Toward a Muscular Catholicism

Following is the text of remarks I made at the 2014 Gordon Tech Inspiration Celebration.

Thank you, Mary.  And thank you to Gordon Tech and all of the other co-chairs of this event.

I’m super-pleased to be honored along with the Congregation of the Resurrection and my colleagues of 1985.

Sometimes think work out through the randomness of alphabetical and the natural order of things.

Harry Osterman sat behind me in freshman homeroom. O’CONNOR – O’NEIL – OSTERMAN. The power of alphabetical order. He also introduced me to my first politician,  a guy named Richard M. Daley. Your services as a state rep and alderman, Harry, was certainly presaged in this building, as well as your home.

Barry Rodgers was my first friend in high school, mainly because we sat next to each other on the first day of school in September 1981 in the science lab. Again, alphabetical order and the order of the Congregation of the Resurrection held sway. O’NEIL – PREZIOSO – RAMIREZ – RODGERS. That was the four-table seating chart.

On the second day of class, the science teacher, Ludwig J. Fesi, asked for volunteers. Barry and I raised our hands.

He said, “meet us in the gym this Saturday at 9AM. We’re going to help out at Misericordia.”

We had no idea what Misericordia was. We had no idea what we were volunteering for. But we showed up at 9.

Barry went on to become a high school science teacher and a distinguished principal.

This is what this place meant to me, and still does.

A place of muscular Catholicism.

A place where we raise our hands, and show up, and take action.

A place of social justice. A place that creates Catholic workers and sends them out to make things better. For everyone.

So I thank you for this honor, and I look forward to seeing decades of new Catholic workers acting on our form of muscular Catholicism on the north side of Chicago.

St. Mary of the Mount Catholic Church

St. Mary of the Mount Catholic Church

Digital Skills + Me (re: Digital Divide Elimination Advisory Committee)

A great part of my day job is that I get to work with people who are on the front lines of delivering digital skills to the people of Chicago.  Since 2011 at Smart Chicago, I have worked directly with librarians, trainers, and other practitioners. These are the people who meet with new patrons every day, helping them get email accounts, find information about their health, and otherwise improve their lives with technology.
In the summer of 2003, I taught a course of 15 elementary and high school students in a week-long “computer camp”. This was entry-level stuff for low-income youth who had never tried to make a website; ever.
WeblogConsultant and InternetLifeServices
From 2002 – 2007, I had up two projects that sought to teach every day people how to use the Internet to make their lives better. One was WeblogConsultant, where I made inexpensive and powerful for websites for churches, schools, and nonprofits so that they could get the power of the Internet in their hands. Here’s a case study I did in 2007 on my parish website:
This is a website I made in 2004 to hold my lesson plans for a concept that I had back then: that everyone loves poetry, and everyone loves technology, and they could be taught at the same time effectively.
I created and led a number of bilingual computer training sessions for the large (but mostly invisible to the Caucasian population at the Church) Spanish speaking community at a parish in the North Side. I saw the need, designed tools to fill the need, and conducted the training myself.
In 2006, I developed a custom 9-hour course taught in three-hour stretches over three days. This was open to the public and I taught all comers. Almost everyone had very low skills. Many had never had an email account before
Digital Divide Elimination Advisory Committee
Today I chair my first full meeting of then Digital Divide Elimination Advisory Committee which “advises the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in establishing criteria and procedures for identifying recipients of grants under the Digital Divide Elimination Act“. If you have an interest in these topics topics, consider coming to one of the next two:
  • Monday, August 11, 2014 @ 10:00 a.m. 
  • Monday, November 10, 2014 @ 10:00 a.m.


Let’s Build on the CTA’s Open Standards Fare System

Though it seems to have dissipated as people get used to the new system, there has been a lot of sturm und drang about Ventra over last year.

Now that the drama is over, it might be time for us in the civic innovation sector of the technology industry to turn our attention to building on the open standards fare system infrastructure upon which Ventra was built .

I don’t know where the CTA is in the process of accepting forms of payment other than Ventra cards, but it was always the plan. Here’s a look at the RTA Ordinance that led to Ventra:

The entire document is focused on open standards.

What Open Payment Fare Systems are, and how they work.

Advances in network architecture and telecommunications, combined with innovations in the financial payments sector and widespread adoption of contactless banking products have propelled the adoption of open payment systems by mass transit agencies. Today, leading agencies around the globe are implementing, or are in the process of procuring, new open payment fare systems. In addition to accepting bank issued contactless cards/devices, Near Field Communications (NFC) enabled mobile phones are being introduced to the market. NFC is a standards based wireless communications technology that is being integrated with mobile phones. The technology allows the consumer to download content such as a coupon or a movie tickets to their phone. Additionally, if the consumer desires, they can securely download payment card applications to a mobile device that later can be used at a merchant’s payment card reader with a single tap. A transit agency that has adopted an open payment fare system can automatically accept these NFC enabled devices in addition to the millions of contactless cards that are issued by banks around the world.

(emphasis mine)

It doesn’t take a ton of imagination to think up ways that civic technologists– people interested in how to reduce friction between government and residents– could use this technology to make popular products:

  • Create custom transit cards for schools, nonprofits, and youth summer jobs programs that easily allow people to add value . Mikva Challenge youth have been advocating for this for some time now
  • Partner with banks to create a “Keep the Change” system so that one can make regular donations to a transit pool that are automatically added to the cards of people who need it
  • Create instant NFC-enabled Bonus Transit system, where you can thank people by adding value to their transit card rather than give them a tip or a pat on the back

I could be missing something– maybe the system is not as open as it seems, or the startup costs are insurmountable, or the system is only half-implemented. But on its face, there seems to be some pretty cool things we can do. I’d love to work with someone on this.

Join Me at the Gordon Tech Inspiration Celebration

I am a lifelong Catholic and a firm believer in the value of role of Catholic education in a strong society. I went to high school at Gordon Tech, on the corner of Addison & California. I’ve been an altar server, a lector, the chair of a Catholic elementary school board, a member of a Parish Council, and a CCD teacher.

Take a look at the full details on the event. Here’s a snip:

On May 12, 2014, Gordon Tech Catholic College Prep will host its 2nd annual Inspiration Celebration. We are proud to honor The Brothers of the Congregation of the Resurrection, the founders and sponsors of the school, and three outstanding alumni of the class of 1985, Daniel O’Neil, Executive Director of Smart Chicago, Harry Osterman, 48th Ward Alderman, and Barry Rodgers, Principal of Lake Forest High School, for their unwavering dedication to public service, Catholic education and improving communities through technology.

I’ve written quite a bit about the focus of my Catholic energy here: Easter Morning for an Urban American Catholic in an Age of Misplaced Catholic Energy. This was written prior to the ascendency of Pope Francis. You can understand that I’m stoked about him and his social justice agenda. Some other links:

I am passionate about helping Gordon Tech move into their future as DePaul College Prep, Fr. Gordon Campus, so I am going to be tweeting/ posting/ going on about this event for the next couple of weeks. Thank you for your patience and buy your tickets now.

Santa Maria Maddalena in Campo Marzio (La Maddalena)

NYC Spring Break 2014 Images and Videos

I take a lot of pictures. I especially take a lot of pictures while I’m traveling. Over the last few years I have also made a sustained attempt to produce “personal documentaries”– short-format videos made on standard Mac iMovie templates that show what I see.

My family, and the vacations we take, are of special importance to me. On all of our trips I pull together video snippets, still photography, meaningful music, and descriptive titles to show each of our vacation days. Here’s the ones for our Spring Break this year:

NYC Spring Break Day One from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

The video from Day One pretty much sets up the trip and serves as a travelogue. The best part is at 2:21, where there is an unintended (I didn’t even notice it until later) duet with a cello and an umbrella.

NYC Spring Break Day Two from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

On Day Two we went to the NCAA Basketball East Division Finals on a lark. Rainy day; perfect thing to do. Highlights:  0:03: Tour of the apartment 01:32: Madison Square Garden.

NYC Spring Break Day Three from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

Day Three was a fun day, the first one that got sunny. We went all over.

NYC Spring Break Day Four from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

I really love this one, because the music works great (Empire State of Mind) and I felt like I was finding my way in the editing. There are lots of beautiful shots– we went to the top of the Empire State Building and did the Circle Line Tour

NYC Spring Break Day Five from Daniel X. O'Neil on Vimeo.

Here’s where I am very happy with the editing and titles. We went to the TODAY show on our last day in NYC. Early!