Xavier Society for the Blind
Vol. 10   No. 5
  May   2016

What's New at XSB

Bill Rooney is a long-time volunteer for the Xavier Society for the Blind, and his voice is featured in many of our recorded items. He and his wife dropped in to see our "new" quarters and to visit. Many only know his voice, but we are pleased to share his picture too. 

Carlos IBay is an extraordinary singer and pianist. He is a graduate of the Julliard School and has sung and played in many different venues. If you search for him on YouTube you can hear him in several different recordings. He was in New York to perform at Julliard on two different evenings, and he and his parents came to spend some time with us. 

Another extraordinary individual (who also happens to be blind) is Caitlin Sarubi who visited us with her mother. Caitlin is not only a down-hill skier in the 2010 and the 2014 Paralympics, but she is also a Harvard graduate with a degree in cognitive neuroscience and sociology and preparing to enter medical school. She is also an inspirational speaker, giving talks to organizations and major corporations. The Brooklyn resident most recently has been working as a research assistant at the Sloane Kettering Cancer Institute. There is very little she can't do - although she remembers that being faced with dissecting a cat during her studies was perhaps one of her greatest challenges. 

In conversation, we learned that she has inherited the "I can do anything" gene from her mother who is equally as accomplished in a range of different fields. 

*    *    *    *    

Our phone lines are open from 8:30 to 4:00 PM each working day, eastern time. If you call before or after those hours, or if staff is busy outside of the office, you will get our answering machine. Please leave a message, with your phone number, your name, and what you are calling about. If you are requesting a specific book or item from the catalogue, we will only return your call if there is a problem. Otherwise we will return your call as quickly as we can. Thank you for understanding.  


Caption: Here is the whole group assembled at the airport as we prepared to return to the U.S.

When we finished the recent pilgrimage to Ireland, we asked the participants to share some thoughts with us, and with you. In particular we asked the blind participants to answer the question we are often asked, "Why do blind people want to travel?" and we also asked the sighted members to talk about why this trip was different from others they might have taken. We also asked if they would be interested in making future pilgrimages and if so, where would they like to go?

Here are some of their answers. (Some answers have been edited slightly for length or inclusion of items outside the original questions.) 

Dear Fr. John, 
Here are some suggestions for the sighted:
- Be prepared to truly assist a fellow traveler who is sight-impaired. This means more than helping them get to the bathroom. It may mean having them hold your arm as you make your way through exhibitions, describing what you're seeing, reading menus to them and bringing them plates of food from a buffet. As Christians, we believe it's a privilege to inconvenience yourself for someone else.
- Ask a sight-impaired person if they want to take your arm or elbow rather than grabbing their hand. People, whatever their situation, want to make their own decisions.
- When passing through a doorway, alert the sight-impaired person it's coming up and then go first through the door.
- In restrooms, mention where the flusher is, such as, The flusher is a button on the top of the tank.
- Couples usually consist of a sight-impaired person and their seeing spouse. Direct your comments as much to the sight-impaired person as to the seeing spouse.
Thank you for leading our Ireland trip, which was interesting on many fronts. You handled the logistics and we pilgrims with humor and grace.
Dennis and I had a wonderful time on the recent pilgrimage. We would be interested in going on another trip as long as you are the leader.

I was especially thrilled to be able to feel or touch so many things; carved furniture, stone walls, carving on pews, and especially the miniature of Saint Canice Cathedral and the surrounding area including Kilkenny Castle. A blind person cannot see large items like elephants, cathedrals, and castles in their entirety except if they are made into miniature. The people in Ireland were very kind about helping me and letting me touch things.

Meeting new people in our group and the fun we had riding around on the bus was great. Seamus was very good. Had he ever guided a group like ours before Calvin was great and a terrific driver from what I heard. I really loved the small intimate daily Mass. Your homilies get right to the point and are great.

I enjoyed the trip because it moved at a slower pace, allowing me to touch and really explore my surroundings. Dennis and I did not like the hotel in Dublin for the last two nights. not just because of their treatment of our group, but because it seemed old and the plumbing was weird. We did get pretty tired with all the moving around for the other nights. It was a bit stressful to have to pack up each day and be sure we had all our stuff. Maybe in the future we could have central location with a hotel and move out each day from that hotel to visit points of interest. I realize this is controlled by the points of interest.

Love, Lynn and Dennis Kelleher
Dear Father John, 
I am most pleased to share my sentiments about the precious pilgrimage with you and the embracing entourage.   
As an individual representing another component  of the Christian family, I was deeply impressed with the complementary elements of the itinerary program during our pilgrimage journey through Ireland.  The organizers created and conducted a beautiful blend of religious, historical, cultural and social experiences and events.

Each day was impeccably planned and organized which always included a thought provoking service ensconced in Irish abbeys, cathedrals, churches and chapels. Father John's homilies were particularly poignant and the part of the service that I looked forward most each day.  
The composition of the group needed little time to connect, communicate and collaborate.  The participants were engaging, thoughtful, compassionate and candid towards each other.  Consequently, the conversations were lively and witty. 

As sighted people, my husband and I were amazed at the adaptability and flexibility of the participants with sight challenges.  We learned to "see" through their colorful prisms of viewing life, and we enjoyed assisting them as they shared their lives and wisdom with us.    
I have traveled around the world for decades, yet, this trip meant my first pilgrimage. It was a moving and marvelous journey traversing the fascinating 5,000 years of Irish heritage. It changed our lives to become more patient and peaceful in the otherwise NYC minute mentality derived from living in Manhattan.    
Thank you Father John!  
Dr. Linda J. Stillman 
Founder/Executive Chair 
Young Global Leadership
Dear Father John,
Bernie and I had a wonderful time on the Pilgrimage to Ireland.  With such a small group, we were able to spend time with each of the travelers, both directly and indirectly. Although Bernie's mother suffered from macular degeneration, we had little contact with or knowledge of others with limited sight or varying levels of blindness.  With Bernie's "second career" as an optician, he was always trying to come up with optical ways to assist his mother's ability to play cards and watch her soap operas ... both which she continued to do until she was 100.  But the trip for us was a real "eye opener" (pun intended) and an enjoyable experience which we would enjoy experiencing again.  Can we plan a reunion??
We were amazed at just how engaged all the blind and limited sight participants were ... and everyone seemed to pitch in to ensure accessibility ... the sight of Gerry being lifted in her wheelchair at the Rock of Cashel comes to mind. Pam certainly got "down and dirty" at Rathbaun Farm, feeding the lamb and holding one in her arms. We were also touched by how accommodating participants as well as the guides would be at the various sites to ensure that each visitor got to enjoy the tour to the fullest. We often watched Dennis guide Lynn to places where she could feel the stone carving of the architecture, explaining details as she felt her way through the tour.  And one docent at Kilkenny Castle led Robert through a "hands on" tour of the library and adjoining rooms, leading him "beyond the ropes" so he could fully experience the details of the furniture, wall covering, and wood carvings. 
For us, there reached a point in our trip that everyone seemed so self-sufficient that it was easy to "forget" that some people still needed a little help here and there. Thanks for the "heads up" from you and Jim at the Merry Ploughboy Pub "nudging" me to ask Pam if she needed any help at the dinner table; she didn't, of course, but I needed the reminder to remain "aware."
There were so many wonderful moments ... Communion in the bus comes to mind ... and there are so many wonderful memories. Not enough good things can be said about our guide, Seamus, and our driver, Calvin.  They were as much a part of our group as anyone.  Too bad they couldn't be engaged in another tour, even outside of Ireland.
Would we travel again?  Absolutely. The Marian Shrines come to mind ... maybe a trip through the shrines in France (Paris, LaSalette, Lourdes) to include additional stops in Lisieux, Rouen, Pontmain & Mont Saint-Michel (NW of Paris), Nevers, Paray-le-Monial, & Ars, (en route to LaSalette) Carcassonne and Toulouse (en route to Lourdes) ... I know, rather industrious!  Bernie made a pilgrimage through many of the Spanish shrines that included stops in Lourdes, Garabandal, and Fatima ... said the Fatima was very commercialized and lacked the "feel" of a religious experience. But with the centennial fast approaching, I'm sure there is increased interest.  Would also consider a cruise "retreat" ... no packing and unpacking!
Re pilgrimage. Wonderful experience. Both the religious and secular sites were awe inspiring. And the travel group was the best: congenial, knowledgeable, and just plain nice. 
Dear Father John
The most memorable parts of the pilgrimage to Ireland are the interactions between the people. Here are some examples.
  1. Everyday we celebrated Mass. Besides hearing insightful homilies by Fr John, the liturgy helped us focus on God and the eternal, and reminded us that we should conduct ourselves accordingly in all circumstances.
  2. We all helped each other out enthusiastically. Those of us with vision seemed to consider it a privilege to assist those of us without vision. Our tour guide and bus driver were ever-present to help us.
  3. We enjoyed each site, be it a church, castle, museum, whisky distillery, pub, hotel restaurant, for what it had to offer. There were relatively few complaints. A positive attitude (cup half full) helped make the pilgrimage enjoyable and memorable
Robert White

and ways you can help
Caption: A yellow smiley face with dark glasses. 

Use Amazon smile. If you use Amazon.com for any of your purchases, help out Xavier Society for the Blind at the same time. Go to www.smile.amazon.com and sign up. Or use the direct link:

There is no charge to you, and when they ask you what charity you wish to support, type in Xavier Society for the Blind. Any time after that, if you go to Amazon through the smile entry, a percentage of whatever you spend comes to us.

*   *   *   *  
Masses may be said at your request not only when someone dies but also to celebrate a special event. And the stipend for the Mass card helps support the work of the Xavier Society for the Blind. 

Call us at (212) 473-7800 or email us at info@xaviersocietyfortheblind.org for more information. 

I am preparing this issue of the Newsletter from Jacksonville Florida, where I am attending the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. This meeting gives me the chance to help make sure that those who are involved in spreading the Word of God know about the Xavier Society for the Blind, so that blind members of their congregations are not left out when they plan programs or suggest books to read. I also get to meet with representatives from the different publishers, whose books and catechisms we put into braille; their cooperation is crucial to help get those items out efficiently to those who need them, and this meeting lets me say Thank You and to explain to some more precisely what we do and what we need from them. 

When I leave here I will go to Owensboro Kentucky, to be part of the ordination of Deacon Jamie Dennis. While there are a number of blind priests around the country, most were ordained when they were sighted, and lost their vision later in life. Jamie is blind, and has successfully completed all his studies and practicum, and is looking forward to his work as a blind priest. He has been assigned to a parish, and I am delighted that the Xavier Society for the Blind is there to help celebrate with him. 

We are working on the event on October 21, "Father John's Farewell Bash." We hope to be able to announce the price of tickets shortly, as well as the opportunities to support the event. I have promised that there will be no speeches or awards or presentations - just good music, dancing, good food, and perhaps some of my friends from theatre might show up to entertain. We will price the tickets very close to the actual cost - so

a) If you can't come, DON'T BUY A TICKET!! Send a contribution instead. You will get the tax deduction and we will get the money. If you buy a ticket, we have to include that in our count, and the NY Athletic Club will get the money. But if you CAN come, please do - it is going to be a GREAT party.

b) Because we don't make any money on the tickets - and sad as everyone says they are that I will be leaving, we would like to make some money - please help us find advertisers in the program, and people or organizations to step up and sponsor some of the elements of the event. When we announce the ticket prices, we will also list the opportunities, and that will come out as a separate mailing, so you will be among the first to know. 

c) I am also obliged to note that there will also be a fund to buy a present for Father John. Embarrassing. And since I don't know what my new assignment will be (although I might by October 21) I can't even think what that present might be. But if you have to choose, please give your money to the Xavier Society for the Blind. They need it more than I need a present - as nice as presents are. 

Thank you for all you have done for us in the past, please remember us in your will, or if you win a major prize in the Lottery, and thank you as well for whatever God might inspire you to do with us and for our clients in the future. 

Caption: A photo of 
 Fr. John Sheehan, SJ 

Fr. John R. Sheehan, SJ  
Xavier Society for the Blind
Two Penn Plaza, Suite 1102      
New York, NY 10121
Phone: (212) 473-7800 

(If you would like to donate directly online, you can go to


May 22-26
NCCL Conference in Jacksonville, FL

May 28
Ordination of James Dennis, Owensboro KY

May 29
First Mass of Fr. James Dennis

May 30
Fr. John appears in 
at Feinstein's 54 Below in New York City

June 13
Fr. John's anniversary of Ordination (1992)

June 23
XSB Board of Directors Meeting

June 30 - July 5
National Federation of the Blind
National Convention - Orlando, FL

July 1-9
American Council of the Blind
National Convention - Minneapolis, MN

July 31
Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola

August 1
XSB Offices closed in honor of the St. Ignatius Feast

August 18-28
World Union of the Blind International Meeting
Orlando, FL

September 5
Labor Day - XSB Offices closed

September 22
XSB Board of Directors Meeting

October 21
Father John's Farewell Bash
The NY Athletic Club

October 21 - 23
American Council of the Blind - NY State Convention
Buffalo, NY

October 28-30
National Federation of the Blind - NY State Convention
Albany, NY

November 11
Veterans Day - XSB Offices closed

November 17
XSB Board of Directors Meeting

November 23
XSB Offices close early - re-open November 28

November 24
Thanksgiving Day

Secure Server
On our web site, we have a secure server connection. This means you can contribute money to the Xavier Society using your credit card in perfect safety. When you get to the web site, there is a button "Donate." If you click on that, you will be taken to the Secure Server area where you can make any contribution in complete safety. (If the server is not working, please call our office at 212 473-7800 and ask for Donald.)