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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Malachy Walsh

by Gordon Nary

Gordon: When did you join Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Malachy: My wife Karen Sims and I joined OLMC over twenty-five years ago, when we enrolled our daughter Emma in kindergarten at the Academy.  Emma is now thirty years old, has given us two grandchildren and works as a teacher of autistic teenagers.

Gordon: How did you get involved with the Great Books programs?

Malachy: After I retired from thirty years in advertising, I thought it would be a good idea to join a Great Books Discussion group to keep my mind active.  That involvement led me to some pro-bono marketing work for various Great Books programs.  I am a big believer in the Great Books mission.

Gordon: And what is the Great Books mission?

Malachy: In the 1950s, the University of Chicago published a selection of Great Books so these classics could continue to be available to everyone.  The editors, Mortimer Adler and William Maynard Hutchins, also encouraged the formation of Great Books reading groups as a way for adults to continue to learn throughout their lives from the best writers and thinkers in all disciplines from science to philosophy, from literature to history.   Adler later published his How to Read a Book, which serves as a guide for having engaging conversations about the classics.

Why Great Books?  Watch this provocative interview with Mortimer Adler..

Gordon: Why are the Great Books groups still relevant today?

Malachy: Today, we have to focus so much on practical education and technical training just to make a living.  So, I think that it is good and important to have the opportunity to read things that grow our minds and souls and not just our bank accounts.  Great Books Discussion groups provide people with the pleasure of reading and discussing the world’s classics without the expense of school tuition and without the burden of tests, papers, and grades.    Finally, you can read all those books you wish you had read but never seemed to have the time.   You can even take on books that might be too challenging to take on by yourself.   It is a much easier to venture through Dante or Darwin with a little company.   People also tell me that they like to meet and befriend passionate and engaging readers like themselves.

Gordon: How did the Great Books Discussion Groups become an OLMC educational resource?

Malachy: I imagine no one will be surprised to learn that Fr. Lee is a wide reader and insightful scholar.  When I described my involvement with the Great Books to Fr. Lee, he welcomed the idea of offering a group here as a way for people in our community to get together, to learn from each other, and to lead richer and more thoughtful lives.  

Gordon: When did the Great Books group start here and how can people join? 

Malachy: We launched in October of 2014 with Keats.  We meet once a month, on the first Monday, so everyone has plenty time read the selection.   Maybe you have seen one of our silly ads in the bulletin.  Over twenty people have signed up.  Of course, busy schedules do not permit everyone to make it to all our sessions.   Still, the quality of the readings and our conversations encourage people to join us when they can.  So far, we have read and discussed works by Chekov, Plato, Conrad, Aristotle, and Kant.  Soon, we’ll be reading Genesis, Marx, Freud and Shakespeare.  

Gordon: How can people learn more or join up?

Malachy: Just contact me:  I will send you all the information you need to get started

Gordon: Who did your caricature? 

Malachy: Jeff York, a gifted artist who worked with me at J. Walter Thompson for many years.

Gordon: After many, many years, you are the first person named Malachy that I have ever met. What is the origin of that name?

Malachy: My mother told me that I was named after  rich Uncle Mal Flanagan, in the hope he would leave a legacy.  He didn’t.

Gordon: There is a St, Malachy school in Chicago, On the assumption that you haven't been canonized,  who was the original St, Malachy?

Malachy: Confusion here.  There is Malachi, the prophet in the Old Testament.  And, there is St. Malachy, a 12th century Irish bishop who was a reformer, miracle worker, prophet, and apple tree planter (applestolic?), whose feast is November 3rd.  I believe there is a grass roots movement to make him patron of Hard Cider

Gordon: As a longtime OLMC parishioner, what ae some of the reasons in addition to the Great Books Group, that you would recommend that people join OLMC?

Malachy: We can go to lots of places to make and to spend money, to work and to have fun, to meet and greet, to improve and enhance our bodies, and even to try to make a better world.  Not so many places nurture us so we can grow as persons and as a community.  No matter what your age or interest, OLMC provides programs where you can make a positive difference in your own spiritual life and in the lives of others who can benefit from your help. 

Just as the Pope is drawing a new energy to the Church, Fr. Lee is offering all of us the opportunity to contribute our energies and diverse talents to our community.   

Gordon: OLMC is fortunate in having you as a parishioner and your leadership in organizing the Great Books Group.


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