Men for Others: The Bellarmine Story : 150 Years of Tradition, Wisdom and Justice

Introduction by Tom McEnery ’63

There is something quite unique about the small Jesuit school in the College Park neighborhood of San Jose. If things had been different, this area would largely be remembered only as the place where Jack London’s hero and his dog, Buck, took a train north the Yukon in the opening pages of the Call in the wild. All of that changed in 1926, when a band of hearty priests and a few score students – my father among them – transferred a few short miles (but a massive relocation down the old pueblo-to-mission road) and ensconced themselves in the new campus of Santa Clara Prep; Bellarmine.

In the following text, we are reminded of all the things that are worthwhile and enduring about the old school at College Park. Boarders, commuters, day students – all were b0nded in a simple and complete way, by the time-honored methods: the kindly help of Brother Ryan, the jokes of Brother Huber, the scholarship of Fr. Flynn and Mr. Rewak, the firm counsel of the classics teacher turned disciplinarian, Fr. Joe Costa, and the role model of John Hanna. Not to be forgotten are the rhetorical triumph of Ed Romano and Jim Harville, the PE classes of the legendary baseball coach, Bob Fatjo, of that first class, and the courtliness and fond memory of Jerry Wade. I can never thank Mr. Lou Lucas enough for giving me a B, and just enough Spanish to win a few key precincts when I first ran for Mayor.  We all remember the sheer terror of an encounter with Fr. Jim Rooney.  All of these memories and so many others – the kidnapping of the young Brooke Hart and his murderers’ lynching by the citizens of San Jose, the deaths of “our boys”in World War II, the proposed routing of a highway through our campus and the pivotal fight over the International Airport – come alive again in these vivid stories.

We will hear once more, in the voices of our fellow students, those sounds of gratefulness for having learned so many  lessons about life, friendship and love, in an environment where much was asked and much was given.

The beauty about the many gifts that were heaped upon us is the salient fact that we never realized we were on the receiving end of so much.  Can we really consciously know that we are acquiring an absolutely transforming knowledge of why we help our fellow man, or volunteer to make our community or neighborhood or city a better place to live? To explain it is lose it. There, indeed, was more to the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius than meets the eye or memory.  Few of us can remember even one of them in detail, and yet most of us know why they are worthy of note.  We must all recall that the young Ignatius was hit by cannonball before he saw the path of righteousness, we, on the other hand, only had Joe Costa’s grim stare.  And I would only say this three decades later, but even Fr. Joe could scarcely fail to laugh when he had to rescind my brother John “jug” for dying his hair green on St Patrick’s Day, after he called my mother and discovered that her hair was also green for the day! But if a difficult memorizing of Shylock’s speech was not sufficient, we always had the classics.  In what was, for many of us, a feeble attempt to acquire some knowledge of Latin or Greek, we received so much more.  It is truly possible to find God’s mercy in even the most unnoticed places.

This fine new book my Dick Pfaff informs us in a text, as well as in primary voices, why this hallowed old high school holds such a special place in our hearts and our imaginations so many years later.  We have in this recognition a shared beacon of learning and commitment.  in such a mutual value system – which reinforced the lessons we first learned at our grandparents knees, or from our parents lectures and our siblings rebukes, each of us drew strength and a finer sense of purpose.  It was obscured to us then; it is apparent to us now.

Bellarmine accomplished it’s mission, as as you read these pages, you will be reminded of it. No Ivy League or preparatory or Brahmin secondary school, Bellarmine was – and is – the ‘real deal’.  the songs of Irish and iItalians immigrants, the flotsam and jetsam of Ellis Island, are joined in a continuum with Hispanic youth from the neighborhoods of East San Jose. The grandsons of fruit peddlers and cannery workers and publicans are forever linked in the Jesuit tradition of service with the children of field workers and immigrants and Asia and Mexico. There is a wonderful symmetry to it all, and the linchpin is Bellarmine’s time-honored and tested-by-fire creed of service to others. the connection is complete; the circle is closed.

Bellarmine has a firm place in the center of the most remarkable valley on the face of the earth, and it will always have a firm place in the hearts of the many it has touched, directly or indirectly.  from pueblo to prunes to predecessors, here we became better people, and learned truths that will survive longer than a brief shining moment.  there was a certainty developed at the old campus, that we could be much, much more than the sum of our parts. Love and service became the clarion calls, and in these noblest of virtues, we received a full measure of examples in the Jesuits, lay teachers and our fellow students.

Return now to a special place and enjoy the “remembrance of things past” and the assurance of more of the same in the future, for, in the tradition of Bellarmine, the historical continuum is always present and builds everyday on the hard work and sacrifice of those who preceded us.  We can truly say that while much has been accomplished, the best is yet to come.

Bookmark the permalink.