CNS Photo Ross D. Franklin, Pool via Reuters | Jesuit Father Edward Reese, President of St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco, blesses the casket of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during an Aug. 29 memorial service at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. McCain died of brain cancer Aug. 25 at age 81.
By Joey Bottini ’19
On Aug. 30. 2018, Brophy and Xavier students left their classrooms and lined up along the sidewalk of Central Avenue to honor the late Senator John McCain as his motorcade passed.
Assistant Principal for Ministry Mr. Paul Fisko commented on Brophy’s participation in the event.
“As a community we are called to a ministry of presence, being there for someone who is mourning,” Mr. Paul Fisko said. “It is also a corporal work of mercy, as we are called in our faith to bury the dead.”
Later that day Sen. McCain’s prayer service was held at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, AZ.
Several Brophy related supporters were present at the prayer service including former Brophy President Father Edward Reese and singers from the Brophy Choir.
Mr. Fisko led the Brophy singers during the prayer service and helped prepare the students.
“The McCain family contacted me in April and told me they wanted Brophy Choir to sing,” Brophy President Ms. Adria Renke said.
Ms. Renke said the process building up to the service to prepare the students was tricky.
“We had a spread out time table as Senator was still battling cancer,” said Ms. Renke. “We had to prepare for a service that was to be held sometime in the unknown future with the challenge of summer coming and Mr. Olson, our choir chairman, would be gone along with many students.
However, Mr. Fisko, who is also a liturgical music director for the Brophy Chapel community, was asked to step in.
The McCain family had attended masses at the Chapel and on many occasions heard Mr. Fiskoperform with his ensemble.
Mr. Fisko sent out a clandestine email to 25 current and alumni students asking their availability during the months of June, July, and August.
The McCain Family chose two songs, “Amazing Grace” and “I Love you, Arizona.”
Four days before the ceremony these songs were given to Mr. Fisko to prepare for the memorial.
When asked if the group was nervous, Mr. Fisko said, “It was an honor and yes they were nervous when seeing people like Larry Fitzgerald and Joe Biden, but what they really wanted to do was make it right for the McCain family.”
Fr. Reese, a longtime friend to Sen. McCain, was asked to speak at the memorial service in Phoenix, as well as preaching the homily at memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Renke said it was not the first time McCain had asked Fr. Reese to speak.
Despite their political differences Fr. Reese was asked to give a prayer at the 2008 Republican Convention.
At the service, press photos show the group of speakers sitting in order, including Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, Arizona Politician Tom Espinoza, Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Former Vice President Joe Biden, and (not pictured) Father Edward Reese.
Ms. Renke said she joked with Fr. Reese about the fact that he was the only one in the group who was cut out of these photos.
Also participants in the service included long-time family friends to the McCain Family and former Brophy Alumni Joseph Harper ’97 and Michael Harper ’01 as pallbearers.
Ms. Renke said the Harper Family and the McCain family have shared a compound in Cottonwood, Arizona.
The Harper’s and the McCain’s have similar associations with Brophy, as each family had children attend Brophy, as well as both having landmark’s on Brophy campus including The Harper Great Hall and The McCain Colonnade.
Mrs. Cindy McCain and Mrs. Sharon Harper are both members of Brophy’s Board of Trustees.
With McCain’s passing Ms. Renke spoke about his legacy to Brophy Students and people everywhere by saying, “Honor and Integrity.”
“What else do you need to know about a man who was offered to leave his fellow prisoners of war behind and be released, but refused because he was not going to leave his companions behind,” said Ms. Renke.
Ms. Renke said he was a man who stood up for what he believed in even after one of his first brain cancer surgeries.
“He got up out of his recovery bed, put on a suit, and voted in the senate, against his party in support of the Affordable Care Act,” said Ms. Renke.