Before 1960 I had only vaguely heard about a Massachusetts senator named John Fitzgerald Kennedy. However his was only one name among many politicians; but then something happened. It occurred while I was on a vacation trip to Mexico with two Oklahoma priests. We had stopped on the border for the night. The Democratic Convention had been struggling to nominate a candidate.
We were listening to a faint, squeaky radio signal when it was announced that John F. Kennedy was the choice to run for President of the United States!
We were elated to have a Catholic candidate for such a high office in our country. But it was not going to be smooth sailing. In Mexico we ran into hurricane winds and rain. There were landslides over the highways. We were lucky to escape injury in the morning surf at Acapulco, but we got royally sunburned.
Maybe that was an omen of what was going to happen to the Kennedy campaign in Dallas. Soon after his nomination, there was a flood of hate literature coming into the mailboxes of Dallas citizens. This mail threatened the future of our country if a Catholic were to be elected president as he would be a slave of the Vatican.
These malicious folks even went so far as to publish the alleged Knights of Columbus oath which had been inserted in the Congressional Record as a bogus oath. It was presented as a real proof of what John Kennedy would have to live up to if he were to be elected.
But JFK was elected. Some imagined a new Camelot. However there were many trials and challenges to his leadership during the years he was in charge of the policies of our country. Historians will look back and judge them for their effectiveness. Then a new issue emerged… a real integration of races for our nation.
Kennedy came to Texas to speak on the things our nation needed to address. He did well in Houston and in Fort Worth. Dallas was the next stop on his tour.
In Oak Cliff, at Bishop Dunne Catholic School, the leadership of Sister Justin, Sisters of the St. Mary of Namur and Bro. Martin, Brothers of the Sacred Heart, decided that the atmosphere in Dallas was inimical to the president. They decided to have the senior girls go down to Main Street and welcome the president with a special song and an affirming banner.
This task was well done; but as the seniors boarded their buses to return to Oak Cliff for lunch, the news came over one girl’s pink transistor radio. The president had been shot!
Tears flowed abundantly. Appetites were forgotten. Prayers were offered in our hearts and in all the classrooms at the school.
Camelot was history.
Father Timothy Gollob is the pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Oak Cliff. In 1963, he served as the chaplain for Bishop Dunne Catholic School.