Listening to Archbishop Dolan preach God’s Word at Mass or hearing him on his weekly radio show on the Catholic Channel leaves little doubt about what a gifted communicator he is.
“He’s a natural, so relaxed and himself on television and radio. It was good to see him shine every week.”
That quote could have come from any one of a hundred people I’ve encountered in New York over the past three years, but the source was someone who has known the archbishop a lot longer than that. And at age 54, Bob Dolan knows more than a thing or two about the communications field himself.
Bob, the archbishop’s younger brother, has worked as a media professional for more than three decades, serving as a TV sportscaster, a play-by-play announcer as well as a radio talk show host and newspaper columnist. He now runs a video production company.
In the earlier comment, Bob Dolan was speaking about “Living Our Faith,” a weekly television show that he and the archbishop co-hosted in Milwaukee. “A lot of people watched because of him, not me,” Bob Dolan said in an interview last month.
He was in town to promote his new book, “Life Lessons From My Life With My Brother, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan.” We met in person when he stopped by the New York Catholic Center for a signing on Nov. 17; the next day he was scheduled to sign at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Gift Shop.
This is Bob Dolan’s first book, and he said that the process of writing it wasn’t as hard as he would have thought at the outset. Of course, he does know the subject matter pretty well. Besides his own recollections, the 190-page volume also relies on a running dialogue aided by previously published material written by the archbishop.
Since he is younger than Archbishop Dolan by seven years, Bob said that he and his brother were at different stages of life when he was growing up. The future archbishop was the oldest of five children and Bob was the youngest. The book contains a few priceless stories of those younger days, including a gem when the archbishop and one of his sisters were in charge of babysitting Bob, then age 8. It involves the “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” television show and a mop. That’s all I’m going to say here, except that it sure was a great older brother prank.
His brother’s appointment in 2002 to lead the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, where Bob Dolan and his family reside, not only brought the brothers closer together, it also “solidified” their relationship as brothers, Bob said. “His greatest influence on me came in those seven years,” Bob said. Across the pages, you can easily see how much Bob’s family, which includes his wife, Beth, and their two daughters, Erin and Caitlin, love the Archbishop, and how he returns the feeling.
The Life Lessons come across in the chapter headings from “The Joy of Grief” to “Where There’s Humor There’s Hope” to “Nine Coins in the Fountain,” which chronicles Bob’s three trips to Rome to visit his brother, a travel itinerary that spanned 31 years, beginning when Bob was 18 and went to visit his brother, then a seminarian at North American College. He paid his own way, too, by working several jobs the summer and fall before. The coins in the fountain, for those that don’t know, refer to the tourists’ practice of throwing three coins in Trevi Fountain to ensure a return to the Eternal City.
There is much to like in this book (Tau Publishing, $13.95). Asked why he decided to write it, Bob Dolan replied, “To spread his approach to the Catholic faith. He’s impacted my life a great deal.”
The author’s selfless spirit comes across in many ways. You can tell he’s very proud of his brother. Even in the chapter about sports, the one area of life where Bob admits he has an upper hand on his brother, it was Tim who came out on top in an epic Wiffle Ball battle in the family’s side yard, clouting a game-winning home run off Bob in the bottom of the 31st inning.
That must have been some game.
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