Our Cannonball Moments

Throughout the world, the Society of Jesus is celebrating 2021-22 as an Ignatian Year in honor of the 500th anniversary of St. Ignatius’ conversion after being struck by a cannonball during a battle in Pamplona in 1521. Pope Francis addressed the Ignatian Year by saying: “In Pamplona, 500 years ago, all the worldly dreams of Ignatius were shattered in one instance. This one cannonball changed the course of his life, and of the world. Seemingly small things matter.”

The Prep invites our students, faculty, staff, families, and alumni to share their cannonball moments; the moments, either small or large, where they knew life would never be the same. It is in these moments of joy, fear, pain, hope, despair, and love we know that God has a plan for us all.

Here are a few of those momentous moments:

“After I left the Prep, I went on to St Joseph’s College to continue my education with the Jesuits. While there, I joined the Sodality and, in that organization, I discovered the true meaning of Ignatian Spirituality. I knew then that I wanted to, in some way, make the lives of those around me better. I graduated from the College in 1963, in the height of the Sputnik era with a major in Physics. While my classmates were embarking on careers in Industry. I wanted to enter the field of college teaching where I could follow what I really wanted to do – not just teach a subject but work with young people and help them develop their special talents. Everyone told me that no college would hire someone with only a bachelor’s degree. But, a wonderful woman, Sr. Ursula from the sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, took a chance on me to teach Physics and math at Cabrini College. That Was THE MOMENT. I taught there for 6 years and then moved on to Bucks County Community College where I taught Mathematics for 51 years. A career of 56 years of teaching made possible by a woman who took a chance. Along the way, in keeping with my Jesuit spirituality, I was ordained a permanent Deacon in the archdiocese of Phila, and believe it or not I am serving at St. Teresa of Calcutta parish in Limerick. Where the Journey began, it comes full circle.”

Deacon Lou Hoelzle ’59

I graduated in ’99, then went to the University Of Pennsylvania for a year. Then, I was in a fire & got a brain injury @ Temple Hospital. When I was in rehab, they wanted me to get a minimum wage job. I told them that there was a chance of me doing that, so they had me volunteer at a hospital, helping out Physical Therapists. Now, I left the rehab, & I am currently volunteering @ The Delaware Valley Veteran’s Home. Furthermore, because of new warfare, many of the veterans, there, have head injuries, like me. So, I try to help them out.

Hugh Gallagher ’99

“My parents died just over a year from each other – my mother in December 1991 from breast cancer, and my father in January 1993, nominally from complications of diabetes and heart disease. I think he actually died from a broken heart, after almost 33 years of marriage. Shortly after my father’s death, I became involved with The Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Inc., in Philadelphia, which I have supported to this day. (My father’s leg had been amputated before his death.) While my father was still alive, I met the woman I married in 1995 and became a parent. Our son was born in 1997 and diagnosed with autism. Since that time, I have devoted myself to disabilities advocacy, in the belief that being a “man for others” meant that what I did or learned for him could help others. He is now an Eagle Scout college graduate, andI continue to be involved in disabilities advocacy.” 

Stanley Jaskiewicz ’78

My Cannonball moment, believe it or not, came from being a bench player on the Freshman Football Team and a broken collarbone that caused me to miss spring sports tryouts my Freshman year.

I was jealous of my grade school friends who seemed to have the easy high school experience that was more social than educational. I had thoughts of transferring to my local Catholic school until one day while sitting in the cafeteria with my classmates, a group of us got to talking about the Prep Rugby team and their 2011 state championship win. My former football teammates encouraged me to come out for the team – so I did the next Spring. My mom asked me what I thought of the sport after my first match against Salesianum to which I replied, “I had no idea what was going on, but I loved it!”

At that moment, I became infatuated with the Prep and became committed to staying at the Prep. I found my niche and understood the brotherhood that exists at 17th & Girard which helped me to develop into the man that I am today.

Jamison Wellman ’14

Freshman year at SJP. Each homeroom “adopted” a local family that had been identified as very needy at Thanksgiving. Classes brought in non-perishables that were supplemented with turkeys and produce by donors. I thought the goods would get delivered by volunteers and we could stay nice and warm at school and feel good about our effort. The cannonball moment came when we actually loaded the goods in trucks and brought them into the homes of our partnered families! What an education! I had mistakenly thought that all homes were kept immaculate like mine and that all refrigerators were automatically full of fresh food. We brought the donated food into the homes around the Prep and put it away. What an awakening! I still thank the Jesuits for my formation and that cannonball moment.

Martin Cappelletti ‘68

Fighting with the 1st Air Cavalry in the jungle in Vietnam and Cambodia. We were a three-man team positioned always with the lead element of an infantry unit. My mother gave me a prayer to St Joseph on the day I left the US in ‘71. I knelt on the jungle floor every day at first light and prayed in full view of the grunts and especially my recon Sargent who professed to be an atheist.

In mid-November, we’re on a mission to rescue a number of POWs. We walked into an ambush which turned out to be a tunnel and bunker complex and a headquarters of the 35th NVA Regiment.

We were cut off from our main body and out of ammunition with wounded. Three medivac helicopters were shot down around us.

When our situation was very dire- my atheist recon Sargent and radioman crawled through the mud and fire to me and said- LT, (lieutenant) let’s say that prayer! And so we did holding each other’s hands

We got out and left no one behind.

Dan Edwards ’64

I was a junior, and called Mary Pat Law and invited her to the junior prom. After what I remember as at least a slight hesitation, she said yes. Our first date. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last September. That cannonball made quite a splash.

Joe Ryan 66

Just as these moments have the power to change you, you have the power to change the Prep, and the World. It seems too often we face challenges and sorrow. When they come think of Ignatius, who faced his struggle with courage but won only when he surrendered to God. These are the moments where we become closer to who God created us to be.