Martin ‘In Good Company’ with students

By Kelly McKee
October 21, 2004

Ryan Norris

An awed silence fell across the Widener Center lecture hall as students gathered to hear the extraordinary stories of speaker Father James Martin. The one- time- business-man turned priest, as well as author and editor, spoke to students on his experience in the industry, his presence at Ground Zero during the 9/11 attacks and, to the great amusement of the audience, his fondness of the television show “Sex and the City.”

Martin, associate editor of America magazine, began the afternoon, on Thursday Oct. 14, with a poignant reading from his first book “In Good Company,” a book that Martin describes as “the difference between my old life and my new life.” Transporting the audience to the damp, pungent bathrooms where he bathed and tended to the sick and helpless, Martin’s inspiring life story began to unfold.

From homeless shelters in Boston, to refugee camps in Kenya and the rubble of Ground Zero, Martin has drawn inspiration for his writing. Describing his writing style as “confessional writing,” Martin delivered passages from his stories causing the listening students to sit up and take notice.

As frightened and astounded as any other citizen during the tragic time of the World Trade Center attacks, Martin wished to help in any way he could. Armed with his faith and a listening ear, Martin nervously walked amid the smoking ashes protected only by a prayer and a gas mask. For almost three weeks after 9/11, Martin worked with police officers and firefighters at ground zero providing, what he dubbed, a “ministry of presence.” The experience led to the creation of “Searching for God at Ground Zero,” Martin’s latest offering. “I just had to tell this story of what I saw,” Martin said, “I just had to tell it.”

Craig Vagell, a senior English and communication major and volunteer firefighter, found great insight in Martin’s words. “When I heard he had worked at ground zero I immediately wanted to hear him,” Vagell said, “He gave great insight.”

“In the people I worked with and in their generosity I found God at ground zero,” Martin said, “I stood beside grace.”

Martin lightened the mood of the afternoon by admitting his enjoyment of the risqu

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Kelly McKee

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