The new guy on stage

Initial thoughts from the press conference with Archbishop Dolan:

1. On the way out, someone said to me “He can own this town.” I have to agree. Dolan is so engaging that people will eat him up. He said the best year of his life was 1964, when he was 11 and Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were chasing the home run record.

He wasn’t a Yankee fan, but hey, that’s great stuff.

2. Surrounded by dozens of TV cameras, Dolan looked as at home as one can possibly be. But he doesn’t try to present himself as, well, regal. He laughs loud and easy and doesn’t mind looking a bit flustered when there are people buzzing around him.

3. Asked about taking on Obama, Pelosi, etc. over abortion and other life issues, Dolan wasn’t exactly evasive. But he wasn’t specific. He didn’t want to linger on it. He said he would look to the examples set by Cardinal George in Chicago and Pope B16 and talked about “engagement” and being “conciliatory.”

4. He was very direct about assuring the priests of New York that he will be there for them. Clearly, Dolan must know that morale among the priests of NY is not great. (I got an email from a priest this morning saying: “To quote Etta James…AT LAST!”

5. He described the growth of Hispanic Catholics as a gift. He said that he has heard others refer to the “Hispanic problem,” but he doesn’t see a problem.

6. Dolan said that he already talked this morning to some Jewish, Protestant and Orthodox leaders by telephone, indicating that ecumenical and interfaith stuff will be important to him. He mentioned this, in fact, during his brief comments before taking questions.

7. He went out of his way to make Cardinal Egan feel at home. After Egan said something about maintaining a public presence in NY if invited, Dolan jumped in: “You’re hired.”

8. He is 59 and could be here for a long time — and he knows it. He said that he relishes the blessing of “spending the rest of my life — whatever years God grants me — as your pastor, neighbor and, please God, as your friend.

9. I got in the last question and asked him about his forthrightness in Milwaukee about the Big Problems that the church faces: cradle Catholics leaving the church, people becoming more secular. He answered that the church has to be “realistic” and must face some difficult challenges that are confronting all faiths.

10. His cheeks get kind of rosy when he’s worked up.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.