Interview with Tony Lauinger

Anne Russell: Good morning, Tony please?

Tony Lauinger: This is Tony.

Russell: Tony, my name is Russell. I'm calling from the Augustinian Province office in Chicago. How are you this morning?

Lauinger: Good thank you, Anne. How are you?

Russell: Fine. Well, first of all, Happy Feast Day. Today [August 28] is the Feast of St. Augustine and you're now an Affiliate of the Order, I hear.

Lauinger: Yeah. Thank you, Anne, thank you very much. Anne, just so I am clear on something, are you the Russell who used to live in Tulsa?

Russell: No, I'm not.

Lauinger: You're not. You're not a former Kauth?

Russell: No, I've always lived in Chicago all my life.

Lauinger: It's an ironic coincidence because the day that Phyllis and I were made Affiliates of the Order, Jack and Beverly Kauth were also made Affiliates of the Order and they happened to have a daughter who's name is now Russell, so I just wanted to be certain to whom I was speaking.

Russell: No. No. I'm the Russell from Chicago, in fact, I think at one point, when I was in Tulsa, I met the other Russell.

Lauinger: Oh, did you? Okay.

Russell: We laughed because I think Brother Jack introduced me to her. "Anne Russell, this is Anne Russell." Well, we just roared laughing so hard. I said, "Well, at least I know there is someone else who has my name, too."

Lauinger: That's nice, yeah. Anne used to work, I think, in the bookstore at Cascia. I think that's where she was. Well, it's nice to talk to you and make your acquaintance over the telephone.

Russell: Thank you and I hope next time, if you come in for the gala, I'd like to meet you personally.

Lauinger: Thank you, Anne. Same here. Same here.

Russell: Well, I thank you for taking the time to answer some of these questions for me.

Lauinger: Certainly, yeah.

Russell: We'll get started. Could you share with us how you first came to know the Augustinians?

Lauinger: I was the sixth child in the family of seven children and my oldest brother began ninth grade at Cascia Hall in Tulsa in the Fall of 1950. I began attending Cascia Hall football and basketball games at the age of six and that was my first exposure to the Augustinians. I can remember walking over to games. We lived about three quarters of a mile from Cascia and I can remember walking over to the football games through the woods, as we used to call the campus at Cascia, through the woods to the gym or to the football field. That was 64 years ago that I was first exposed to the Augustinians.

Russell: Well, then you've been exposed to them as long as I have been. I've been exposed with them since I moved into St. Clare of Montefalco Parish of Chicago since 1954.

Lauinger: Oh, wonderful.

Russell: We go back a long way with them.

Lauinger: Yes, Anne, for sure.

Russell: Now, are there any particular Augustinians that impacted your life?

Lauinger: There are a number of Augustinians that about whom I have very, very fond memories and some in particular who influenced me in very significant ways. One was Father Labadie. Father Labadie was our football coach at Cascia in the eighth grade, that was my first year at Cascia, the Fall of 1957. Father Labadie was a great coach and he drew out of us things that we didn't know we had to give. He really did. He taught us to rise above ourselves and push ourselves farther than we knew we could go.

A teacher that I had that I regard as really exceptional was Father Sinnott. Father Sinnott was the headmaster at Cascia when I was there and he only taught two courses. He taught a one-semester English grammar class to eighth graders and he taught senior year religion. One semester was Apologetics and one was marriage. Father Sinnott was, I believe the best teacher I ever had at any level of grade school, high school, or college. Even though I played sports through high school and college, Father Labadie was the best coach I ever had at any level.

There were other Augustinians who had a great impact on me. There was Father Porreca who first asked me whether I had ever thought about being a priest. That was during my eighth grade year at Cascia. He planted a seed that continued to grow and I went into the Augustinian Seminary right after graduation from Cascia and was in the Augustinian novitiate for a year.

A priest with whom I had a wonderful relationship at Cascia, Father Gaffney, was a teacher whom I had for four and a half years of English at Cascia. The summer after graduation, he was transferred to the Augustinian novitiate at Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and Father Gaffney was our novice master the year that I was in the Seminary and he had a great influence on me, as well.

These are just a few of the Augustinians that I have had wonderfully fond memories of and still continue to have a relationship with Father Gaffney is now in his nineties, living at an assisted living center here in Tulsa. I visit him regularly and have great visits with him. He is just as sharp as ever.

Russell: I know. I interviewed him yesterday.

Lauinger: Oh, did you? Oh, wonderful.

Russell: It was wonderful talking to him.

Lauinger: Oh, yes, Anne, Father Gaffney is fantastic. He really is. He is a saintly man. He is a saintly man. One other priest I have to mention is Father Spielmann.

Russell: Oh.

Lauinger: Father Henry V. Spielmann. He was our baseball coach during my freshman and sophomore years at Cascia. He was our athletic director at Cascia. He was our basketball coach my sophomore year at Cascia and a biology teacher and he was from the Bronx in New York, as is my dear wife, Phyllis. He used to call Phyllis "Bronxy" and when our first child was born, our daughter Elizabeth, he called her "Little Bronxy." He was a regular visitor to our home during the years that he was still alive and a great friend.

Russell: Well, I know when I came to Tulsa, I met Father Spielmann and oh my gosh, he was a wonderful man, in fact at that time, I was doing ceramics. He took me to his little room where he did ceramics, so we had a wonderful conversation.

Lauinger: Oh yeah. He had all kinds of hobbies. Ceramics were one of many. Raising bulldogs was another. Raising parakeets was another. Silk screening t-shirts was another.

Russell: Oh my gosh.

Lauinger: He did all kinds of things, in addition to being athletic director, coach and teacher. He was a wonderful man.

Russell: And the other priest that you talked about that I knew was Father Sinnott.

Lauinger: Oh yes.

Russell: Father Sinnott was stationed at St. Clare of Montefalco in Chicago and he died at the rectory at St. Clare's.

Lauinger: Oh, did he really? What year did he die, Anne?

Russell: Oh my gosh. [Father Sinnott died in 1983.]

Lauinger: I know it was a long time ago.

Russell: It's a long time ago and it was over the Fourth of July holidays that he died and we were all scrambling, I mean, but oh, he was a wonderful man, too.

Lauinger: Yes, and he was a great teacher. That eighth grade English grammar class ... We were in a small classroom and Father used to stand up on a little platform that his desk was on. He had a wooden pointer that was about four feet long. He could reach any desk in the room from that platform with that pointer. He would just lean out and tap on the desk and get our attention if we were not doing what we should have been doing or if we weren't answering his questions directly. He was so demanding that we straightened up and flew right and we learned the answers and we gave the right answers because we were afraid not to. He was a great teacher.

Russell: Yeah, I only knew him as a parish priest and he was wonderful at that, too.

Lauinger: Uh-huh.

Russell: He really was. It was wonderful to have him with us for so long.

Lauinger: He was exceptional. He sure was.

Russell: Yes, he was. My next question is, what would you say the role is of the Augustinian Order today?

Lauinger: What is the role of the Augustinian Order today?

Russell: How are the Augustinians still relevant in today's society?

Lauinger: I think the Augustinians are as relevant today as they ever have been. There is such a need for young people to have the benefit of the example and the teaching and the spiritual guidance of members of the Augustinian Order today. My involvement with the Augustinians has been through school and our chapel at Cascia Hall, rather than parish work, so I haven't had that experience of the Augustinians in a parish. Through our Augustinian school, Cascia Hall, I had a magnificent experience with the Augustinians.

It was their example, living in community and being totally dedicated to the services, God and their fellow man, that had such an impact on me and has been a very strong influence not only in convincing me that I should explore the possibility of a vocation as a Augustinian priest myself, but through all the years since, through the 51 years since I've left the Augustinian seminary, the Augustinians have made a huge impact on my life. I believe that the need for their influence in today's world and the lives of young people in this day and age is as great, or greater than the need has ever been.

Russell: I agree with you on that. I think it's even greater than it's ever been.

Lauinger: Yeah. Yeah.

Russell: Especially with the young people today.

Lauinger: Yeah. It's a mixed up world we live in.

Russell: Yes. It sure is. It sure is. My next question is why are you helping with special Continuing Our Journey of Faith campaign for the Augustinians?

Lauinger: I feel a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Augustinians who had been such a huge help to me on my journey through life and I feel a strong desire to help the retired Augustinians so that their needs are met in their retirement years. Not that an Augustinian is ever really retired, but in the years when they're less active and not able to be as directly involved in school work and parish work.

I feel a very deep sense of appreciation for all the Augustinians have done for me. I feel a strong desire to help those who have done so and other members of the Order. I also feel a strong desire to try to help with the effort to recruit new young people into the Order, try to interest young men at Cascia Hall or others in exploring the possibility of a vocation into the priesthood or the brotherhood. I want to help in that effort, as well.

Russell: Very good. Getting back to Cascia Hall, I've been to your chapel at Cascia Hall. It is beautiful.

Lauinger: I agree. It is. It is. It's a magnificent chapel. The emphasis is where it should be. The simplicity, and yet the focus of it is so beautifully done and designed and executed in its architecture. The chapel was built during my eighth grade year at Cascia and the chapel, such as it was during my eighth grade year at Cascia, and the chapel as it was two classrooms that opened up into a big room and there were pews and an alter. That's where we had Mass and retreats and so on. That beautiful chapel was dedicated in May of my eighth grade year, so I had the benefit of that wonderful chapel through my high school years at Cascia.

Russell: My first time down in Tulsa was when Father Pat Murphy was there.

Lauinger: Okay. Yes. Yes.

Russell: I was his secretary at St. Rita High School.

Lauinger: Oh, okay.

Russell: I knew him even before he became a priest. When he was transferred, we went down and oh my God... I can still picture it. It's just so beautiful.

Lauinger: It is. It really is beautiful. Father Pat Murphy was a diligent Vocations Director. I know he talked to one of our sons one time about the possibility of considering the priesthood as a vocation. He was great about interacting with the young men at Cascia and encouraging them to think about a vocation to the Order.

Russell: Yes he was. He definitely was. My last question today is why should others go the extra mile to make a special gift to this [Continuing Our] Journey of Faith campaign?

Lauinger: I believe that the Augustinians serve a very singular function in our society today. The selflessness with which they serve the Good Lord and their fellow man is an inspiration. It's a beautiful example of leaving everything and following Christ. I believe that the example they give is one which our world badly needs.

We need it by way of inspiration. We need it by way of the services that the Order provides. We need it by virtue of the education that the Order provides through the Augustinian schools. We need it through their parish work. The Augustinians Order serves an invaluable function in today's society and the role that they play is one that cannot be over stated. I think that the help that people can give to the Order so that it may be sustained in its work and carry on the mission of St. Augustine, and more importantly, the mission of Jesus Christ is essential.

Russell: Well, Tony that's all the questions I have for you today. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me and I look forward to meeting you if you ever come into Chicago.

Lauinger: Thank you, Anne, very much. Thank you.

Russell: Have a great day.

Lauinger: You too. Take care. Bye bye.

Russell: Bye bye now.


Posted on November 6, 2014 and filed under Tony Lauinger.