NEW YORK (NY)
October 16, 2020
By Francis X. Sullivan
When I graduated in 1983 from Jesuit College Prep, an all-boys high school in Dallas, Tom Hidding, S.J., a scholastic at the time, gave me a simple clay cup and a bowl that he had made himself. The bowl shattered during a move when I was in college. The same accident broke the handle off the cup, but I still drank beer from it, then wine and, on one odd but happy occasion, warm champagne.
In 2001, my family and I bought a house with a glass-fronted kitchen cabinet and the concurrent obligation to find dishes that were worthy of display. We had no fine china or fancy stemware, but we had Tom’s cup. Sometimes I would take it down and use it, enjoying the sense of solidity, of holding a piece of my own history in my hands.
I lost touch with Tom after graduation, as I lost touch with almost everyone else from school. But although I lived far away, Dallas Jesuit had not lost touch with me. I got the alumni magazine. I got the fundraising calls from classmates and the letters seeking money for everything from the art museum to a grooved practice wall for the tennis team. Every year, I got a birthday letter from the Jesuit alumni director, Pat Koch, S.J.
Tom Hidding was good to me. My childhood home was unpredictable and violent, but I felt safe at school because of him and the school’s Jesuit priests.
Tom Hidding was good to me. My childhood home was unpredictable and violent, but I felt safe at school because of him and the school’s Jesuit priests: Pat Koch; the austere Vince Malatesta, who argued theology with me when I was working the switchboard; gruff Pete Callery, who coached wrestling and taught me freshman theology; and the wry Ben Smylie, who referred to the prosperous neighborhood around our school as the “North Dallas ghetto” because of the concentration of emotional and spiritual poverty he saw in his students and their families.
On a boring day at work in 2002, I searched on the internet for the names of classmates and former teachers. Tom’s name came up on BishopAccountability.org; he had been accused of sexually abusing a student at Jesuit High School, in Tampa, Fla., where he was assigned before coming to my school.
I had felt safe at my school. In 2003, I asked myself for the first time: “Was I safe?”
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.