Xavier Society for the Blind
Vol. 10   No. 7
  July   2016

What's New at XSB
Sometimes I get very annoyed with myself. I love it when people drop in to visit, 
Caption: Dick and Mimi are in the center, I'm on the right and on the left is Jane Coleman, another pilgrimage veteran.
and I usually take a picture so I can share it with others. Dick and Mimi Nenno, who live in Philadelphia, came into New York for some event, and dropped in to say hello. They have been on a couple of pilgrimages and they are old friends - Dick is a lawyer and one of the top men in his field. I was so pleased to be able to spend time with them, I completely forgot to take a photo. So here is a picture from a couple of years ago right after we had lunch at the Harvard Club, where Dick is a member. 

And speaking of pilgrimages, Amy Broussard was on the recent pilgrimage to Ireland with her mother, and we recently received a photo from her. Pretty self-explanatory, but after her trip, she knows about telling people what the picture is about, so she sent this text to go along with it: 

I was so excited to share the news I forgot to include a description of my picture! Luke (finally) proposed!!! We were at home last night watching tv with our dogs when he popped the question!!! Nothing fancy but just perfect!
For the sighted and non- I had not one lick of make-up... hair wasn't done... but i guess he's sticking with me no matter what. It's a beautiful round diamond in the middle with a halo of diamonds around it. Even diamonds down each side. 

We are sad to announce the passing of a Jesuit priest who was a volunteer with the Xavier Society for the Blind for many years. Fr. Cogan was a reader and helped in several areas when we were at 23rd Street. He went to God on July 8, at the age of 91. 

At the ACB convention, we had a mini-reunion with folks who had gone on pilgrimages with the XSB. Don Koors only came for a couple of days in order to help present scholarships, since he was on the committee. His wife, Gerry, had broken her femur and was recuperating from surgery, so he had to get back. They both had been on the most recent trip to Ireland.

And I got to visit a little with Annie Doyle from California, who was with us for both the Israel trip and "In the Footsteps of St. Paul," visiting Greece and Turkey. (Sort of glad we were there before the attempted revolution.)

Captions: Above left, Don Koors on the podium listening to the scholarship announcements. Above right, Annie Doyle at one of the General Session tables listening to a corporate presentation. (You can't see her dog, sitting quietly under the table.)

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.  

Xavier Society in Orlando
The national convention for the National Federation of the Blind, NFB, was held in Orlando, Florida from June 30 to July 5th. Christine Moore from Client Services was present to represent us, and here is her report on the events

For me, the National NFB Convention in Orlando, Florida,  began with the Rookie Roundup, scheduled for 8:00 to 9:00 pm the evening I arrived. I thought it was unusual to have a meeting this late, but as I was to see, this was business as usual. 

Two senior members of the National Board, Pam Allen, from the Louisiana School for the Blind, and Dr. Maurer, a member of our own board,  and  Dr. Mark Riccobono, President of the NFB,  all welcomed the first timers to the convention and gave us fair warning as to what the week ahead would entail, mostly "Don't expect much sleep,"  which would prove most true. Dr. Riccobono told us that at one convention he did actually get to the pool one afternoon, but he was sorry, because he missed something. I can tell you that I looked out the windows twice and SAW the pool, so I know it was there!

Caption: I got to spend some time with one of our favorite clients, Ines Chisholm.
The experience was exciting, informative, worthwhile and exhausting.

First it was worthwhile as it maintained the Xavier Society for the Blind as an active participant in the blind community.  Our presence was noted and appreciated.

It was exciting being part of this active, involved, sometimes angry group of people, eager to work as a group in order to, paraphrasing their slogan, "Live the lives they want." I participated in workshops, I gave a presentation before a group of blind people in communities of faith, I attended the general sessions. There were many times for laughter, most notably the hilarious Mock Trial, with Dr. Maurer as judge, made more comical when the sound went out during the storm outside and the participants vamped and entertained the crowd while repairs were made.

Caption: Author Debra Kendrick, a long-time friend of the XSB, was there. 
Besides a productive meeting with the New York Caucus, NY Affiliate President Carl and Vice-President Mindy Jacobsen graciously hosted two dinners for the group in the Café Oasis, combining socializing with a healthy exchange of ideas.

The days were long and one problem was choosing which events to attend, there were so many fascinating opportunities from which to pick. A surprise for me was the sound level. UPS provided volunteers and everywhere there were human signposts calling out directions. In every meeting votes and numbers were counted, of course, not by a show of hands but by the cry of voices.  It is not possible to remain unmoved. The mix of families, old and young,
Caption: This very young girl with her mother in the hotel corridor reminds us it is never too soon to learn good cane skills. 
every ethnic group, professionals and working people, the attendees and presenters were an amazing group from not only around the country, but from around the world. Every state in the union sent representatives. The sheer numbers were staggering.

Caption: This young man asleep on a sofa is a sign of how tiring the week could be.
Before this Convention I had attended the state conventions of both the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind.  I didn't think I was going to Orlando for a vacation, but I certainly was surprised by how personal such an enormous event could be. I did leave knowing many more people from many more states and much more about how the National organization works. I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of what the NFB is, what it has accomplished and where it is headed in the future.  

When I was picked up at the hotel at 3 am following the banquet, the shuttle was packed with blind people.  We all chatted and laughed all the way to the airport (I even signed up a client). One poor businessman with us was sorely outnumbered. 

"Oh, you're a NORMAL," said one of our more outspoken members. "Don't mind us!" After all it was three in the morning.

While Christine was in Orlando, Fr. John went to Minneapolis for the 55th ACB national convention. He celebrated Mass for the convention, and offered the invocation at the opening session. He was also the head spotter for the auction, made several interventions, sold some CDs and at the banquet, to his total surprise, he was called up to receive the James R. Olsen Distinguished Service Award. 

I have been to several ACB conventions and I really enjoy them. The schedule has meetings in the morning, leaving afternoons and evenings free for seminars, workshops, special interest groups, and trips to sights in the area. I only signed up for two and both were rained out, the first by a storm that deposited almost 5 inches at one time, flooded streets, and was accompanied by several tornadoes, hail, and lightning that set fire to at least three houses. Over 250,000 people were out of power, as falling trees took out power lines. The baseball game I was supposed to attend that night actually did go on, after a 3-hour delay, ending at 1 AM. But at least the ball park announced that anyone with a ticket, even if they had not gone to the park, could turn it in for another game.
Caption: Fr. John was not the only priest. Fr. Ronald Johnson, a blind priest working at a local nursing home, gave the invocation on July 6.

Other trips included visiting the Little House on the Prairie house, the Cathedral and Basilica in town, the Museum of Broadcasting, a trip to a local casino, a riverboat dinner cruise, trips on a hot air balloon, several to a candy plant - something for everyone, weather permitting. 

There were a lot of dogs at this convention, and sitting outside smoking a cigar (the smoking area was near one of the two dog relief areas) I got to meet a lot of people. The first weekend we shared the hotel with an Indian wedding, and one afternoon several hundred elegantly dressed guests came out for a ceremony that involved the groom sitting on an even more elegantly bedecked horse. (A hotel staff member was delegated to clean up after the horse.) The second weekend we had a professional dancing competition, with brilliantly gowned women and impossibly slender men. 

Caption: All the General Sessions were streamed on ABC Radio, and the sound men kept track of 8 microphones on the floor and three on the dais. The banners are from the previous convention sites over the past years. 
Caption: Lori Scharff, President of ACB NY, taking part in a panel presentation. 
The exhibit hall was educational and entertaining, including a booth that gave away ice cream sandwiches (Vanda Pharmaceuticals, old friends of XSB) and a woodworker who had made a delightful M&M dispensing machine, which now sits on the table next to the sofa in my office. The student group puts out and delivers a daily newspaper during the convention, and because I advertised I sold almost all the CDs I had brought. 

As with all conventions there were resolutions, awards, scholarships, reports, elections and presentations from corporate donors, so we got the latest scoop from Microsoft, Uber, American Foundation for the Blind, American Printing House for the Blind, JP Morgan Chase, Comcast, Humanware, NLS, Google and the World Blind Union. (I'm sure the list is not complete; my apologies to anyone I left out.) The annual auction was great fun and raised over $17,000, which also means it was a great success. Once again, I was the head spotter and helped keep things moving along. There were over 243 donated items to auction off and a series of Guest Describers and Auctioneers. 

The hotel staff had been well-prepared and were gracious and helpful and intelligent about dealing with hundreds and hundreds of blind and visually-impaired people. At the request of people at the Mass for the convention, I said a daily Mass in my room. 

Minneapolis was a most welcoming city, and the convention was beautifully arranged. Construction made getting out of the hotel tricky (they are preparing for the Superbowl) but everyone was most helpful and it was an entertaining and an educational time. 

Caption: Father John proudly shows off his James R. Olsen Distinguished Service Award. Standing next to him is Anna, Mrs. James R. Olsen, widow of the man for whom this award is named. 

For more information about the 2016 ACB National Convention or other ACB activities, go to


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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Although this Newsletter is coming out in the middle of the month, the 4th of July celebrations dominate our memories and they should. It is important to celebrate our freedoms every day of the year, whether or not we have fireworks. Since the 4th of July there have been a number of events both in our country and abroad that should cause us to appreciate these freedoms even more deeplys, and what we ourselves need to do to safeguard them. 

I have had this on my bulletin board and thought maybe it should be shared. It is a poem written by Karol Wojtyla, whom we know better as Saint Pope John Paul II.

The blind man
Tapping the pavement with a white stick
we create the necessary distance.
Each step costs us dear.
In our blank pupils the world dies
unrecognizable to itself:

the world of cracking noise, not color
(only lines, murmuring outlines).
For us how difficult to become whole,
a part that  is always left out
and that is the part we have to choose.

How gladly would we take up the weight
of man who seizes space without a white stick.
How will you teach us there are wrongs besides our own?
Will you convince us there is happiness in being blind?

As a regular reader (or at least recipient) of this newsletter, you have received the E-invitation for Father John's Farewell Bash, and some of you might also receive the snail mail version. In case you killed it without reading, or it went to Spam and is now on its way to Mars, you can check our website or follow this link    http://bit.ly/28S8wtl
It is really going to be a TERRIFIC party! 

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 
Chaplain for American Legion Post 2001

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


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 14
Father John's Farewell Bash

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.)