Today we continue with our new Spes Unica series that highlights the voices of some of our amazing lay collaborators in Holy Cross. Last month, Mr. Rob Curtis, the Pastoral Minister at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, AZ, kicked off the series. We will hear from Rob again next month, but today we meet Mr. John Soisson, the Special Assistant to the President at the University of Portland. A recipient last year of the Spirit of Holy Cross award from the Indiana Province, John has worked with Holy Cross for many years, and as a result, we learn in his first post for Spes Unica, he knows us well … so well, he can articulate what starts to make Holy Cross different. Enjoy!
Is Holy Cross different? I mean, are the men and women of Holy Cross different? I’ve been at the University of Portland for almost 30 years and can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question. And if they’re different, how are they different?
How are they different? Let me count the ways!
I was lucky to be taught by Benedictines for 12 years and by Jesuits for four. I loved them all and treasure my memories of them and what they taught me. But when I found my way to Holy Cross, I found home. I had been working on the campus for only a couple weeks when I met my first CSC. I was going through one of those times when the world seems dark and hopeless, and in the twilight I was dragging myself across a parking lot when a voice stopped me. “Hello! I think I need to meet you!” An hour later I said goodnight to Fr. Art Schoenfeldt, C.S.C., and knew then I wanted to stay at the University for at least 30 more years.
This summer, when I was on a pilgrimage to meet Blessed Basil Moreau in France, I asked Sr. Ann Lacour, MSC, a Marianite from New Orleans, what she thought was different about Holy Cross. “When people get to know us,” she said, “they usually can’t get over how human we are.” Human.
When I asked Lisa and Steve Scardina, who are part of the US Province’s PR support team, they didn’t miss a beat: “They make you feel like family.”
Fr. Dave Sherrer, C.S.C., once told me a story about his time in the doctoral program at Chapel Hill, NC. There were a lot of other religious in programs while he was there. When members of their orders would pass through town there was hardly a ripple. But when a CSC would arrive it was time to celebrate! That contrast really struck him.
I think about that story almost every time I go to the faculty dining room on our campus. I know at some schools the religious eat apart from the faculty or the staff. Not here. We’re on the family plan. And every meal together feels like a celebration.
Hospitality? I think Holy Cross wrote the book on what that means, and from what I can tell, Basil Moreau was the original author. Hospitality is a very human virtue, and it’s a characteristic of the warmest families. Even the cynical college guidebooks say that no one is a stranger on the UP campus.
I guess if I had the time and space to really describe how Holy Cross is different I could also tell you about the charism or the Constitutions or the traditions. I could tell you about people like Tom Oddo and Tom Hosinski and Dick Rutherford and Ed Obermiller and Bill Beauchamp and Dave Tyson and Gerry Olinger and Mike Belinsky and dozens of other Holy Cross priests who, over the years, have made me feel like their brother and who seem to have taken a very personal interest in my fragile soul. Maybe someday I will tell you.
But for now, I’ll stick with what Sr. Ann and the Scardinas said. The members of Holy Cross are very human. They make you feel like family. You don’t see much of that these days. And it makes all the difference.