The old gym at Xavier High School was packed Saturday morning for an historic event celebrating the Jesuit waterfront priests—Phil Carey and
Pete Corridan–who lived at the Xavier labor school adjoining the high school on W. 16th Street, and whose mission oriented them due west toward the Chelsea piers; and the Harbor and port and its workers and the cause they served.
It’s a complicated story when set deeply in historical context. And
as labor historian Bill Mello explained yesterday at Xavier, the
waterfront priests made for but one element in a story as richly
varied and contentious as the great port itself.
Bill’s presentation re-opened or perhaps opened for the first
time—in a collaborative setting—the conversation between labor
historians and scholars of the American Left (Bill) with cultural and
religious history types the likes of us. And in the spaces between
flows the great movie, which Bill and I treated from our
complementary/conflicting perspectives (he low-lighted the troubling
closing scene; not for nothing do we steer clear of same in the book).
It was a pleasure, this Saturday morning session at Xavier, for all
that I came across as though this show might be the manic finale; same
as it’s ever been.
Thanks to Bill, and to Joe Doyle and to Jane LaTour of the New York Labor History Association for expertly organizing this event! And to Mr. Jack Raslowsky of Xavier, and to friends on
hand yet again who probably agree it’s time for a new book project (if
not a vow of silence for the self-styled code-buster here). Thanks to
warm friend and Xavier grad Jim Tierney for helping secure a special
location, and sharing its storied history.
Thanks too Carolina Salguero, the visionary founding spirit at
PortSide New York: here’s Carolina reading that book of ours from
aboard the tanker Mary Whalen in Red Hook. Someday we’ll finally make
our way over to the Mary Whalen: though we can’t blame that failing on
the lack of an adequate rail tunnel from N. Jersey, next time we’re
mired in the nightmarish congestion wrought of the century-old tube
connecting the Jersey side with the West Side, we’ll dream a little
dream of living up above in New York Harbor. The snuffed out tunnel
project was intended to provide ‘Access to the Region’s Core,’ surely
designating not simply Manhattan but the great port in its glorious
That’s the vista Charlie so enjoys imbibing; thanks as always to
Charlie and his mom for the precious gift of time, enabling us to
journey Saturday into the ‘region’s core,’ to the heart of the
historic waterfront apostolate. Hope its soul was stirred too in those
hours preceding All Hallows’ Eve: as we turn from honoring all saints to remembrance of all souls, especially those of Philip A. Carey (1907-1989) and John M. “Pete” Corridan (1911-1984), S.J’s.