Chapter 21 The Dreamers BOB LOLLAR
I arrive in Chicago, rented a car, and drive out to the campus for my 10AM interview on Wednesday. I have always been a confident person, but I still felt a little fear and trepidation as I realized that rejection could be just as well at hand as acceptance. I know that this was quite different from sports and athletic reputation. I know I will need all the Divine Intervention that is available.
As I make my way along the sidewalks of the campus I am most impressed with the impeccable care taken of the stately, ivy-covered brick buildings, tastefully flowered grounds, and the cleanly cut grass. It was clear that no one took short-cuts off the sidewalks here. This was a special place. I could not help but notice that everyone who was walking the campus walked at a calm but business-like pace. Certainly not running like a normal college campus with numerous students late for class. This was indeed, different.
I climbed the steps to the administration building for my appointment with the Dean, Father Spencer. Father Spencer has been the Dean at Moody for over 23 years. Most people could not tell you who his predecessor was; he had been there so long. “Father” was the title he affectionately earned.
Father Spencer came out of his office as I had been announced by telephone by the receptionist, Ms. Miller. Father Spencer was a short man, but well built, not the least of which portly or seemingly out of shape. He was well tanned with shortly cut hair in the old Princeton style. He came up to me with his hand extended and a warm smile. As I rose to greet Father Spencer he extended his hand to shake. Father Spencer took his left hand and clasped it warmly on the outside of mine.
"Bob", said Father Spencer, "it is so nice to finally get to meet you. I feel like I know you well already after going over all of the glowing recommendations sent to me on your behalf. I don't believe that I have ever had someone come here as highly recommended as you."
"Father," I returned, "it is very nice to meet you and finally be given the opportunity to attend your school. It is a great honor and privilege that I hope I can live up to."
"Bob, come into the office and have a seat," said Fr. Spencer. "Ms. Miller, hold all of my calls."
I preceded Fr. Spencer into a beautiful old office. The walls were all old mahogany inlay with columns and columns of built-in bookcases all the way to the nine foot ceilings. I thought to myself that this place could qualify for a mini-library in any small town, USA. I was kind of frozen in place as I scanned the entire room. I felt a presence in the room that was uncommon to me. I could only describe it as warmness, peacefulness, a comforting calmness that was most comfortable. It felt good to be in such an environment I thought.
Fr. Spencer and I exchanged thoughts on my life experiences, what the Moody experience would be like, and what my expectations might be. Then Fr. Spencer made a startling offer that took me quite by surprise.
"Bob," said Fr. Spencer with a most serious look on his face and tone in his voice. "As you are well aware all cities and towns across America are having a terrible problem with youth unrest. In many locations the term unrest is an understatement, to say the least," he continued. "Gangs, violence, drugs, and even murder are all too familiar to too many of these young people. They appear to be trapped by their own foolishness, laziness, greed, lack of respect for goals, adults, academic pursuits, themselves, and the church. There lack of respectable adult supervision and available positive role models only make the problems grow quicker and more become even more destructive."
Father Spencer became pensive for a brief minute as he collected his thoughts. He knew the task he was about to present to me was precedent setting for the Institute, but he had prayed long and hard about it for over a year. He was only waiting for God to supply the right vessel that might be the key to possible success.
I was not sure what was about to come but I had no special apprehension about Fr. Spencer or what he might be leading up to. He sat calmly with his legs crossed and his hands resting comfortably in his lap.
"Bob", continued Fr. Spencer, I want you to head up a special "Youth-Gang-Outreach-Program through the Institute. It will account for 8-credit hours each semester you participate out of the sixteen total hours you will carry. There will be no set curriculum that we will be adhering to. The beginning will be a visitation/outreach program with the cornerstone a "blacktop-ministry" initiative. Our initial goals are:
1. Establish an open line of communication between any of the youths that will let us in.
2. Profile them, their families, and determine what personal needs they have.
3.) Determine any level of danger they might be in either at home or at school.
4.) Identify any negative influences in their lives and work to eliminate them with the assistance of the office of Catholic Family Services, State Department of Youth, Youth Division of the Metro Police, and others.
5.) Help establish a positive home environment or assistance in re-location to a "positive" family unit."
"I know this is very brief and some what sketchy at this point," continued Fr. Spencer, "but you get the main idea. I have felt strongly for a long time that the failure here is not the government or necessarily the public schools, but the family and us heading up the Church. We in the Church may be the biggest failure of all. We, like the teacher's union have become too political and self-serving."
Father Spencer continued, "The teachers have taken care of themselves financially, but in reality done nothing to improve the quality of education or raise the students academic standards. Their liberal social agenda of condoms in the schools may be the most damaging of all. And, we in the Church have done little of the church's original mission of taking care of the widows and orphans. This may not be the original definition of orphans, but it sure qualifies in the "90's," he concluded.