About Neal J. Conway,
July 4, 2016
My site nealjconway.com has its origins in the late 1990s when email became popular. Some of the oldest essays were originally emails that I sent to friends. By 2003 I knew enough about html to create a site and the original nealjconway.com went on-line in April of that year. Back then I did everything, even drawing the little thumbnails of DC buildings, just as I created the cascading style sheets for the 2016 reboot.
As I, the observer learned more about what goes on in my church, I realized that some Catholic web sites that treat of faith and culture also peddle baloney. And so, in what advertising people call "positioning," I added "Faith And Culture Without The Baloney."
After ten years, the original nealjconway.com format, despite my brilliant, timeless sketches, looked pretty tired and dull. On top of that, along came Facebook and other social media. I found myself grafting Facebook "Like" code where visitors couldn't see it and trying all kinds of gimmicks to get thumbnails to appear on FB when a reader likes. The only way to address the static and staid appearance and the social media issue was to redesign the entire site using cascading stylesheets. Once again, I did all the coding and graphics myself. All new nealjconway.com pages have Facebook "like" and "share" buttons at the top as well as other social media share options.
And away we go.
I was born in Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC in 1961. All our family doctors were Georgetown grads. A basketball scholarship to Georgetown U. is what brought my father and mother from Northeastern Pennsylvania to Washington in the early 1950s. My father eventually became a government attorney and my mother, before having me, was an administrative assistant in the United States District Attorney's office during very interesting times.
I am not to be confused with a distant cousin, the Rev. Mr. Neal T. Conway, deacon of the Archdiocese of Washington. Nor am I Neal Conway, the songwriter and I am most certainly not Neal Conway, the pedophile priest. I and other Neal Conways are possibly namesakes of Neal Conway, O.F.M., the clandestine bishop of Derry Ireland in the early 1700s when the Catholic Church was illegal and underground. I like to think that none of us are direct descendants of that bishop, but as an old Irishman said to me, "Ya never know."
I've lived all but two months of my life in the DC suburb of Bethesda, Maryland which is sort of like Cambridge, Mass. (In fact, the two months I didn't live in Bethesda, I lived in Cambridge, Mass.). Bethesda Catholics are a lot like Boston Catholics. They overwhelmingly support pro-abortion politicians. One of our neighbors was Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Down the hill from us lived Clark Clifford, LBJ's Secretary of Defense who concluded that the Viet Nam War was unwinnable.
A couple miles up the road from our house was Georgetown Preparatory School established by Archbishop John Carroll in 1789, but moved from Georgetown U., it's child, to Rockville, Maryland in 1919. There I had some wonderful teachers including the Rev. James A. P. Byrne who instilled in me a curiosity about literature. Another was Rev. John J. Nicola, a real-life exorcist who was technical advisor for the movie, The Exorcist. Sitting as a senior in Fr. Nicola's Philosophy class in 1978, the year John Paul II became pope, I developed an interest in Philosophy and dogmatic thinking years before JP II has inspired such interest in the next generation.
College job on Capitol Hill, 1985
Then I went up to the Catholic University of America in Brookland in Washington DC's Northeast quadrant. Catholic U., not that university in Indiana with the gold dome, is the official Catholic university in the United States. There I studied as a Political Science major. One of my professors was Dr. Norman Ornstein and one of my classmates was Martin O'Malley, later governor of Maryland and presidential candidate.
During my enrollment, the CU faculty included soon-to-be-expelled Charles Curran, the dissident theologian who had led the rebellion against encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968. Always a mediocre student, I blossomed academically at Catholic U. In a couple classes the papers I turned in were put on reserve as suggested reading for my fellow students and I (along with Martin O'Malley) was nominated to the International Honor Society in Social Science. My diploma was signed by another controversial figure, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.
I was published occasionally, but though my writing was noticed and praised, I did not seriously consider a writing career until I had spent several years in the working world. I worked in management jobs at DC law firms, including Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells). An attorney on the Hogan & Hartson staff at that time was young John G. Roberts, now Chief Justice of The United States. During my law-firm career, I observed and learned how to relate to the many different kinds of people who inhabit Washington. I also honed my practical side by learning how to work, act and expect like a big-city professional. I think I'm a rare combination of creativity and practicality.
With this experience also came stress. By 1992, I was suffering from anorexia, rare for males. I began a recovery and a transition to a writing career by getting a job in the development office of a private Catholic high school. I also began a 5-year stint of writing and editing articles for the young Catholic newspaper circulating in Montgomery County, Our Parish Times, then owned by Paul G. Zurkowski. I was the closest thing to a journalist that OPT had. During this time, I also contributed articles and photos to The Catholic Standard and the Arlington Catholic Herald. I briefly served as a business reporter for a local secular newspaper but quit when paychecks for the news staff were put off far too long.
On a blizzardy Saturday in March 1993, I found my mother dead in bed and my distraught father's affairs thrust suddenly in my hands.