Michael Gerrity: Hi. I'm Michael Gerrity, Chief Advancement Officer for the Midwest Augustinians and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Greg Jania. Greg is a graduate of St. Rita High School and a member of the Province's Advancement Council. He has also been active in helping make calls for the Continuing Our Journey of Faith campaign. Greg and his young family reside in Stamford, Connecticut. He is the head of fund investments for Global Private Equity in New York City. Good afternoon, Greg. Thanks for agreeing for this interview.
Greg Jania: My pleasure.
Gerrity: Greg, one of our first questions we have of folks participating in this wonderful exercise is, just to tell the audience how you came to know the Augustinians.
Jania: My father had gone to St. Rita High School on the Southside of Chicago and had spoken very fondly of his memories and time there, but I really had no experience directly with the Augustinians until I went there for a high school visit when I was an eighth grader. I was an undersized eighth grader, probably a small kid, and going to high school is a little bit scary.
My family took me and my brother to quite a few schools to visit, but Rita was the one where I felt the most comfortable and to have my first exposure to the Augustinians, and learn about their views on community and education and Christ was probably the most interesting for a young eight grader and the most welcoming I thought from the other schools that I visited.
Gerrity: That's excellent. Can you tell us in your four years there--or in your experience since then--are there particular Augustinians that have had an impact on your life or that have impressed you?
Jania: It's funny. The first person I met at St. Rita was Father Pat Murphy who was the principal of St. Rita at the time. I think one of the reasons I felt very comfortable there was he had known my father and gave me a big bear hug when I walked in the door. I felt like well, I guess this is a place where maybe I'll feel welcome and be able to survive four years, even being a small kid, a little nervous about going to high school. I think Father Murphy had a profound influence on me in my first few years. Those times I would feel somebody was looking out for you at school. I had that feeling from most of the Augustinians, but he was really the first one that I really got to know and really quickly. Just his warm embrace for a kid he hadn't probably seen in 10 years just made me feel real welcome and I had a good sense that's where I belonged.
Also I got to know Father Walter McNicholas very well at my time at St. Rita. He was close to my family. He actually was actually close to my wife's family which I didn't know before we had met. It turned out that my wife... Her family knew Father McNicholas because he said Mass at their parish on the weekends.
When we met and started dating and they knew I was from St. Rita, they were talking about Father McNicholas and he ended up marrying us so we were very close to Father McNicholas for quite a long time. He always seemed to be there when I needed someone to talk to and I really appreciated his guidance and really helped me think about entering into marriage and things. Those two probably stand out the most.
Gerrity: Oh, that's great. Those are really life-changing influences or impacts. It shows you first impressions are always important.
Jania: Um-hmm. (affirmative)
Gerrity: You've been graduated but over 25 years now from St. Rita?
Gerrity: What would you say, and I know you've been around the world, you've worked here in Chicago, you've worked in New York now and you travel internationally and you see a lot. Having said that, do you think the Augustinian Order still has impacts today? Is it relevant in today's culture and world?
Jania: Definitely. One thing I think when I go around the world, whether it's for business or pleasure, I think you always see people trying to develop a sense of community whether it's in a business organization, whether it's an educational organization like a school. My kid looking to go to new schools out here in Stamford or whether it's my new job. I think offering a sense of community is important. I think that's the one thing I think that Augustinians have done a great job of really making people feel part of a broader community and bringing that local as well. You're bringing Christ in the community, keeping Christ local to the individual person.
I think that really a sense of belonging, a sense of belief, a sense of being part of a greater good and working toward that, I think it's definitely something that's going to help center my life and I think the Augustinians probably do that across the world. That fostering community is one thing that I think as a society we can lose with the electronics people have today and the ability to be separate and connected. I think that Augustinians community keep people separate together--together is very important.
When I went away to college, the Augustinians, it was probably Father McNicholas, gave me one of the books from St. Augustine on his teachings. That was a book that I still have with me today and I read that when I feel that sense of community maybe slipping away a little bit when things get hectic, but I always feel the grounding the Augustinians have, the real salt-of-the-earth people, the education and mission focus, the sense of community and brotherhood is what's sometimes lacking today in society and that's something we can't afford to lose.
Gerrity: That's great to hear. I know fundraising's never easy and you've been a great help to us. You've helped in the fundraising. You've contributed more than your money. You have contributed even more preciously your time and talent. With a family and business, I know it's a substantial sacrifice and we're very grateful for it. That leads me to my next question. Why are you helping this Continuing Our Journey of Faith campaign, this rare and special capital campaign?
Jania: I've been a contributor to St. Rita's since I graduated and then through Father Bernie Scianna who is the Provincial, has gotten me more involved more directly just the Augustinians Order and explaining to me the needs of the Augustinians Order and what it takes to keep the Order going, whether it's new recruits or taking care of the retired priests.
The need to keep that sense of community and the grounding and this Order together, it doesn't happen on its own. It's something where I look at paying it forward to keeping it alive for the next generation. For my kids, for their kids. Just thinking about leaving behind a better place. I think that if the Augustinians aren't a significant role in that society, it will be worse off for it.
I think of things I want to pay forward. I first started doing it for St. Rita High School and have continued it to the Augustinians because it's bigger than just St. Rita. The Augustinians need to have this international presence and I think it's important that we one, pay it forward for the new generation, repay the old generation, but also keep it alive and a vibrant part of our Catholic society.
Gerrity: Thank you, Greg. It's great to hear you say that because as an Order in the Midwest, the vast majority of people who support the Augustinians are going to be from their schools or parishes, chaplaincies, or where they've served. If they don't get their supporters there, there's simply no other place they're going to get them. Thank you very much for the extra sacrifice on your part to support the school but also to support the Province which has its own separate budget and needs.
Let me ask you this. I think we've answered this but maybe you could elaborate. Would you encourage other alumni or anyone else to give to this capital campaign and why would you encourage others to go that extra mile?
Jania: Besides the reasons I stated earlier why I'm supporting the capital campaign, I think it's also one that I can easily say that the money is well spent. The campaign and the advancement have been well run. I've been very close to the organization now for the past, I think, four or five years. I've been very impressed with the professionalism and the effectiveness of what they've been doing to date.
I think people who are worried about is their money going to good use, you don't have to have that concern with the Augustinian Order under your guidance, Father Bernie's guidance and such, and the rest of the Order, that the money is not being spent foolishly. It's had results. It's resulting in increased locations. It's resulting in better care for the retired priests that are unfortunately increased in number. There's more unfortunately they're retiring them.
The other way at this stage, we're changing that and I think it's real easy to see that it's having a direct impact. It's one thing I think it's a good thing to have but also to have an impact is important. You can trust, I think where the capital is going here, where your money's going, where your time's going. It's being well spent and they'll have a good return on the investment.
Gerrity: I'm glad you see them also as good stewards. Being holy men is one thing that's important but also being good stewards of what you so generously share is equally important. Is there anything else, Greg, you would like to add or share for the benefit of our listeners?
Jania: No, I think what you mentioned, like I said, everything we do is a sacrifice. If it wasn't for the sacrifice of people before us, our parents, people who started this campaign 20 years ago [with the initial Journey of a Lifetime campaign], Augustinians who started schools like St. Rita and Providence, we wouldn't have the new experience we had today.
As you mentioned, it does take a little sacrifice, whether it's time, money, making phone calls, it's all important for keeping things like the Augustinians vibrant and relevant and alive. We're seeing them be very active today and I think we've got to make sure we do our part to make sure that the future generations have the same experience and the same ability to experience what we have.
Gerrity: Oh, thank you so much, Greg. I really appreciate you taking the time for this and I wish you well in your work in New York. I also encourage those listening to Greg's interview, if you want to know more about the campaign or to hear other interviews from across this broad Province, please go to augustiniancampaign.org, augustiniancampaign.org to learn more and to find ways you too can participate. Thanks again, Greg and take good care.
Jania: My pleasure. Thank you.