The ‘Good Pope’s’ influence is alive and well in 2014

Some writing assignments are simply more fun than others, and for me that translates into something I don’t mind reading again.

As an editor, one of my pet peeves is to proofread my own work. More often than not, I simply don’t like what I wrote. That goes all the way back to my college days when I would go back and polish an essay or thesis and shudder at what was on the pages before me.

Obviously my professors didn’t agree, thank God, because I earned my degree in four years with no blips on the radar screen.

This week provided me with one of those assignments that I dove into and came out grinning.

I asked Father Richard Wilson months ago if I could write a piece on the beloved Pope John XXIII’s canonization, using the angle of interviewing diocesan priests who served under this humble, joyful, holy man. In his own humble, joyful and holy way, my boss gave me the OK.

I vaguely remember Pope John XXIII, especially when he died. It was just a few months before JFK’s assassination rocked the world. I was just a pup finishing up first grade, and we had a portrait of Pope John XXIII in each classroom at St. Anne’s School in Fall River.

I liked him. He looked like a big old huggable pépère to me, although I should say a nonno.

I had the delightful experience of interviewing the Shovelton Brothers from their home in Lady Lake, Fla. Fathers William, 92, and Gerald, 84, have never turned down a request from me and I always hang up the phone after speaking with them feeling better than before our conversations.

I could detect in their voices the fondness with which they held the beloved pope. That’s something you can’t put on paper.

In Father Peter Graziano’s reply, you could sense the love and admiration he had for St. John XXIII.

Msgr. Barry Wall, who is never at a loss for a story, was gracious as usual and chock full of anecdotes and thoughts about Good Pope John. 

Msgr. Thomas Harrington, my golf partner, was equally eager to share opinions of St. John XXIII. He, also, is never at a loss for a good story.

In fact each of the five men I interviewed are human treasure chests of experiences and opinions about our Church and what it means to be a priest of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Each of these men exude joy, humility and holiness in their own way. There is no bitter edge to any of these fine priests.

Based on what they told me about the man, Pope John XXIII, it wasn’t hard to realize they each still had a part of St. John XXIII’s influence in their lives and in their souls.

Each of these men I could easily call pépère. One can’t interact with them, even for but a few moments, and not come away feeling better inside and out.

This week’s assignment was a joy for many reasons: the subject matter, St. John XXIII, a man and saint I want to get to know better; his students, men I already know and respect and enjoy; and the fact that after completing the feature, I am a  better person for it.

I’d like to publicly thank these five wonderful priests and men for bringing alive for me the spirit and joy of St. John XXIII.

Dave Jolivet can be contacted at

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