Fr. Charles Allen Accepts Bowler Award at Joy-Filled Outdoor Celebration

Fr. Charles Allen Accepts Bowler Award at Joy-Filled Outdoor Celebration

Janet Canepa, Fr. Bowler, Fr Allen, And Pete Harding at the award presentation on Sept. 19.

(l-r) Janet Canepa '82, Rev. Jim Bowler, S.J., Rev. Charles Allen, S.J., and Peter Harding FP'87, at the Sept. 19 award presentation.

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

The sun sparkled on the distant water views of the Long Island Sound and a gentle late-summer breeze rustled the enormous tent on Bellarmine Lawn, as Rev. Charles H. Allen, S.J., was celebrated by 500 friends and family members during an outdoor Mass and luncheon on Sunday, September 19.

The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, presided at the Mass, assisted by a dozen resident and visiting Jesuits. Bishop Caggiano described Fr. Allen as “one of the most remarkable priests and remarkable human beings I have ever met in my life,” and thanked Fr. Allen for his example of “fidelity and joy” that has supported and encouraged the bishop throughout his 8 years in the diocese.

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” by offering a trio of reflections. Thanking God for “the gift of Charlie Allen” and for the “joy that fills Charlie’s heart,” Fr. Blaszczak received a spontaneous and enthusiastic ovation for his sermon, which can be viewed and read on Fairfield University’s ThinkSpace blog.

The Glee Club, conducted by Carol Ann Maxwell and accompanied by Beth Palmer, provided music for the Mass — an especially 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 sang the Communion meditation, Panis Angelicus. During the luncheon, Paulino, a counter tenor, also sang an impromptu, a cappella Amazing Grace at his Uncle Charlie’s request.

The luncheon program began with a greeting from Fairfield College Preparatory School alumnus Peter Harding (FP Class of 1987), co-chair of the event with his wife, Jennifer. Rev. John Mulreany, S.J., superior of the Fairfield Jesuit Community, delivered the invocation.

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.”

Introduced by Peter Harding as “Charlie’s guardian angel,” Janet Canepa ’82, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations, also offered brief remarks. Remembering that the event had originally been scheduled for the spring of 2020, she told those gathered, “Even after a 512-day delay caused by a worldwide pandemic, we would NOT be denied the opportunity to thank and celebrate the one and only Rev. Charles H. Allen of the Society of Jesus.” Canepa was joined by Rev. James M. Bowler, S.J., former Fairfield Prep headmaster and founder of the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality, to present the eponymous award to Fr. Allen.

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). As noted in the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality citation, Fr. Allen was selected for being "a living example of a contemplative in action. His wit and wisdom have, in Ignatian tradition, provided students, alumni, and the larger community with insights reflecting God’s work in our daily lives. With humility and humor, Fr. Allen walks faithfully with Christ and forms relationships with individuals and communities who are seeking to find grace in their connections with God and each other."

The citation goes on to thank Fr. Allen for his "more than 40 years serving the spiritual heritage of Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep, and for his magnanimity in relationships with alumni, with neighbors in the Diocese of Bridgeport, and various organizations in the Town of Fairfield and the Greater Bridgeport area."

Advised by his sister Lisa to only speak for three minutes, Fr. Allen’s three-point acceptance speech was punctuated by much 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.”

"Sunday's event was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful human being," said Marcy Haley, assistant director of the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality. She shared a quote that she recently came across, to sum up the celebration for Fr. Allen: "When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed."

Learn More About the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Fairfield University

Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality Honors Rev. Charles Allen, S.J.

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