MARCH CHESTERTON MADNESS
Chestertonians in Central Massachusetts were thrice blessed last month. Beginning on March 20, Dale Ahlquist returned to Worcester as the keynote speakers the the 10th annual Catholic Men's Conference giving locals a preview of his talk on What's Wrong with the World for the ACS conference in Emmitsburg, Marland, this August. The Catholic Men's conference was sold out with approximately 1300 attendees. Dale spoke at the Worcester Men's Conference three years ago and was voted the most popular conference speaker of all time. Copies of What's Wrong with the World literally flew off the table after Dale's talk. Fr. Mitch Pacwa and Msgr. Stuart Swetland also spoke at the Men's Conference this year, familiar faces on EWTN along with Dale's.
Later that evening, Chestertonians were again treated to some erudite discussion of our hero as the local Worcester Chesterton Society (which began to meet July 2009) hosted Dale for more lively discussion of What's Wrong with the World along with libations, dinner, song and autographs at the Webster House -- so named because Daniel Webster gave a fiery speech at that establishment in 1832. (We're not exactly sure he spoke at the restaurant but he did speak at the Republican Convention in Worcester in 1832.) Our private room was full that evening, and the normal number of 12 members grew to about 25 to share in the fun. The Worcester Chesterton Society meets the second Saturday of the month at the Webster House but broke with time-honored tradition when Dale was in Worcester. Our blog is gkcsw.blogspot.com for Gilbert subscribers in Massachusetts.
Our joy was made complete when later that same week, on March 25, the Worcester Chestertonians, in conjunction with the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross, celebrated the 80th Anniversary of the visit of Gilbert Keith Chesterton to America and the College of the Holy Cross by inviting Rev. Ian Boyd, C.S.B., and Dermot Quinn, Ph.D. Fr. Ian Boyd is the president of the G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture at Seton Hall University. Dr. Quinn is founder and editor of the Chesterton Review and professor of History at Seton Hall. Gilbert Magazine interviewed Fr. Boyd in the June 2005 issue. During his visit, G.K. filled Worcester's Mechanics Hall for his talk on "Some Heresies of Our Mass Production."
Chesterton wrote that this visit was the high point of his second trip to America. He was a friend of the Rev. Michael J. Earls, S.J., of Holy Cross college. Chesterton stopped by the school on Dec. 9, 1930, his second trip to America, when he was greeted on the steps of the Dinand Library by seven students dressed in the attire of literary figures of the past, such as Dante and Chaucer. Speaking in front of the entire college on a frigid afternoon, Chesteron delivered a speech and was adopted as an Honorary Crusader by the student body. He said, "Thank you for this very great honor, and I accept it with all my heart. I'm not much of a Crusader but at least I'm not a Mohammedan." Later while reciting Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees" Chesterton planted a white cedar in front of O'Kane Hall on the campus. That tree, dubbed the Chesterton Tree, died once or twice since 1930; however, a replacement tree still stands on that very spot. Happily, the original news reel of GK's visit can be viewed on You Tube.
In anticipation of the speaking event at the College, Mark Savolis head of archives, set up two display cases of Chesterton memorabilia, including rare books by GKC and photos of GK's visit to Holy Cross. The exhibit was co-curated by Robert Dornfried, class of 2011, and Rebecca Camargo, class of 2012. Viewers in the library's reading room got to glimpse a collection that is usually in the wine cellar of the college. That evening, in the Rhem Library (which was SRO), 125 fans were treated to the verbal tapestry woven by Fr. Boyd and Professor Quinn, as well as by our very own Msgr. Thomas Sullivan, Treasurer and co-founder of local Chesterton society and Holy Cross alum. We learned of the intellectual and cultural climate of Worcester USA in 1930, demonstrating the value of Chesterton not only to his contemporaries but also to our own times. These talks will be available by podcast at http://www.holycross.edu/crec/listen_learn.
Outside the Rhem library that evening, fans hovered about not one but two tables of Chesterton books and memorabilia. Gloria Garafulich Grabois, Assistant Director of the G.K. Institute for Faith and Culture, was signing up new subsribers to the Chesterton Review, while local G.K.C. society members, Candace Jaegle and Ed Thomas, sold books and merchandise for the American Chesterton Society. And so, as the evening drew to a merry close, we Worcester fans went home with copies of the Chesterton Review and the scholars from Seton Hall went home with Chesterton refrigerator magnets.
In conclusion, March Madness in Worcester, Mass., demonstrated clearly an excitement for Chesterton's ideas 80 years later to all kinds of folks right in our own back yards.
by Candace Jaegle, Historian and Tony Zamarro, President; edited by Msgr. Thomas Sullivan, Treasurer
Worcester Chesterton Society