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Sophomores Maria Nieto and Sarah Massey, Monsignor Milam Joseph, Seniors Jorden Alex and Tatiana Boucher enjoy a reception in the library after the dedication and blessing of the Milam J. Joseph Auditorium at Bishop Dunne Catholic School April 3rd.

 
Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas led the dedication of the new Monsignor Milam J. Joseph Auditorium at Bishop Dunne Catholic School today at 10 a.m.

Friends and family members travelled from as far as Tyler to see the new auditorium and honor him. The school's newsletter this week published this story of his life:
 
Monsignor Milam Jude Joseph is a champion: champion of the arts, champion of the underdog, and a state champion in two sports – football and basketball.

As a wide receiver for his Jesuit football team in the fall of ‘54, he was elated when they went to the playoffs and came home with a state title. “That was when Jesuit was located here off Oak Lawn,” he remembers. That winter, the basketball team was also having a good year. He recalls, “I was basically the 6th man on the team, but we won the state championship that season also.” Monsignor might have made it a trifecta, but he chose to go into the school play that spring instead of baseball.

Springtime was also the season for debate. “It was the activity of the Philosophic Society,” he explains, “debate, elocution and drama,” - what might be called speech class today – and Monsignor says, “It was a lot of fun! But you had to work at it. For the Jesuits, it was an integral part of the curriculum, part of the formation of the whole person. Debate, and the ability to speak well to an audience – it was a great lesson and a great opportunity for me.”In fact, in his sophomore year, he was a member of the gold medal debate team and was voted Best Speaker of the Year.

He wants to offer the same opportunity he had to Bishop Dunne students for generations to come. When the plans for Dunne’s “Reboot on Rugged” dropped the renovation of the auditorium, Monsignor Joseph spoke up. “I couldn’t imagine why we wouldn’t spend a little bit more money to make the auditorium better for the students and the audiences who would come there. The Bishop was already sinking a lot of money into the overall project, so why not a little bit more to complete it?” he said. That “little bit more” amounted to over a million dollars when all was said and done. But it means the world to the teachers and students who will use the auditorium for years to come. Monsignor became a champion for the unsung heroes of the arts that day, and to thank him the new auditorium will be named after him. But as Monsignor points out, “The Bishop’s commitment to the students at Dunne is really unparalleled.”

The honor has humbled a man known for his outspokenness. For years, as Episcopal Vicar, he’s been brought into difficult situations when a pastor would be transferred or died, and he was called to be the administrator to the parish until a permanent pastor was appointed. Twenty five years of preaching and leading in Tyler prepared him well for his move back to Dallas, where he grew up. “My parents weren’t wealthy, but my Dad was determined for my sister and me to have a Catholic education. I look at Bishop Dunne and see the students and know how important it is for them to get that same well-rounded education and opportunity that I had: body, soul and spirit – sports, academics, and the arts,” he says earnestly.

Like many of Bishop Dunne’s teachers, Monsignor attended The University of Notre Dame, graduating with a degree in Business in 1959. He went on to a seminary and studied theology at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., during a tumultuous time in the Catholic Church, as Vatican II convened in 1963 to 1965. “All kinds of things were going on at that time, so it was an exciting place to be,” Monsignor remembers. Then, in 1960, he was at the Democratic National Convention when Jack Kennedy was nominated, and later in Washington as a student when he was inaugurated. And sadly, he was also there in ’63, as a deacon, and attended the funeral for JFK.

“Those were dramatic days –in the church, and in our American culture, so much social upheaval,” says Monsignor. And, he almost missed it all.

Monsignor admits he had a hard time at first in his seminary studies. His initial theology class had about 75 seminarians in it, and they were learning from an old scripture scholar, Roland Murphy, who was demanding, articulate and renowned. Monsignor remembers he didn’t quite understand him, and felt lost. “I thought I didn’t belong there,” he admits. But little by little he understood what was being taught to him, and years later he even became friends with the scholar.

That taught him the greatest lesson of his life: never stop learning. “Continuing education is the key!” Monsignor says. “Never stop asking questions and learning.”

Even now, Monsignor spends hours – even days – contemplating his Sunday homilies. “We must never stop learning,” he says. He’ll read the following Sunday scriptures on the Monday before and begin researching each throughout the week, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring the right words Sunday morning. States Monsignor, “I don’t go out much on Saturday nights anymore, because I know that Sunday morning is so important.”

Years ago he gave his first homily at his home parish, St. Thomas, and he had it all written out and memorized, but realized afterwards that following a script is not the way to preach. So now he writes down the major points he wants to make, studies, researches and prays, and then lets go of the script. At some point, he says, “you’ve got to trust the Holy Spirit.” His homilies are legendary. Parishioners who’ve heard Monsignor at Mass can often quote him years later.

Bishop Dunne calculus teacher and fellow Notre Dame alumnus Kevin Braun heard him on Ash Wednesday one year and said, “I remember it like it was yesterday: Monsignor said, ‘I don’t want you to give up anything this Lent.’ I was shocked! He went on to explain: ‘I want you to do more for others. Maybe just one little thing a day.’ I’ll never forget that homily,” says Kevin.

Monsignor believes teachable moments like that are everywhere, as long as we take the time to learn from them.

His earliest lesson happened when he was acting up in church at about the age four or five. His older sister and he would not sit quietly for the 9 a.m. service at old St. Patrick’s on Harwood, and finally his mother took them out of Mass. “We drove all the way from the church in downtown Dallas to our home in Lakewood, where my mother gave us a lesson I’ll never forget – I think you’d call it a ‘spanking’ today – and then she put us back in the car and we drove back to church for the 11 a.m. mass.” Monsignor laughs, remembering, “Let me tell you, we never again made a sound in church. You talk about a teachable moment! Anne Joseph never missed a teachable moment.”

His mother recently passed away, on June 3, 2013, one month short of her 102nd birthday. Monsignor is grateful for her long life, and feels especially blessed that Bishop Farrell was generous with him, allowing him time to oversee the care of his mother. Monsignor created a 55 page pictorial history for his mother’s 100th birthday, even travelling back to her childhood home in North Lebanon – in 1966 it was called Greater Syria - to see her original birthplace and the church where she’d been baptized. While there, he met the Maronite Priest who baptized her in 1911.

His mother’s home in Lakewood was one of the first built by the famous architect Clifford Hutsell in 1936 and had big stained glass windows, with Spanish architecture and is, Monsignor claims, “quite remarkable.” He reminisces, “I wonder what courage my father had, going from a small apartment near downtown to this unique home in what was then a very new neighborhood at White Rock Lake.” Monsignor has been taking care of it for his mother, as any good son would do.

Taking care of others has fallen to him in many ways: stepping into parishes without a pastor, leading the University of Dallas as President during a major fundraising campaign that produced millions to renovate and re-build decrepit dorms and classrooms, and speaking up for the renovation of an auditorium in a Catholic school in South Dallas.

His favorite memory of his amateur career as a thespian was in a Shakespearean play in his high school years. “We didn’t really have an auditorium at Jesuit then, so we created one, a ‘theater in the round.’ I played Shylock in the Merchant of Venice, and Polonius in Hamlet. At one point I got to say how ‘vile’ another character was. I did it with such vehemence that Bishop Thomas Gorman nearly fell out of his chair laughing,” Monsignor relates fondly, adding, “Bishop Gorman came to all our Shakespearean plays.”

Six decades later, that high school thespian is working alongside another Bishop, and has already brought joy to a generation of young actors and musicians who are ready to take to the new stage to perform – to make their audiences laugh and cry and feel.

Monsignor Milam Joseph is their champion. Bishop Gorman would be proud.
 
 

Information provided by Judy Porter.

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