mrs. C. P. Danehy
Barbara A. Davis
Rev. T. Emmett Davis
Frank I. Davis
Mrs. William I. Dean
Bernard P. Delehanty
Clayton D. DeMers
Anthony DiChesere
Katherine Doerbecker
William L. Downs
Dr. and Mrs. H. Raymond Drysdale
Rev. John M. Duffy
Helen Eberle
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur F. Ennis
Margaret Eustace
Veronica Fanning
Rose Faso
Dr. Benedict Favata
Mrs. Harold L. Ferree
Robert J. Finnegan
Virginia Foley
Gertrude Fox
Kathryn Gaffney
Mr. and Mrs. David Gales, Jr.
Mary Louise Gallagin
Emma Gallenstein
Edith E. Gardiner
Mrs. Charles A. Gartland
Rev. Howard W. Geck
Rev. J. Emil Gefell
Mr. and Mrs. H. Lou Gibson
Dolores Golden
Jeanette Gove
Msgr. Joseph E. Grady
Hazel Griffith
Dorothy J. Gross
Dr. and Mrs. George W. Guerinot
Mr. and Mrs. Ray Gugel
Francis C. Gunn
Dr. Joseph L. Guzzetta
John T. Hanefy
Alice Hannon
Rt. Rev. William Hart
Howard Hartman
Mildred Hartman
Mary R. Hauser
Mrs. Clarence G. Heininger
Mary Henry
Adelaide Hill
Mr. B. W. Hoadley
Mrs. L. Holland
M. Josephine Howe
Merrill F. Hubbard
Mr. and Mrs. Clyde D. Jones
Dorothy Keck
Bernardine Keeffe
Robert Kehoe
Rev. Robert A. Keleher
Ann P. Kelly
Mrs. John F. Kelly
James P. Kenny
Rev. George F. Kettell
Helen Kleisley
Dorothy Klem
Annabel G. Kline
Dorothy F. Knight
Eleanor Koesterer
Arline Korth
Dr. and Mrs. Leo C. Koscianski
Anna Kowalski
Rev. Robert L. Kress
Rev. S. B. Krolak
Stephen Kuchman
Helen Lannin
Rev. John Leary
Col. and Mrs. Montgomery C. Leary
Dr. V. J. Levy
James Liebel
Mrs. Bernard Liesching

E. Grace Line
Rev. Edward J. Lintz
Rev. Francis Luddy
Charles Lyons
Rev. Charles J. Mahoney
Mr. and Mrs. Francis Mahoney
Rev. John Malley
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur L. Martin
Dr. and Mrs. Joseph W. Martin
Cyril F. Marx
Rev. Frank W. Mason
Mr. and Mrs. Carl Mattern
Kathleen A. May
Rev. James McAniff
Katherine McAuley
Margaret McCarthy
Helen McElligott
Mr. and Mrs. Erwin J. McGuire
Eileen E. McInerney
Mary J. McInerney
Marie McKay
Rev. Elmer A. McNamara
Rev. Robert F. McNamara
Ruth McNamara
Mr. and Mrs. Victor Melanson
Agnes Menihan
Rev. John Merklinger
Mrs. Richard B. Meyering
Mr. and Mrs. William F. Miller
Mary P. Minges
Dr. Arthur J. Neidinger
Virginia F. Nestor
Mr. and Mrs. Emmett V. Norton
Clarence J. Oberlies
Francis Oberlies
Rita Oberlies
Mrs. Arthur B. O'Brien
Dr. William O'Brien
Rev. B. J. O'Brien
Mrs. W. Clyde O'Brien
Mr. and Mrs. Francis O'Brien
Robert E. O'Brien
J. Genevieve O'Connell
Helen O'Connell
Rev. Joseph O'Connell
C. L. O'Connor
Mr. and Mrs. John T. O'Hara
Miss Julia Olah
Stella M. O'Neil
Frances Owen
Samuel R. Parry
Estella Peil
Francis W. Pilecki
Rev. Richard Quinn
Helene M. Radley
Richard Redman
Elizabeth Regnauer
Mr. and Mrs. R. J. Reilly
Marion A. Rice
Dr. and Mrs. Edward G. Ritz
Lawrence G. Ritz
Elizabeth Roby
Mrs. Dwight C. Rockwood
Dr. and Mrs. Henry D. Rohrer
Bertha Roland
Caroline Roth
Eleanor Russer
Mrs. J. Ryan
Irene Saunders
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Schaeffer
Mary Schlagater
Cecilia Schmidt
George P. Schmidt
Rev. George J. Schmitt
P. G. Schumacher
Teresa Schur
Rita L. Schwalb
Mr. and Mrs. James F. Segerson
Rev. Albert Shamon
Rev. Edward A. Shamon
Mrs. William J. Shea
Lucy Sheehan
Mary Shaw
B. Edward Schlesinger
Rev. James F. Slattery
Katherine Spillane
Anna Stahl
Marcella Statt
Mrs. Fred J. Stehle
Charles Stephany
Rev. John B. Sullivan
Matthew G. Sullivan
Mr. and Mrs. Walter B. Sullivan
Mr. and Mrs. William T. Sullivan
John W. Then
Mr. Raymond J. Then
John Tierney
Dolores Toole
Monica Toole
Mrs. F. J. Tormey
Mr. and Mrs. Herman Trabold
Mrs. and Mrs. Oscar J. Trabold
Teresa Trott
Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Turner
Rev. Wallace J. Van Deusen
Caroline Vayo
Vesta Virgil
Rev. George Vogt
Barbara Walter
Mrs. Frederick L. Warner
Marion R. Warner
Beulah M. Watkin
Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Weld
Helen M. Westfall
Mr. and Mrs. Leland Whitcomb
Mrs. J. J. White
Rosemary A. White
Mr. and Mrs. Francis G. Wickes
Mrs. E. A. Wilber
Rev. William Willemen
Helen Williams
Mrs. Rex Bishop Wilsey
Anna B. Wintish
Margaret Wintish
Mary E. Wintish
William J. Woerner
Rev. Paul G. Wohlrab
Mr. and Mrs. Victor G. Yawman
Mrs. Alfred M. Zillioux
Joseph A. Zimmer

 

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