God’s Work

God's Work

Fr. Allen offers remarks after receiving the Bowler Award.

Fr. Allen offers remarks after receiving the Bowler Award.

The Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality honored Rev. Charles H. Allen, S.J., for his more than 40 years of service to Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep.

During this Ignatian year, as declared by the Society of Jesus, we desire ever-more to be available to journey with people to help them, as Ignatius would say, ‘find God in all things.

— Rev. Denis Donoghue, S.J.

With characteristic grace and humor, the Rev. Charles H. Allen, S.J., returned to campus on Sunday, Sept. 19 to receive the Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J., Award from the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality of Fairfield University.

His spirit of generosity filled the enormous tent on Bellarmine Lawn as more than 500 friends and family members gathered in celebration for the outdoor Mass and luncheon.

The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, presided at the Mass, assisted by a dozen resident and visiting Jesuits. Homilist Rev. Gerry Blaszczak, S.J., alumni chaplain and special assistant to the Fairfield University President, paid homage to Fr. Allen’s famous “three-point talks” and thanked God for “the gift of Charlie Allen.”

The Glee Club provided music for the Mass — a fitting touch, given Fr. Allen’s many years of service as chaplain of Fairfield University’s oldest club. Fr. Allen’s nephew, Luke Paulino ’13, lent his voice to the Glee Club as an alumnus guest for the occasion, and also sang an impromptu, a cappella Amazing Grace during the luncheon, at his Uncle Charlie’s request.

Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD, gave a welcome address during which he commended Fr. Allen for always carrying himself with “grace, wit, and a generosity of spirit,” telling his former special assistant, “Thank you so much, Fr. Allen, for your leadership, your companionship, and above all, for your servant’s heart.”


More than 500 friends and family members gathered beneath the tent on Bellarmine Lawn to honor Fr. Allen.

The event was co-chaired by Fairfield College Preparatory School alumnus Peter Harding (FP Class of 1987) and his wife, Jennifer.

Introduced by Peter as “Charlie’s guardian angel,” Janet Canepa ’82, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations, joyfully proclaimed “This is the day the Lord has made!” before being joined by Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J., former Fairfield Prep headmaster and founder of the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality, to present the award to Fr. Allen.

Fr. Allen’s three-point acceptance speech was punctuated by laughter from the crowd. With great humor, he told the story of how he got his first teaching job at Fairfield Prep after one of their Jesuits left to get married: “My God, what a sacrifice that man made, just so I could have a job!”

With grace, he reflected on the gift of spirituality that he received from his parents, Helen and Charles Allen: “They taught me that finding God is not a solo sport…it’s a sport that requires a good deal of team effort.”

And with great humility he thanked the organizers of the day’s events, his fellow Jesuits, and “the many beautiful women who have enriched my life, especially my sisters Andrea, Lisa, and Lorraine.”


Fr. Allen, surrounded by his beloved sisters and brother-in-law, (l-r) Lorraine Paulino, P’13,’09; Lisa Allen; Stephen Paulino, P’13,’09; and Andrea Knutson.

Since 2018, the Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J., Award has been bestowed upon a person whose lifetime of service exemplifies the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Fr. Allen is the third recipient of the honor, following Fr. James M. Bowler (2018) and Bishop Frank J. Caggiano (2019).

“St. Ignatius talks about the importance of meeting people where they are in their relationship with God and bringing them out the door of Christ. This was the essence of Fr. Allen’s ministry here at Fairfield,” said Rev. Denis Donoghue, S.J., director of the Murphy Center.

This is also at the heart of the Murphy Center’s ministry of spiritual direction for students, faculty, staff, and members of the larger Bridgeport community who enroll in the 10-week “Encountering the Living God” program. During one-on-one meetings with a spiritual director, participants are guided along an adapted version of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, designed to deepen their relationship with God. The program, Fr. Donoghue said, “encourages seekers to grow in the light of faith.”

Since opening in 2015, the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality has welcomed more than 1,500 “seekers,” from all faith traditions, through its doors. This includes as many as 50 undergraduates each semester who sign up to take courses based on the “Encountering the Living God” program.

The Murphy Center also runs a two-year Spiritual Director Formation program, which trains participants as guides through the Ignatian exercises of discernment. A total of 26 spiritual directors were certified in 2017 and 2019; in December 2021, 13 more will receive their certificates, bringing the total number to 39.


Clockwise from top left: Fr. Gerry Blaszczak, Fr. John Mulreany, Dean Tom Curran, and Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on the altar at the outdoor Mass; attendees enter the main door of Bellarmine Hall; Marianne and Robert H. Laska ’69 enjoy Fr. Blaszczak’s sermon; and Mike and Cece Donoghue join the impromptu applause following the homily.

The Center’s spiritual directors create a sacred space for their directees, allowing as much freedom for the expression of God’s grace in another’s experience as possible. “We don’t lead or proselytize. We notice and affirm,” said Marcy Haley, assistant director of the Murphy Center. “We have been formed and trained to recognize grace and to discover how that grace is being accepted, resisted, or responded to in prayer and action.

“We then offer that grace back to the directee without expectation, trusting God will lead the way.”

Spiritual direction remains the most popular initiative the Murphy Center offers. Other popular offerings currently include: the “Aging With Grace” Zoom webinar series run by Rev. John Murray, S.J.,’76; annual student-athlete retreats for every sports team on campus; an “Integrating Spirituality Into Nursing” course for nursing students; and a Virtual Retreat Series which draws attendees from as far away as Canada and the Philippines.

“During this Ignatian year, as declared by the Society of Jesus,” noted Fr. Denis, in every Murphy Center program, “we desire evermore to be available to journey with people to help them, as Ignatius would say, ‘find God in all things.’

“Fr. Allen and St. Ignatius remind us to trust the invitation from God to see all things new in Christ, by accepting and embracing who we are uniquely called to be. This is the gift of ‘finding God in all things.’ Fr. Allen’s ministry and the work of the Murphy Center is God’s work.”

Please visit the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality’s website at fairfield.edu/mcis to learn more about its programs and to view highlights from the celebration for Fr. Allen.

Other Articles in the Winter 2021 Issue

Letter from the President

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Alumni Profile: Mary Alice Limperopulos ’13

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Alumni Profile: Alfred Foglio ’92

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Opening the Doors

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Nursing Ambition

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Protecting Coral Reefs

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Open Space

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