Xavier Society for the Blind
Vol. 10   No. 6
  June   2016

What's New at XSB

On Memorial Day, Fr. John was the Master of Ceremonies for a show at Feinstein's 54 Below in Manhattan called SALUTE TO THE TROOPS, starring the NY Nightingales, with Guest Stars John Kemp-Edwards from JERSEY BOYS, Kyle Scatliff from THE COLOR PURPLE, Allyson Briggs from FLEUR SEULE, Stacy Lee Hilton and Jordan Fife Hunt. Fr. John sang the opening number, and got to mention the Xavier Society for the Blind several times. 

Caption: The NY Nightingales and Fr. John sing the opening number of SALUTE TO THE TROOPS.

Caption: Fr. John with John Kemp-Edwards of JERSEY BOYS

Each year following Memorial Day, several funeral homes join together and provide bus service to Calverton Cemetery for the families of veterans who are buried. A special memorial service is held, and for the 2nd year, Fr. John was invited to offer both the invocation and the benediction.

Caption: Commissioner of the Mayor's Department for Veterans' Services, Ret'd Brigadier General Loree Sutton.
Caption: Fr. John and Colonel James Whalen, Commander 11th NY Regiment, US Volunteers


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.  

The Chairman of the Board of the Xavier Society for the Blind, Adrian Kerrigan, attended a seminar along with Fr. John hosted by the Better Business Bureau, examining a range of best practices and a sharing of ideas with other executives and Board members from many different non-profit organizations. 


From 1948 until 2013, the Xavier Society for the Blind operated at 154 East 23rd Street in Manhattan. As we changed how we operated, we realized that the building was too large and no longer practical, so we sold it and moved to our current home at Two Penn Plaza, Suite 1102. The building was sold a second time, and the new owners demolished it and the adjoining building that they also had purchased. Here is a picture of where our building used to stand. 
In May, two of our staff (Aisling Redican and Christine Moore) headed out to California for a week of workshops and training in one of our computer programs. Here are their separate reports, and as always, the best thing was the contact with people, not computers. 

The KLAS Conference 2016 was held in Buena Park, California. KLAS (Keystone Library Automation System) is the library system used by most of the libraries for the blind, throughout the United States, coordinated closely with the National Library Service, which had a representative present who spoke and participated in the conference.  As the Catholic Library for the Blind, affiliated with the NLS, our participation in the conference was appropriate and appreciated.

After the initial introductions, I was approached on an individual basis throughout the conference by many other conference goers who either wanted more information about our special services or who thanked me for the services we were able to provide through the years. One, in particular, was the librarian for the Nevada Library for the Blind, which has a large Catholic base, and who wants to publicize our offerings, in particular the Catholic Review. (As an aside, I have friends in Nevada, who are part of a large Catholic Basque population in that state.)

On the evening of the first day of the event, which began at 8 am, we were taken to the historic Racho Los Alamitos, fed a lovely buffet dinner and entertained by Marleena Barber. Marleena has  a one woman cabaret style show in which she details her growth from a timid, teased childhood as  a visually impaired albino
Caption: Marleena singing
child in Maine to a young woman who discovered her passion for acting and music and came to live her dreams and find love.  She is legally blind but refuses to let anything stand in her way.  She is happily married with two children and leads the children's choir for the Braille Institute. Marleena is an active advocate for blind and albino children and performs regularly in numerous other cabaret venues. She has a strong, trained, wonderful voice and the easy stage presence of a veteran entertainer. 

I was able to share with her the photo of a darling little albino client of ours (3 years old, adopted from China) which-as a mother, as an advocate, she adored. I told her of the little girl's mother who looks to people like her for inspiration and how active the girl's mother is advocating for her own daughter and thanked Marleena for her work and her music. Of course, I passed along my card and our work. I'm sure we will stay in touch.

The Braille Institute had several representatives in attendance at the conference. One was Kathryn Hayes, who usually works with the library in the Hollywood area office.  She has been my contact there for years. She has sent many people to us for religious and spiritual materials, including the Large Print Bible. She originally was not slated to attend, but after we spoke, she came down and attended the entire conference. It was very useful to meet those people in the Keystone group with whom I have been speaking and emailing for years. It was also useful to connect with the directors and owners of the company who were very gracious and interested in our concerns. We are one of the smaller libraries in the country-wide span of their accounts, but we have never been treated as such. Quite the opposite. We were treated as specialists with unique materials to offer.  Again, I'm glad we were there to represent the Society.

Each day had a combination of general sessions and smaller sessions and each had items of greater and lesser importance and interest to our agency. Often there were "nuggets" contained within an otherwise irrelevant workshop that were incredibly useful and applicable to our situation. The only reason for the "divide" between useful and not useful was that much of the information dealt with the use of NLS cartridges and downloads and our MP3's are entirely separate from the NLS system. It is, however, important for us to be aware of what and how the NLS is changing and evolving because many, perhaps most, of our clients use the NLS system. We need to be able to help clients who do not understand how the systems are different or if they are newly blind, to help open the doors for them to such services.

As the conference activities drew to a close, I took the opportunity to rent a car and drive out to meet a long-time client, Sr. Mary Augustine Murphy, who has recently been moved from her beloved home, the Monastery of the Angels in Los Angeles, to a care facility, St. John of God Retirement and Care Center. Ironically, Sister Mary Augustine is a client dear to Kathryn Hayes of the Braille Institute also. Sister has always been a feisty, delightful and yet deeply spiritual member of our XSB family.  Recently she lost her sister and so, combined with losing her
Caption: Christine and Sr. Mary Augustine
independence, her spirits have been a bit daunted, though her trust in the Lord's plan never faltered.  Our visit was very special. Kathryn had thought that I would spend about an hour with her before she would be too tired to go on, so I arranged to run up for a tour of the Braille Institute after seeing her. Sister and I ended up talking for over two hours. We could have chatted longer. We laughed. We cried. She shared so much of her worries and sorrows and even joys and asked for our prayers for her and her family. She is an inspiring and wonderful woman. I am lucky to know her.

From talking with her I ran up for a rapid fire tour of the Braille Institute, where Sister learned life skills as a youngster, led by the gracious Kathryn Hayes. Kathryn introduced me to everyone we came across at work, noting that she told them I was coming. They were pleased to tell me of their work and interested in ours.  Founded in 1919 by J. Robert Atkinson, who was blinded as a youth, they are a massive, amazing structure. They have publishing, recording and duplicating facilities as well as classrooms dedicated to teaching life skills. I was fascinated by
Caption: Kathryn from the Braille Institute
their consciousness of a differentiation in textures in floor and walls to aid in special orientation for their clients and students. The staff go into the community to help families with blind children. Others train adults and older children in their facility.  The center hosts various meetings, conventions, a Braille Children's Reading Challenge, a children's choir with visually impaired members, led by a visually impaired director. They serve clients around the world with their audio, large print and braille circulating libraries...but they don't do what we do.

It was a great trip. It filled the days with camaraderie, learning and sharing. It was time well-spent.  I learned more about how to utilize the library system that is so much a part of our client services. It is the important centralized system where we keep track of both our audio and braille books-keeping those records accessible to the auditors in a standardized format-where we keep track of our patron records, which formats a client uses and all of the information on what a client orders through the years as far as books in all formats and serials, address changes, how long a patron has been a client etc. and much more. The conference helped me understand better how to more fully use the system. 

We connected with other libraries, we made our presence known, I connected with a client in need. It was all good.

Christine Moore
Client Services

When I was first approached about attending the KLAS conference back at the beginning of the year, I was beyond excited. I had never been to Los Angeles or Orange County before, and thought it would be a great experience for me since I had only been on the job for a couple of months. My excitement was also met with apprehension - what should I expect? Will there be a pop quiz at the end? What will the people be like?

Soon after our arrival in California, the KLAS staff greeted Christine and me in the lobby of the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel and they prepped us for the next few days. Christine and I had already made known our breakout session preferences prior to
Jim Burts, Executive VP of KLAS, wearing the XSB cap.
our arrival, and the KLAS team was nothing short of accommodating. The most interesting, perhaps even useful, part of the conference was hearing about how other libraries utilized KLAS on a day to day basis. From problems to problem solving, every attendee seemed to have unique perspectives and modus operandi. The independent learning lab was useful in dealing with shortcuts and alternative methods, but I found seeing how others employed KLAS in their day to day operations was an education in itself. Getting to know a lot of the people there was also a big positive, and I believe some good connections and relationships were forged. We were the only strictly religious organization there, and a lot of people found that fascinating.

At the end of the conference, we wrapped up with a roundtable discussion on fundraising. As most, if not all, the other libraries there were government or privately funded, it was quite interesting to hear about their troubles raising funds and their tactics in trying to overcome that. Everyone at our table was left quite in awe of the fact that we were a strictly not for profit, let alone a religious organization. I suppose there is a reason we have been around for over a hundred years!

I found that some of the breakout sessions did not pertain to us at all. For
James Gleason from the Perkins Library in Boston.
example, the session I attended on "Machines" dealt mainly with the NLS players and subsequently how to keep cockroaches out of them. Several discussions included the post office's general ineptitude and methods on how to deal their indifference to Free Matter (which actually was the most relevant to us). Another session dealt with Catalogue maintenance, with the presenter suggesting having six volunteers read a book and designate certain ratings/subject labels. That's not an option for a small agency that wants to put materials into the hands of readers as quickly as possible. 

Keiko Holloman
These drawbacks in no way diminished the overall benefit of both attending the conference and reaching out to a wider audience. Moreover, by the end of the week the people at KLAS had faces to the names they have been dealing with over the past number of years, and the same for us. All in all it was a positive experience, a very rewarding trip that helped broker and strengthen essential relationships, and that made XSB's presence more widely known in our little niche of the library world.  
Aisling Redican
Coordinator of Communications and Fundraising 

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.

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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. 

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Jamie Dennis, a blind seminarian, successfully completed his course of studies, and his time as an ordained Deacon. Fr. John went to Owensboro to concelebrate the ordination, and stayed to concelebrate his first Mass the next day in Leitchfield. Here are some photos from those very special events.

Caption: Fr. Jamie gets vested with the priestly stole and chasuble.

Caption: The Bishop prays with the congregation while the two men to be ordained lie prostrate before him

Caption: Bishop William Medley, Fr. Jamie and Fr. Basilio Az Cuc after the ordination Mass
Caption: Fr. Jamie's proud parents

Caption: Fr. John poses with the new priest

Caption: Ralph Bartley from the American Printing House for the Blind was also present

Fr. Jamie announced at his First Mass that he has been assigned to work with the Bishop at the Cathedral. And a video about his vocation is going to be shown on EWTN. 

There were many priests at the ordination from the Diocese and from St. Meinrad's Seminary where he studied.

Caption: A close up of the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Fr. Jamie's chasuble.

Caption: Fr. Jamie celebrating his First Mass
Caption: Fr. Jamie and his spiritual director from St. Meinrad's, Fr. Kurt Stasiak, OSB. Fr. Kurt has just been elected Archabbot of the Monastery of St. Meinrad. Archabbot Kurt is the 10th abbot and 7th archabbot in the monastery's 162-year history.
Caption: Fr. Jamie preaching 
at his First Mass


Caption: This painting of many faces with Christ in the center was the logo for the convention and hung above the main altar. 

Caption: Fr. Dave Dwyer, host of BUSTED HALO on Sirius Radio, was the speaker and panel moderator at the opening session. 

The National Conference for Catechetical Leadership brings together Directors of Religious Education for parishes and Dioceses throughout the United States, and Fr. John has attended for several years because it is an opportunity to talk to them about what the Xavier Society for the Blind does, and to help this leadership group be more aware of the need to reach out to blind people in their areas. The national convention also brings together publishers of religious books and catechisms, and the XSB works with these publishers throughout the year; it is important to reinforce the relationships we have made over the phone. This year Fr. John kept asking how many blind catechists there were in each location (individuals who were teaching catechism classes or helping to design the programs). 


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 different aspects 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


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.)