Meet five Holy Cross grads
striving to “humanize this world”
By Karen Hart
“We must be men for
others. We must train men who are men for others. What
they must do and we must train
them to do is to humanize this world of ours.”
Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Valencia, Spain,
July 31, 1973
The definition of
family has always been important to Terry Horgan '67.
As the second oldest in a family of 13 children in New
Rochelle, N.Y., Horgan's life was filled with the daily
dramas that define family: large gatherings around the
dinner table, friends and visitors from the nearby college
and from church, relatives and, of course, a multitude
of children. Family also meant a place to turn to when
downtrodden, a place of safety, support and encouragement.
When Horgan came to Holy Cross on an athletic scholarship
during the tumultuous mid-1960s, he found that his definition
of family had broadened.
"Who was your family and who became your family?" Horgan
asked then. Family, he realized, included his fellow
members on the track team as well as the whole college
Horgan also discovered the idea of "The Phenomenon
of Man" while at Holy Cross, a concept he said helped
redefine how he looked at the world.
"The concept is a breakdown of the atomical structure
of matter," said Horgan. "And that Christ's atomical
structure is still amongst us in the world. ... So Christ's
particles become ... part of who I am, of my neighbor
and everybody else. ... That's probably the greatest
gift I got from Holy Cross."
This theology, Horgan said, and an emphasis on social
justice, were the core of his education at Holy Cross. "The
roots of who we are as Catholics" were the guides to
the paths he later followed.
It was also while at Holy Cross that the dark cloud
of the Vietnam War cast its shadow over Horgan's broadened
family; two fellow students were lost as casualties.
Horgan then "heard President Kennedy's call" and asked
himself what he could do for others. Following his graduation
in 1967, he entered the Peace Corps.
Horgan spent four years in Colombia working with coffee
farmers and community groups, helping them build schools
and better the community.
After his return, Horgan pursued a master's degree
in Latin American history at Vanderbilt University in
Nashville, Tenn. While there, Horgan met Rev. Jack Hickey,
O.P., chaplain at the college. Horgan and other students
at Vanderbilt, under the direction of Hickey, began working
with prisoners, organizing discussion groups and meetings
with their families. These student/prisoner interactions
became the foundations for Dismas Inc., and Dismas House,
the now-national, not-for-profit interfaith agency in
Nashville, Tenn., that Horgan heads as executive director.
At Dismas, Horgan's family now includes those whom
many others turn away: just-released inmates returning
to society without families or support, and prisoners
serving out alternative sentences.
"There is no history of breaking bread in the families
of people who come to Dismas," Horgan said. "Our struggle
is to help them become whole and ... to become whole
ourselves. Our mission is reconciliation, to reconcile
with those who have offended us."
Providing transitional housing, jobs, and referrals
to counseling agencies, Dismas, Inc. services more than
250 men and women prisoners each year in 11 national
Dismas Homes. Each Dismas House also works as a residence
for university and college students, encouraging the
erasure of stereotypes and promoting diversity. Community
volunteers also come into the home, sharing meals and
"If you get that," Horgan said of recognizing Christ
in each other, "then you look at that person in prison
and that person is also Christ, and the person beaten
on the street is also Christ."
In 1973, the year Horgan received his master's degree,
Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the then-general of the Society of
Jesus, coined the phrase "men for others," in his address
to the Jesuit European Alumni at the 10th Annual International
Congress in Valencia, Spain. Arrupe's vision for a new
Jesuitism called for the continuing liberation of the
poor and politically oppressed as part of the teachings
of the Gospel.
Though Fr. Arrupe's phrase, changed today to "Men and
Women for Others," came after Horgan had already begun
his work with prisoners, the words are no less relevant
"Through the Cross you have to transform suffering
into love. That is similar to 'men and women for others,' " he
said. "Perhaps it would be better said
as 'men and women with others.' ... The struggle in social
services is to provide whatever it is that is needed
... health care, housing, meals, jobs, services for battered
women, shelter for families. But that's just one part.
The other part is how do we integrate it in each others' lives."
Holy Cross Associate Chaplain Jim Hayes, S.J., '72
said Arrupe's vision is a continuing challenge for all
Catholics. At Holy Cross, current students are encouraged
to evaluate and redirect personal wealth.
"Our starting point is that Holy Cross students are
enormously blessed with talents and energies and experience," Fr.
Hayes said. "We challenge them to understand that these
gifts are not for themselves but are to be given away
in the service of others."
That challenge is realized in a variety of student
activities, including two-weeklong programs in Mexico,
student retreats and, in particular, the Student Programs
for Urban Development (SPUD), begun in 1976. More than
600 Holy Cross students volunteer annually in 17 social
and Christian service programs in and around Worcester.
"Our approach is to offer experiences and opportunities
to reflect on and let God do the rest,"
Fr. Hayes said. "Our faith challenges us to bring the
good news to the poor; that was the mission of Jesus.
And we have to be concerned with the common good. It
is at the heart of our faith."
Diane Pokorny '95, saw the SPUD program as an extension
of her family and religious life, and it was one of the
main reasons she chose Holy Cross.
"[Social service] was a big part of my family," Pokorny
said. "My mother is a nurse practitioner in a community
health clinic and my father always volunteered. And the
Jesuit tenets of social justice definitely influenced
me at Holy Cross. It was the overall philosophy of the
school to encourage service work and to promote justice."
Pokorny was a SPUD volunteer each of her four years
at Holy Cross, working with homeless women and children
at Abby's House, reading to schoolchildren, and using
her minor in Russian to teach English to Russian émigrés
After graduation, Pokorny worked in legal services
for the Jesuit Volunteer Corp. in Yakima, Wash., for
a year. Pokorny, 25, is today a housing search advocate
for Crittenton Hastings House in Brighton, Mass., where
she finds shelter and subsidized housing for homeless
"The youngest mother we have is 18 and the oldest is
35," Pokorny said. "Most are working but not making
enough to live on. ... It's so important to keep in mind
that you're only one paycheck away from their position."
works with as many as 30 families at one time and said
that while she realizes
social service careers are not for everyone, it is essential
people realize they can help "no matter what their job
"I wouldn't be happy if I couldn't do this," Pokorny
said. "Really, the goal is we can all do something for
others, as small as it may be, to help them help themselves
and help their children."
Like Pokorny, other Holy Cross alumni have found their
calling in helping families find housing, and in
righting the wrongs of discrimination.
Erin Kemple '81 is the executive director of the Housing
Discrimination Project of Western Mass. Legal Services,
a nonprofit organization she helped found in 1989. Kemple
said being a student at Holy Cross pointed out the privilege
of the people who attend the school.
"One of the things Holy Cross made me think about was
that I have an obligation to give back," said Kemple. "'Men
and women for others' was in every aspect of campus life
at Holy Cross. ... [And] I had a reputation for always
sticking up for the underdog."
A year after graduating, Kemple decided law school
would best help her to achieve her goal. But at Suffolk
University Law School, Kemple found herself in an awkward
"People there were rushing to help the top 1 percent
of people," she said. "I thought, 'Who really needs representation?' It
is the people who are powerless, people of color, poor
people, people who have no voice in the legal system.
... If I wasn't there to talk to the woman whose food
stamps were being cut off, she and her family would go
Today, though working with a skeleton staff of nine
and just one other attorney, the Housing Discrimination
Project provides legal services for all areas of housing
discrimination, including racial discrimination and discrimination
against single parents and immigrants.
"I feel compelled to be an advocate for anyone who
is powerless," Kemple said of her dedication. "Most people
hate to think of homeless shelters or parents who live
in cars with their kids, but we have clients like this.
Last year we opened 175 new cases, and it is usually
higher, more than 200."
John Castellano '71, like Horgan, also felt shaped
by the devastating and disturbing touch of the Vietnam
War while at Holy Cross.
"Holy Cross played a key role in my formation as a
person and as a believer," Castellano said. In a paper
written for Fr. John Brooks, S.J., on Christ as the suffering
servant and the idea of non-violence, Castellano found
"That exercise was pivotal," Castellano said. "It caused
me to reflect on the Vietnam War and was the foundation
for my successfully filing for conscientious objector
status. ... My CO status became the foundation for what
I could do about the suffering of people in the world
and what role I could play."
And like Kemple, Castellano has dedicated himself to
advocate for those who cannot help themselves. After
teaching religion at Holy Name High School in Worcester
and at Mercy High School in Baltimore, Md., Castellano
decided to make a difference through action. He applied
to just one law school and received his degree from Hofstra
University Law School, Hempstead, N.Y., in 1976. Castellano
then began a 22-year career as a public service attorney.
Last fall, after finding governmental changes in funding
compromising to his goals, Castellano, 48, teamed up
with Mercy Sister Pat Griffith, R.S.M., and Mercy Haven
in New York to create the Mercy Advocacy Program, providing
housing and legal counsel to the mentally ill.
"My vocation is a response to my sense of who God is
and to the need to see the face of our God in the poor," Castellano
said of his career. "It's about trying to apply the gifts
I've been given and make a small difference. This comes
from having a sense of the Gospels that was emphasized
at Holy Cross."
Castellano said he feels it is no coincidence that
he is working with the Sisters of Mercy again and living
the ideals of Sister Catherine McAuley, dedicated servant
of the poor and foundress of the Sisters of Mercy.
Another Vietnam-era alumni, Chicago-native Frank Kartheiser '88
truly wanted to be an agent of change. He dropped out
of Holy Cross in 1971, determined "to make a difference" and
formed the Mustard Seed in Worcester with fellow classmate
Shawn Donovan '70. The Mustard Seed began as a storefront
agency dispensing help to the elderly, poor and homeless
and eventually grew to a full-time soup kitchen and homeless
Kartheiser said his decision to leave school was spurred
by the times. "Friends of ours were coming back in bags
from Vietnam. I got involved in the anti-war movement
and the farmworkers' movement and with the Catholic Workers."
As need for the Mustard Seed grew, however, Kartheiser
felt more could be done to treat the causes of the problems,
not just the symptoms. He returned to Holy Cross in 1987
to finish his degree in religious studies, graduating
In 1992, Kartheiser became the director and organizer
of Worcester Interfaith, an organization of Worcester
religious groups that work together to empower the underprivileged
through action, specifically with city youth, enforcing
public safety, and providing equal job access and affordable
housing. "The focus is on families and neighborhoods," Kartheiser
Of his own career path, he noted, "I want to live out
my values. Not just separate my work life and my faith
life. The question is how do I put my faith into action
to build the kingdom of God, and the core of that is
there has to be sense of change."
For those like Kartheiser and other Holy Cross alumni
actively working for social justice, their life work,
like Arrupe's, may never be complete.
But some, who have seen change in the face of humanity,
however small it is, remain faithfully committed.
As Kartheiser said succinctly, "I've been at this for
a long time, and I see a lot of signs of hope."
Holy Cross students have long been
known for their work as committed, active volunteers. Now the College administration
is creating a leadership development program to provide support for student
volunteers, opportunities for growth, and recognition of their work.
The woman helping to establish this
new program is a volunteer herself.
Jennifer L. McKee, a 1998 graduate
of Boston College, is serving a one-year assignment as a VISTA/MACC (Mass.
Campus Compact) volunteer.
is split between Holy Cross and Quinsigamond Community College. At Holy Cross
she is working in Student
Affairs to implement this leadership program.
McKee is offering several workshops
each semester for student leaders of SPUD programs and other community service
groups. The topics include
and manage volunteers, work with people from different backgrounds, and
conduct effective fund raising.
In addition, McKee organized about
150 first-year students to help the Worcester parks department clean up a
park one day in September.
"Holy Cross students are already doing a great deal of service work in the Worcester
community," says McKee. "My job is to support them and give them opportunities
for self-reflection and growth
SPUD student volunteers lend a hand
Holy Cross’ Student Programs
for Urban Development (SPUD) is the largest student organization on campus.
Begun more than 20 years
ago, SPUD has grown to involve more than 600 Holy Cross students who volunteer
their time and energy in 17 social and Christian service organizations in Worcester.
Though associated with the Holy Cross’ chaplains’ office, SPUD
is entirely student-run, directed each year by two student co-chairs who are
responsible for overseeing everything from the coordination of volunteers’ schedules
to budgeting. A second level chairperson is also assigned to each SPUD-serviced
Some SPUD programs have waiting lists
of volunteers. This is due, in part, to administrative logistics, according
to Marybeth Kearns-Barrett
chaplains’ office. “There’s
a great diversity among the programs,” said Kearns-Barrett. “There
are so many students who do so many different things. SPUD gives them everything
from an outlet for getting away from the campus and being involved in another
world, to the opportunity to form significant relationships with people.”
Many of the SPUD programs are directed at children. Holy
Cross students may participate in one of several day-care or after-school programs
sports or arts
and crafts activities, helping with homework, or tutoring one-on-one with
Worcester schoolchildren. A recent addition to SPUD is the Hospital Outreach
which pairs Holy Cross students with children in the pediatric ward of
of Massachusetts Medical Center. The students play games and read to the
children, and provide companionship to help make their hospital stay easier.
Other programs aimed at children include Big Friend/Little
Friend and tutoring Worcester schoolchildren struggling with learning English
as a second language.
“There’s a natural tendency to be interested in youth,” Kearns-Barrett
said. “The children have a lot of appeal to students.”
But that’s not to say SPUD volunteers have overlooked other community needs.
One of the most demanding SPUD programs is Abby’s House, a temporary shelter
for women and children, where students do intake work and provide friendship.
Other SPUD volunteers tutor county jail inmates or adopt “grandparents” at
area convalescent homes.
Service groups cite the continued involvement with SPUD volunteers
as both essential and uplifting.
And the students “feel like they’re giving something back,” Kearns-Barrett
said. “It challenges them to consider how their education is going to be
used. They have a lot of responsibility running each of the programs and the
experience isn’t always easy. But there is always willingness
Karen Hart is a free-lance journalist from West Boylston,