March 09, 2012

Role reversal

By Deacon Patrick Moynihan *

Serendipitously, my brother’s responsibilities as CEO of Bank of America recently required him to go to Haiti.

This provided him with an opportunity to visit Louverture Cleary School, a tuition free school for academically gifted students from the impoverished neighborhoods around Port au Prince. Although Brian and his wife, Sue Berry, have been supporting Louverture Cleary for 25 years, this was his first visit to Haiti and the school.

Brian, a strong believer in not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing, may have gone a lifetime without seeing the school that he helped make possible if the international women’s advocacy group Vital Voices had not asked him to speak at their conference in Haiti. In his speech, he admitted as much. He also said that it was a mistake not to have come to the school sooner.

His brief, but candid comments made it clear that the visit was important to him and one that he would not forget. 

The visit definitely fulfilled a long-time hope of mine. Both as a little brother and the head of Louverture Cleary School, I had looked forward for years to the opportunity to show Brian the school he kept going by his dogged support. Conscious of just how personally involved he became with the school even from afar during Haiti’s turbulent years as an emerging democracy in the early 90s, I felt more like a caretaker welcoming Brian to his school than a tour guide.    

A journalist who interviewed Brian before he headed to Haiti asked my brother if he was intending to follow in my footsteps.

Brian responded modestly, as is his nature, “Nobody has gone to this country and not come back impacted.”

But, Brian also made it clear that he planned to stay in his current work—which is exactly what a seasoned CEO does to reassure an already uncertain market when asked a left-field question.

The reporter’s question has caused me to think a lot about the importance we give to dramatic life reversals.

Upon reflection, I am inclined to think we make too much out of them. I cannot deny that I have seen God’s plan accomplished through extraordinary changes in a person’s life. Certainly, I am hopeful that my wife and I are examples of just that. However, I have also witnessed the miraculous fruits of simple, day-to-day acts by truly good-hearted people, like my brother, who are otherwise fully engaged in the business of the world.

As with many things, I have found it takes the right mix of people to propel society forward—not one type of person. We need to caution ourselves not to vilify the successful or oversimplify the problems that keep a person in poverty. Development is a Canterbury Tales affair. It takes all sectors—private, public and religious—to move an impoverished nation forward. St. Paul affirms this inclusive perspective with his analogy of the body. I also know this from practical experience.

Oddly, the reporter did not call me to ask if I planned to interview with my brother for a new job while he was here. Unlike bankers, I guess missionaries are still assumed innocent until proven guilty. However, for the record, if I were to reverse roles with my brother, I assure you that bank fees would be higher. One thing my missionary work has taught me is the importance of personal responsibility and sustainability above all else.

As for who is walking in whose footsteps, as brothers, I would say that I am and have always been walking in my brother’s. I proudly followed him to Brown and onto the rugby field. 

As a missionary and a banker, though, I would say, just as proudly, that we are walking together.

Deacon Patrick Moynihan graduated Culver Military Academy in 1983, from Brown University with BA in Sanskrit and Classics in 1987, and from Providence College with an MA in Religious Studies [Theology] in 1999.

He taught Latin and English in a Catholic High School from 1987 to 1990, traded commodities, futures and options for an international trading company from 1990 to 1995 and directed a free Catholic mission school in Haiti for academically gifted children from the poorest areas around Port au Prince from 1996 to 2006.

Deacon Moynihan was ordained in October of 2001 as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Rockford [IL] where he was the director of formation and later the Office for the Permanent Diaconate from 2001 to 2006. He has since gone back to Haiti and is currently the president of The Haitian Project.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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