Mrs. Patti Murphy Dohn recently retired after 33 years of service as Campus Minister and Religion teacher at The John Carroll School in Bel Air, MD. Committed to making a difference in the lives of our youth and their families, she served the school community since 1981.

Patti was awarded the Medal of Honor in Youth and Young Adult Ministry by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2012.  

Patti Murphy Dohn continues her service to the Archdiocese on the Screening Board for the Office of Vocations. She was previously a board member for the Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, MD. and St. Margaret School in Bel Air.

Along with writing for "The Catholic Review," Patti is a member of the Catholic Press Association, as well as the Catholic Writers Guild and the Associated Church Press.

Patti Murphy Dohn is available for speaking engagements and retreat work. 

She can be reached at:

Twitter: @JCSMinistry

God is good!! All the time!!


December 2014
November 2014

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My son-in-law misplaced his wallet, which had everything in it. He is a police officer and of course he had his badge in there. I was praying all day and I asked some of my friends to join me in praying to St. Anthony. And then by the end of the day,n my daughter called saying that the wallet was found underneath their daughter's bed. It must of fallen out of his pocket when he was reading a bedtime story. Thank you St. Anthony!!


St. Anthony, Thank you for helping us identify, realise and get back our stolen gold from our own family members!

God is in the clouds

The sad impact of suicide: Honoring the memories of those we lost too soon

Part 3 of my series on grief and mourning:

"Suicide does not take away the pain; it passes it on to the person's friends and family."

-Rachel of the John Carroll Class of 2015

Remembering a JC patriot on December 11:

One year ago today is a day that I'll never forget. I learned that one of my junior girls had taken her life and, as John Carroll Campus Minister, I had the difficult task of putting together the response plan for notifying our students and school community, preparing prayers for this beautiful girl and her family, and assisting in any way that I was able to facilitate our students who would attend and participate in her funeral service.

The loss of this sweet girl was devastating in so many ways for so many people. The youngest of six children, she came from a multi-generational John Carroll family. I knew all her alum-siblings from their JC days, and I grew up with her Dad since we were nine years old, as we were both students at St. Margaret School.

Her school friends were just devastated. There were just no words to ease the pain.

This past November 22, on National Survivors of Suicide Day here in US--always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving--one of her friends wrote:

"Suicide does not take away the pain; it passes it on to the person's friends and family."

Though now retired from my ministry at John Carroll, I'm wearing green today in solidarity with her classmates, the Class of 2015. And I've united my prayers for her friends and family as we grieve together a life ended much too soon.

"Once a patriot, always a patriot."

Justin's story:

"I know that Justin is in heaven, and he is safe and happy. 

I know I will see him again one day when it is my time to leave this earth."

-- Kimberly Bennett

Kimberly Bennett of Forest Hill has also been a dear friend since our early years at St. Margaret School. Kim too knows the excruciating pain and anguish that a parent experiences when they lose a child to suicide.

Kim's 27-year old son Justin took his life twenty months ago and the heartache that followed has known no end. Kim shares his story with our "God is in the Clouds" readers both to honor his memory and to give hope to those who experience the same sorrow.

Kim shares the heartbreaking story:

Justin, his girlfriend, and their six-month old daughter were living at his parents' home at the time in order to save money for a home of their own. He had recently started medication for depression, which coupled one evening with alcohol and an argument with the girlfriend, led to Kim hearing what she thought was his bedroom door slamming. Instead, it was the gunshot that led to his final hours.

Justin with two-month old baby Michelle  (Photos: the Bennett Family)

Kim's husband broke down the bedroom door where they found their son with the self-inflicted gunshot wound. Paramedics confirmed a pulse, transporting Justin to Shock Trauma by helicopter, but ensuing tests found no brain activity.

Kim shares, "This is the hardest thing my family and I have ever been through.  If it wasn't for our strong, close-knit family and my Catholic faith, I would not be able to even get out of bed in the morning."

Praying Justin into Heaven:

Kim's family was particularly comforted by the Catholic chaplain at University of Maryland's Shock Trauma unit who prayed the litany of saints as each family member placed their hands on Justin. The litany response to each saint's name was "raise him up." As Kim, Don, their older son Rob, and daughter Sarah prayed together, they were comforted by these prayers and the inclusion of St. Justin in the litany.

Kim shares that the chaplain, Fr. Bill Spacek, "was so caring and kind." He held Kim's hand and reassured her fears and worries about her son's death.

What has been helpful?

Kim responded from the heart: "What helps me is talking about what happened. My daughter and I went to counseling for eight weeks."

As we know, people grieve in different ways; Kim's husband and older son were not as comfortable talking about Justin's death.

Kim and Sarah have become involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

"My daughter ran last year's Baltimore Marathon, raising $5,000. in Justin's memory. This year Sarah and I did the Out of the Darkness Walk in Baltimore, raising more money for the cause."

"Suicide claimed 39,518 lives in 2011 in the United States alone, with someone dying by suicide every 13.3 minutes. A suicide attempt is made every minute of every day, resulting in nearly one million attempts made annually.

When you walk in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walks, you join efforts with thousands of people nationwide to raise money for AFSP’s vital research and education programs to prevent suicide and save lives. The walks raise awareness about depression and suicide, and provide comfort and assistance to those who have lost someone to suicide.


--American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Getting through holidays and birthdays:

Kim told me, "I was really worried about going through the holidays last year, as well as Justin's birthday in January.  For Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, we lit a candle in honor of Justin and read a special prayer before we ate.

"For his birthday, we all went out to eat steamed crabs (his favorite). And then we went to Justin's grave and wrote messages on eco-friendly helium balloons. 'We let our messages float up to heaven' is how we explained it to Rob's sons, our 6-year old and 2-year old grandsons."

What else has been helpful?

Kim recalls, "What was most helpful at the time was the hundreds of friends who came to the viewing and funeral. Afterwards, friends would just stop in to sit with us. We loved hearing stories from Justin's friends."

Was anything not helpful?

Kim shared, "What bothered me after the first few weeks was that people seemed to walk on eggshell around us.  I was so happy when we were able to go to our boat at River Watch in Middle River where everyone finally treated us as 'normal.' 

"Also, I got really tired of hearing how strong I was. I might have appeared "strong," but I was a mess when I was home.  I found that I could not be alone on a Wednesday (the day it happened) at 5:40pm (the time on the police report).  My daughter and I would go out to dinner. My husband found that working long hours was more helpful to his grieving."

Justin with six-month old baby Michelle on Easter Sunday 2013, just three days before his death (Photos: the Bennett Family)


"I have so many wonderful people in my family and my life who depend on me and love me.  I carry on for them and I know that is what Justin would want me to do." --Kim Bennett

Some good that has come about through the sorrow:

Kim shares, "Since our son's passing, I have become so empathetic when a person dies.  I even stood up and spoke at a funeral service for a young man that passed away two months after Justin. I told that young man's mother that my close family and my faith are what allowed me to continue."

Kim and Don are now little Michelle's full-time guardians, raising their precious granddaughter in their son's memory. Kim reflects, "It is bittersweet. Sometimes I hug her so tight. Michelle has her Daddy's eyes and inquisitive nature. I know Justin would want us to take care of her. I ask him for guidance and help all the time."


Read more from my series on grief and mourning:

Part 1: Grief and mourning: Words of comfort and advice: Part 1

Part 2: Remembering Hannah Kriss, John Carroll Class of 2012:

Grieving the loss of a young person: Words of comfort and advice from her Mom

December 11, 2014 05:11
By Patti Murphy Dohn

A treasury of prayers and blessings for your Thanksgiving dinner

O Lord that lends me life,

Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

—William Shakespeare

Last year I featured a "Countdown to Thanksgiving" with prayers, meditations, and music for this season of gratitude.

Today I am sharing the best of that series with a selection of special prayers for you to use when choosing the perfect blessing for your family's Thanksgiving dinner.

Blessing 1:

Loving God,

We gather in prayer on this Thanksgiving Day to acknowledge with grateful hearts our many gifts and blessings.

Thank You for the overflowing goodness of Your love for us as seen both on and around this table.

Bless all who made it possible for us to share this meal, especially those who cooked and baked and all those who work the land, farmers and harvesters of this bounty.

Bless us as we share from their labors.

Bless each of us gathered at this table. Help us to grow in love for one another.

Bless all those who are in need and help us care for them as generously as You care for us.

As we gather we remember too those who have gone before us who rejoice in Your glorious presence with the angels and the saints.

May we always remember them and honor their memories with love.

With gratitude in our hearts for all blessings big and small, we pray in Jesus’ name.



Blessing 2 from the Sisters of Saint Francis:

Thanksgiving Day Dinner Blessing:

Bless this food we have before us, O God.

Let it provide the nourishment we need.

Bless this family and our friends gathered around this table.

Let us be nourished by our love and care for one another.

Bless those who have less than we have.

Let our eyes be open to their needs.

Bless us as we bless your holy name on this day of thanksgiving.

Let us praise and thank you always in Jesus’ name.



Blessing 3: For families with young children and persons with disabilities:

This litany also comes from the Sisters of Saint Francis who have wonderful prayer resources on their website. The repetition of the words “We thank you” is easy for children. Additional mention of gifts and blessings can be added after the ones suggested here. 

Litany of Thanksgiving:

For the gift of life: We thank you.    

For the gift of family: We thank you.

For the gift of this food: We thank you.

For our friends: We thank you.

For laughter: We thank you.

For our safety: We thank you.

For our shelter: We thank you.

For the gift of love: We thank you.

For the abundance of your love, O God: We thank you.



Luann comic by Greg Evans


Blessing 4: For families who mourn and grieve the loss of a loved one this Thanksgiving:

Light a candle at your table as you offer up this prayer-poem:

A Thanksgiving Prayer for Grieving Families:

Dear Heavenly Father, 

Please join our family on this Thanksgiving day,

And bless each one as we sit down to pray.

As we remember those who have joined You above

So dearly missed and deeply loved.

Please provide us strength on this Thanksgiving Day:

Bless us with memories of those faraway.

Please grant patience to family and friends as we grieve

And help us reach out to others who are bereaved.  

We give thanks to You on this Thanksgiving day:

For Your presence in our lives each and every day,

For Your comfort, guidance, and never-ending love,

And for taking care of our loved ones in Heaven above.  

As we light this candle on this Thanksgiving day,

And it glows in memory of those in Heaven today:

May their lights always shine down on us and give us light,

And may we feel their presence along with Yours tonight.  

May the peace and tranquility of this Thanksgiving day

Be an everlasting light within each of us along the way.

Let’s bow our heads and give our Thanks to God above

For our blessings, whether on earth or in Heaven above. 


Drawing by Allen Bryant

Read my reflections on the difficulties presented by the holidays for families who are struggling with grief, serious illness, family disharmony, or loneliness in “God is in the clouds at Thanksgiving.”


Blessing 5:

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer: 

Lord, so often times, as any other day,

When we sit down to our meal and pray,

We hurry along and make fast the blessing

Thanks, Amen. Now please pass the dressing.

We’re slaves to the olfactory overload.

We must rush our prayer before the food gets cold.

But Lord, I’d like to take a few minute more

To really give thanks to what I’m thankful for:

For my family, my health, a nice soft bed,

My friends, my freedom, a roof over my head.

I’m thankful right now to be surrounded by those

Whose lives touch me more than they’ll ever possibly know.

Thankful Lord, that You’ve blessed me beyond measure.

Thankful that in my heart lives life’s greatest treasure.

That You, dear Jesus, reside in that place

And I’m ever so grateful for Your unending grace.

So please, heavenly Father, bless this food You’ve provided

And bless each and every person invited.


By: Scott Wesemann

Thanksgiving by Joe Heller


Blessing 6:

Lord, we thank you

for the goodness of our people

and for the spirit of justice

that fills this nation.

We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the

land and the challenge of the cities.

We thank you for our work and our rest,

for one another, and for our homes.

We thank you, Lord:

accept our thanksgiving on this day.

We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.


--Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers


Blessing 7:

Help Me Thanksgiving Day Prayer

O God, when I have food,

help me to remember the hungry;

When I have work,

help me to remember the jobless;

When I have a home,

help me to remember those who have no home at all;

When I am without pain,

help me to remember those who suffer,

And remembering,

help me to destroy my complacency;

bestir my compassion,

and be concerned enough to help;

By word and deed,

those who cry out for what we take for granted.


--Samuel F. Pugh


Thanksgiving Prayer for Travelers:

Prayer For Safe Travel:

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation,

and whose presence we find wherever we go:

Preserve those who travel;

surround them with your loving care;

protect them from every danger;

and bring them in safety to their journey's end;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


God's richest blessings to you and your family!!

November 25, 2014 11:15
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Stranded 24 hours on a bus in a snowstorm: Prayers for the Niagara University women's basketball team

Texted to us from their coach bus on I-90: (From left)
Niagara team members Tiffany Corselli and Gabby Baldasare, with staff member Chelsea Andorka (on right).
UPDATE: The team was rescued by plows and state troopers after 30 hours.

It's been a long day... 

Updates on the women's basketball team of Niagara University have been the topic of many news reports on Monday. Players and staff have been trapped on their chartered bus in the lake-effect winter storm that dumped more than four feet of snow in the Great Lakes region near Buffalo.

Departing around 10 pm for their Lewiston, New York campus immediately after Monday night's game in Pittsburgh, the bus got caught in the winter storm around 1 am and became stuck in the rising snow within the next hour. Their bus is now on the side of the New York State Thruway I-90 near West Seneca. Hundreds of other vehicles are also stranded in the region due to the heavy snowfall.

I spoke to Niagara's Athletic Communications Assistant, Chelsea Andorka, and several of the players this evening. Among those stranded on the coach bus are fifteen team members, along with staff, and Head Coach Kendra Faustin's two young children.

No food or water:

Thankfully, the bus is still running, with heat, outlets for phone charging, and a functioning restroom. But the biggest concern at this point is that food and water supplies have run out, and young children are among those without these essential supplies.

Andorka, who is on her first road trip with the team, indicated that all team members have been in contact with their families. "We are very calm and remain in contact regularly with our families who are comforted that we are all together." 

To keep their spirits up, the women are watching movies, using social media, and helping keep the Faustin children occupied. "They are trying to be positive and staying together. The main focus is on keeping our heads up. We are thankful that no one is in serious trouble and no one is hurt," said Andorka.

When I spoke to her earlier tonight, Andorka indicated that "we have heard absolutely nothing in the past seven or eight hours since police stopped by on snowmobiles this afternoon to check on us."

Senior forward Gabby Baldasare of Pittsburgh told me that the team departed for Niagara immediately after their 70-54 loss in her hometown. Several hours later they approached the Erie region and the lake-effect storm hit them with very heavy snowfall. Within an hour the bus came to a stand-still. 

Patient and helpful:

The coach's driver is credited for his support and helpfulness in this extended crisis. Bill Howie of Bedore Tours has "been a real trooper," according to Baldasare, who emphasized, "I don't think we could have been more blessed than we are with this particular driver. Bill has been with us since we left campus on Friday and has taken care of every need that has come up." 

These needs have included changing buses on Sunday morning after a break down, and, during the snowstorm, keeping the bus running and warm throughout Monday, retrieving medications and supplies from the baggage compartment below in the heavy snow, and being "patient and helpful."

Gabby told me that the snow level was about fifty inches deep and came up to the driver's waist. Howie was also instrumental in getting the driver of the car stranded behind them on board the bus earlier this evening. This man is now safe and warm.

The power of prayer:

Tiffany Corselli, sophomore guard from Yonkers, shared with me that the team has been praying every hour. "I'm a strong believer and the first thing I did when we became stranded was to pray.... Faith keeps me positive. I know our families and churches are also praying for us."

Niagara is a Catholic university in the Vincentian tradition, run by the inspiring men of the Congregation of the Mission. 

Tiffany assured me that the team's spirits were holding up due to the support of each team member, the coaches, family members, friends, and God. And she herself has actually been leading the team in prayer at the top of every hour. "It was something that I felt I should do... I started with the protection of the 91st psalm, then continued each hour by praying for our driver, our families, to keep us strong, and give us peace of mind... God won't leave us in this situation."

Acts of kindness:

When I asked about good deeds, Corselli cited acts of kindness, including bringing the driver of the car behind them onto the bus to keep warm, the sharing of food and water when it was available earlier in the day, and the prayers and warm wishes sent to them from all over the country. Social media communications has been a mainstay for these women in getting out word about their situation to family, friends, and seeking aid from those who are in a position to help. The biggest concern of the team was spending a second night on the bus.

Gabby Baldasare spoke of Coach Faustin's one- and three-year old children: "We love them. Right now, the older child is in front of me watching a movie with some of my team mates, while the younger one is up front playing... They are keeping us light-hearted and relaxed...  They bring fun to the table for us."

At that point it was the top of the hour and the Niagara women were huddling together yet again to offer up their prayers... Gabby told me that they have been "giving thanks for all their blessings. Faith is what's keeping us together and giving us strength to get through this situation."

The team and coaches are hopeful that food, water, and blankets would be delivered to the bus at some point. "We are in good hands, and all of us are together in this. The prayers and support of our families and friends are getting us through this," concluded Gabby Baldasare before she left me to join her teammates in prayer.

Putting things in perspective:

Coach Kendra Faustin tweeted at 10:30:
"Spoke with state police. They are pulling people out of cars unconscious. We are so blessed to be warm and together.  #NUWBBstrandedonbus"


Our hearts and prayers are with all those who are stranded in this devastating storm.
May relief find all travelers healthy at the time of rescue.

November 19, 2014 12:09
By Patti Murphy Dohn

My perspective: "Called to the Collar" with CNN's Lisa Ling

I got an email yesterday from the senior publicist for CNN's Lisa Ling, former co-host of ABC’s “The View," inviting me to preview the last program in her documentary series "This is Life." This investigative program, which highlights "ordinary people with extraordinary lives," airs Sunday evenings at 10 pm ET/PT. 

Last week was Vocation Awareness Week and I had just featured a look at religious life and Holy Orders in "God is in the Clouds," so I was intrigued. 

The CNN website is widely promoting this Sunday's episode:

"Lisa Ling goes inside a Michigan town to uncover why so many men there -- including twin brothers -- are drawn to the priesthood."

Other plugs for this episode on the series homepage include yesterday's article "Confessions of a Catholic priest" by America editor at large Fr. James Martin, SJ:

"Would you sign up for a job that requires celibacy and sometimes evokes public scrutiny? One Jesuit father explains why he became a priest and reveals the ups and downs of his profession." --CNN

Reflections on previewing this program:

I watched "Called to the Collar" last night and spent a lot of time afterwards pondering the  "investigative" slant of this particular program, the last of this year's series. There was much that was done extremely well with regard to understanding vocations to the priesthood and high interest in seminary in the Diocese of Lansing, but something wasn't sitting well with me. It all started at the beginning....

Lisa Lings's opening lines while driving her car set the stage:

"Catholicism is one of the biggest religions in the world, but news of scandal in the Catholic Church involving priests has been virtually inescapable over the last decade. As a result, people espousing strong faith have been on the decline...

I'm heading to a rural patch in Michigan where Catholicism is thriving and where priests  are considered cool."

"Called to the Collar" takes us to the Village of Fowler, Michigan, a rural farming community of just over 1200 residents in the Diocese of Lansing. There we meet a family with deep roots in dairy farming with sons who have been called by God to the priesthood.

Identical twins Gary and Todd Koenigsknecht, now age 26, were both ordained to the priesthood in June. Interviewed at their family home on the dairy farm, as well as at their respective first parish assignments, both men tell the story of their call to the priesthood and the discernment process that followed. They share about the many joys they have experienced in their first parish assignments, received just six weeks earlier, as well as the challenges they face due to their young age and being new to the job.

Fr. Gary explains the privilege,

"Just as a father is called to provide for his children, my duty then is to help my people grow in holiness and to put their needs before my own."

Fr. Todd speaks of their ordination day this past June

"It's hard to put into words... It was one of the most powerful,and joyful moments of my life and I couldn't stop smiling the entire day."

Father John Linden, Vocations Director for the Lansing Diocese, can’t resist a playful moment after the ordination Mass of Father Todd, left, and Father Gary Koenigsknecht, as he holds a chasuble up to their 19-year-old brother, Lee, who just finished his first year of seminary. (Photo: Christina Capecchi / The Visitor)


Lisa Ling follows Fathers Gary and Todd as they minister to their new parishes. Tune in on Sunday night at 10 pm to see them celebrate Mass, baptize new members, visit the area hospital to anoint a woman suffering from liver disease as she awaits a transplant, reflect on loneliness (Fr. Gary: "A wise priest once told me: When you feel the loneliness, don't run away from it, turn it over to Jesus and see what he does."), and look back on hearing their first confessions, answering whether it's difficult to be nonjudgmental.

Those you will meet in "Called to the Collar:"

Meet the twins' parents, Agnes and Brian Koenigsknecht, who speak of their support for their sons' calling and quickly dismiss the question about not having grandchildren by explaining that "not everyone is called to marriage." It's good to note that the Koenigsknechts actually have ten children.

Agnes belongs to a support group for the mothers of seminarians. You will meet these women who explain that unless you have a son in the seminary you can't understand the challenges faced by both the sons and their families... Learn how they react to people who regularly remind them that they won't be grandmothers, and to those who are negative about the notion of priesthood as a vocation, as these proud Moms discuss the critical  need to pray for their sons as they journey through the seminary years.

A focus on their tiny hometown of Fowler, which includes one restaurant, two bridal shops, and a Catholic book-gift shop, reveals a largely Catholic, very faithful population. The owner of the Catholic shop shares that the local youth are "on fire for their faith." Asked about vocations to the priesthood, she replied without hesitation, "I would love to have a son that's a priest. That's every mothers dream in this community."

We meet the twins' Uncle Bill--Fr. William Koenigsknecht--and their younger brother Lee, age 19, who is discerning his vocation at this time. Speaking of being inspired by his older brothers, Lee explains, "They want to share God's love... I want to be able to do the same amount of good." Now in his second year of seminary at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, Lee speaks of homesickness during the first semester and how he overcame those feelings and adjusted to seminary life. He also addresses the issue of celibacy and not dating, especially when his seminary is located on a coed campus and women attend his college classes.

Meet the local pastor, Fr. Dennis Howard of Most Holy Trinity Church who has served the Catholic community for seven years. Asked why Catholicism is flourishing in Fowler,

"It's deeply rooted in the community. It is amazing how many people are really committed to preserving the faith and passing it on to their children."

Regarding vocations to the priesthood and four of his youth who are in discernment, Fr. Dennis reflected, "I think our job as parishes is to create an openness in the young people... Is this something God may be calling you to? We are aggressively trying to evangelize our young people. We provide lots of opportunities for them to encounter the Lord Jesus."

Watch this involved pastor playing volleyball and barbecuing with his youth group:

"Food is a great evangelization tool."

Meet 14-year old Charlie who has been an altar server since age 9. When asked if he has ever considered becoming a priest, Charlie smiled and said, "I'm open to it."

Lisa Ling presses on, "Has the Lord spoken to you?" to which Charlie eloquently responded, "I pray about it, asking the Lord what He wants me to be, but I haven't heard an answer yet, but you just keep on praying."

Rev. Mathias Thelen, faculty member at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, with parishioners at Queen of Miraculous Medal Catholic Church (Photo: Citizen Patriot file photo)


Meet 32-year old Fr. Matthias Thelen, a former sports star who had lots of girlfriends during his high school days, whose life changed when he started going to youth group:

"I started hearing the Gospel for the first time in a way that I could understand it. My heart started to grow in love with Jesus in a way that it had never had before."

Matthias entered the seminary "right after the scandals broke in the Church" as he wanted to "proclaim God in a world that is hurting."

He reflects on celibacy, the joys of the priesthood, and his new assignment at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit where he now works with spiritual formation and mentoring the next generation of priests. 

Bishop Earl Boyea, fifth Bishop of Lansing

Photo: Diocese of Lansing

Meet Bishop Earl Boyea of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan. The number of seminarians in his diocese has doubled over the last decade, with an average of almost thirty each year.

Listen to his responses when questioned about the priest abuse scandal and asked if mandatory celibacy has anything to do with what happened.

Lisa Ling noted to the bishop that there had been an accusation against a priest from Lansing, to which the bishop could not comment due to the nature of the investigation.

Bear in mind, it is not until the end of the show at the closing production credits that a written clarification notes that the Lansing priest in question was exonerated at the end of the investigation. Too bad most people will change the channel and miss seeing that update.

Photo: Catching Time Films

The program concludes:

The program concludes with Lisa Ling sharing a beer with seminarians at O'Berg's, the seminary pub. One of them told her, "The world needs priests that love Jesus, that love the people, so I want to be one of those guys that can do that."

Ling's final notes are actually pretty positive and upbeat.

She admits that it's "a radical decision to become a priest" and that she "really admires all these young men who want to change the perception of what it means to be a priest.... This is a brotherhood and, while they're young, despite feeling the weight of societal pressure, this life brings them overwhelming joy, and they're exactly where they want to be."

My perspective:

This program presents the increase in vocations to the priesthood and seminary enrollment in the Diocese of Lansing, highlighting the daily life, ministry, and family of several men.

These scenes were very well done. I'm sure they will be informative to those who tune in on Sunday, especially interested non-Catholics.

But I mentioned at the beginning that something didn't sit well with me....

My main concern about this program is the recurring theme that questions why a man would choose priesthood when there is the "stigma" caused by the priest abuse scandal. I suppose the investigative nature of the series chose this slant in order to increase public interest. They are in the rating business, yes?

Some of the following lines were used by Lisa Ling in reference to the seminary and priesthood while interviewing the men featured in "Called to the Collar:"

"....considering an occupation plagued by controversy."

"To find out who in the face of church scandal would choose the priesthood..."

"Much of the world now views the clergy with skepticism..."

"Large percentage that say priests are synonymous with abusers..."

Personally, I detest the unending negativity of the secular media surrounding the men who serve in the priesthood and who have been victimized by this negative perceptive over the past decade. The abuse scandal, as horrific and evil as it is, was perpetrated and covered up by a tiny percentage of Catholic clergy. The rest of the clergy and our seminarians continue to suffer from this horrible image portrayed by those who wish to bring the Church down. It appalls me. Lest we forget, other communities too have suffered similar crises. Reprehensible as this abuse has been, we must defend and support our priests, most of whom are good and holy servants of God and His Church.

A different slant?

After working with youth for almost forty years in parish religious education programs and as Campus Minister at John Carroll, I would have been more interested in exploring the deep faith and high vocations rate of this community in light of a contemporary culture that is largely unchurched, where many families who claim to be "Catholic" don't attend Mass except for "CEO" --Christmas, Easter, and other occasions such as funerals. That particular focus is worthy of an investigation and would share the joy of religious vocations and priesthood with others who might be inspired to return actively to their faith.

But I guess that slant wouldn't boost ratings.....

Input from the Diocese of Lansing:

I called the Diocese of Lansing to get their input on this documentary and found that Bishop Boyea is still in Baltimore for post-USCCB committee meetings. His assistant Julie was lovely and connected me with their Office of Vocations.

Fr. John Linden, Lansing's Director of Vocations and Seminarians, called me back while driving to St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Fr. John Linden, Director of Vocations and Seminarians, Diocese of Lansing (Photo: Diocese of Lansing)

Giving the background, Fr. Linden explained that the producer of "This is Life" had gotten in touch with the diocese early on about doing this segment in the Lansing area and explained their hope to focus on the high numbers of priestly vocations, highlighting the Koenigsknecht family. Citing an article done in June by "The New York Times" on the twins' ordinations, Fr. Linden was optimistic about this segment on CNN. "The New York Times did a fantastic job... We thought this was a good opportunity and that Lisa Ling would do something along those lines."

Referring to the documentary's recurring questions regarding the abuse scandal, Fr. Linden explained that during filming those questions kept coming up, and the priests and seminarians who were interviewed tried to eventually lead the conversation away from this topic, but found that they couldn't get away from it.

Fr. Linden further explained that though the topic of clergy abuse was brought up in each of the interviews done for "Called to the Collar," it is his hope that Ling's program will "open the door for people who are searching for answers and who might take another look to the Church and see why someone might seek out the Catholic faith."

He continued, "Tragically, this type of abuse is nowhere near exclusive to the Catholic Church. It has impacted virtually all other faith communities. It's a cultural problem which pervades all faiths and institutions.... On the other hand, we pray that viewers will see the young men featured in this program and be inspired by their faithful witness."

The bottom line:

I'm praying along with Fr. Linden that viewers might be inspired by the ministry and youthful enthusiasm of the men interviewed and become more active in their faith.

Watch and see what you think:

Email and let me know your thoughts:

Check out the trailer of "Called to the Collar:" 

"Lisa takes you into the world of the priesthood. Rebuilding a religion - one priest at a time. This is Life with Lisa Ling Sunday 11/16 at 10pm ET/PT."


Follow-up after-note:

There was much publicity surrounding Sunday night's final segment of the first season of Lisa Ling's "This is Life." 
"Called to the Collar" was highly anticipated by Catholic and non-Catholic viewers alike, with many church groups watching together at homes and parish halls, especially in the Diocese of Lansing where it was filmed.

I received a lot of feedback both before and after the broadcast from those who had read my review above. Many of the comments shared our interest in and strong support for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. 

There were varying opinions on Lisa Ling's interview questions regarding the abuse scandal and whether it was appropriate to press these young priests and seminarians. Her upbeat tone and positive interactions with those interviewed are to be commended. 

In the end, the program did a great job in highlighting the joys of the priesthood, with a special focus on the Koenigsknecht family of Fowler. The priests and seminarians who were interviewed gave an honest portrayal of their daily life, with its blessings and its challenges.

We pray that God's grace continues to work powerfully in the Diocese of Lansing and that all dioceses may be blessed with renewed faith and an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

View the full episode here:

November 14, 2014 10:36
By Patti Murphy Dohn

A fifteen-minute video pilgrimage in honor of the 225th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore

The Archdiocese of Baltimore was established on November 6, 1789.

In this 225th anniversary year, we are celebrating with special events and lots of historic memories.;

Last Sunday, a special anniversary Mass was celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to mark this festive occasion.

Check out the 225th anniversary slideshow from the Archdiocese of Baltimore here.

Join us for a video pilgrimage of historic sites:

Perhaps you will be inspired to visit the following historic landmarks in person.

1. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Have you been to America's First Cathedral?

Enjoy this one-minute video:

Want to read about the historic visit of Mother Teresa to the Baltimore Basilica?

Photos and story included here in "God is in the Clouds."

2. The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen:

Enjoy this one-minute video: 

Read more here about Cardinal Lawrence Shehan, the 12th Archbishop of Baltimore, whose ministry centered on key events held at this beautiful cathedral, including his 1984 Funeral Mass.

3. Hike Catholic Baltimore's Main Street: Charles Street:

This two-and-a half minute video-walk down Memory Lane includes: Homewood Museum, home of Charles Carroll of Homewood; the location of the old O'Neill's Department Store, Homewood House at Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Museum of Art,

St. Philip and James Church, the location of the old Seton High School, Loyola Blakefield, Villa Assumpta, Mount Vernon, the Archbishop's Residence, and the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

4. St. Mary's Seminary and University:

Visit America's first seminary in this one-minute video.


Read more in Elizabeth Lowe's "A day in the life at St. Mary's Seminary and University"

Includes a wonderful 52-photo slideshow by Catholic Review Staff Photographer Tom McCarthy Jr.

5. The first and only papal visit to the Archdiocese of Baltimore:

Were you present at one of the most historic moments ever in Baltimore Church history: the 1995 visit of Pope St. John Paul II?

What a great memory recaptured here in this one-and-a half minute video:

Read more about that historic day with more photos here in God is in the Clouds.

6. The Catholic Review produced this 5-minute overview of "Two Days in the Life of the Archdiocese of Baltimore."

Staff Photographer Tom McCarthy Jr. logged 40 hours and travelled 530 miles from sunrise October 1 to sunset October 2 to capture a vast myriad of the activities occurring all over our Premier See.

To read more about the places and activities included in the video, read here.

7. The National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Mount St. Mary's Seminary and University:

We hope you have enjoyed this video-pilgrimage and will take the opportunity to visit some of our landmark locations in the Archdiocese of Baltimore during your family's next free weekend or vacation.

There's so much to see in your Premier See.

God is good... All the time!!

November 10, 2014 11:39
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Grieving the loss of a young person: Words of comfort and advice from her Mom

A series on grief and mourning for the month of November:

During my years in ministry at John Carroll, as I shared in Part 1 of this series, I was often called upon to "walk" with families who were in crisis-mode and in need of pastoral care. It has always been a humbling experience working closely with families who are experiencing deep sorrow and grief.

I had such a huge response to my request for input from those who have experienced the loss of a loved one for "God is in the Clouds" that I have developed an entire series on recurrent themes and advice from those who have lost loved ones. In just three days, I received dozens of expressions of interest from people of all ages and backgrounds.

After reflection on a series of questions and interviews, I have gathered thirty-four stories of personal heartache and loss. This input on grief came from persons who poured out their hearts, reflecting on the death of a loved one, and giving input on how they started the process of healing their hearts. Many of them expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to put their experiences into words, and hopefully to bring comfort and support to others.

May this November series on grief and mourning offer helpful insights for both those who have lost loved ones, as well as those who are trying to support others who are experiencing loss. 

Hannah's story is first with much reflection and input from her Mom and Dad:

Hannah Mackensie Kriss, John Carroll Class of 2012

One of the most unnatural things in this world is for a parent to bury their child. Chuck and Lisa Kriss of Forest Hill can attest to this with great sadness.

Their youngest daughter, Hannah Mackensie Kriss was just 18 years old when she died in a three-car accident in Joppa two months after her 2012 graduation from The John Carroll School. A competitive hip-hop dancer and cheerleader, Hannah was also a coach at VIP Athletics, formerly known as Vipers All-Star Cheer and Dance.

Lighting up the hallways and classrooms at John Carroll with her huge smile, Hannah was well-loved by her teachers and her huge group of classmates. I had known Hannah and her family for many years. Her older brother went to school with my son since their preschool days at nearby St. Margaret School.

Photo from the Kriss Family

Hannah's Mom, Lisa Kriss, shared about the beauty of her beloved youngest daughter.

"Hannah lived her life to the fullest. She felt that her calling was to help others at all times. We believed she was secure within herself throughout her life. Hannah was a cheerleader and phenomenal dancer/performer. The stage was her second home."

Sadly, Hannah's beautiful smile was to become a beautiful memory. Just five weeks after celebrating her festive Fourth of July birthday, Hannah died tragically in that horrific car accident.

Lisa and Chuck spoke about August 14, 2012:

"Hannah wasn’t feeling well, so she called out of work that day and went to visit a friend.  We found out about the car accident that afternoon."

Helpful expressions of concern:

Chuck and Lisa Kriss share what helped their family deal with this unimaginable loss:

1. Smile: 

"Show warmth and care in your eyes and your smile.  Try to share the pain through your eyes.  Words are NOT needed."

2. Food:

"Immediately our community responded with food.  That was comforting to our family.  It allowed us to not worry about the next meal.  We found a large need to just be together.  Lots of tears, anger, frustration, we were allowed to let it all out, together."

3. Show up:

"Many people appeared to support us.  We filled the big church, standing room only, at Hannah’s memorial mass.  Her high school’s football team came as a unit. Powerful presence. Support. Love."

4. Clergy care:

"Father Mike ( Msgr. Michael Schleupner) at St. Margaret Church was most helpful with his presence, his demeanor, his support.  He is still a source of comfort for us, every weekend in Church.  We look for Father Mike.  We know he is ALWAYS available for us."

5. Talk:

"Even though it was definitely painful and we cried, we wanted people to talk about Hannah and remind us what a good old soul she was in life."

6. Cards and Mass cards:

"(These acknowledgements)... help you know that you are thought of and prayed for."

7. The Hannah Kriss Foundation:

"We started "The Hannah Kriss Foundation" in response to all of the donations that poured in.  We did not want the money to be spent on flowers, rather we wanted to find a way to help others, by paying it forward.  We have supported the middle school retreat program at St. Margaret School for the past two years. We funded Net Ministries to provide the annual retreats for the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.  We will continue to do so.  We also provide scholarships to cheerleaders/dancers at Vipers, which was where Hannah danced and cheered.

"In order to fund the Foundation, we have an annual walk/race in May.  It is refreshing to have everyone come together, family, friends, community members.  We are always surprised each year with a new person whom Hannah had influence over that we did not know about before.

"We are constantly looking for other opportunities to pay it forward. That is our Hannah..."

What was NOT helpful?

Lisa and Chuck share: "Grief is such a personal thing."

1. No one should ever say, "This shall pass." It does not pass. You learn to live your life differently. Your grief will be with you forever.

2. If you have not lost a child, don't say you understand: You do not know the pain.

3. Don't ask, "What can I do?"  If you don’t know, don’t ask.

4. Don't assume that all is ever well. Life is forever changed.

5. Don't think there is a mourning period, then it's over.

"We feel pain everyday-at odd times-and have learned to say to ourselves “don’t go there, get it together.”

After the post-funeral luncheon on August 18, 2012, an open-microphone wake service was held at St. Mary Magdalen Mission so that all the young people who knew Hannah through school or the dance/cheer programs could express their memories and process their grief together. (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)

Lisa and Chuck's advice to those who are newly grieving:

1. CRY. 

2. Be alone--or be with someone--when needed. 

3. Do WHATEVER it takes to find your center. 

"In our family, Hannah’s older sister became a nurse and a yoga instructor-she helps others at all times.  Hannah’s older brother is becoming a nurse-he has found his calling.  Hannah’s younger brother has been active in peer ministry and as a peer educator at Calvert Hall.  He will attend Mount Saint Mary’s University in the Fall of 2015."

4. PRAY.

5. Seek solace-anywhere you can.  

"Find PEACE for yourself."

6. Change up your life:

"Live to please others. Find grace in GOD."

7. Talk to others, as you are comfortable.

8. Talk about your loved one. 

"Others will “tiptoe” around you because they don’t want you to get upset. I want to talk about Hannah.  I constantly reference her--so no one forgets.  I remember, so I want everyone else to remember her."

8.  Don’t worry about “giving away” the items that belonged (to your loved one)....  Keep them as long as you want. 

"When the Hurricane Sandy struck in New Jersey and our community was taking clothes to those who lost everything, we gathered all of Hannah’s clothes, and a friend delivered them to the needy community. That helped us to know that Hannah was still helping others. 

"It will never get easy. I am still finding items that I forgot I had saved...such as cards and pictures that Hannah made for us.  I still cry everyday."

9.  Talk to your loved one:

"Do it aloud, or in your mind, or while doing chores.  You are totally sane.  Talking is comfort."

Graduation day at John Carroll: June 2, 2012

Lisa and Chuck's advice to those who want to help someone who is grief:


2.  Pray with them.

3.  Don’t stop offering to be with them, even if they are NOT ready yet. 

"Don’t forget them."

4.  Don’t act like life is normal: 

"It is not normal and will never be normal again...  A piece is missing. Acknowledge that loss and be upfront and honest. Tell them you don’t know how they feel, but you will always be available."

5.  Be patient with them.

6.  If you find a picture of their loved one, among your own pictures, share it:

"One of my favorite pictures of Hannah came from a stranger who knew it would bring us comfort.  Hannah was cheering at a high school football game, smiling up at heaven." 

7.  Random acts of kindness are priceless-pay it forward always.

8.  Silence and forgetting about the death are WRONG. 


The Kriss Family gathers to pray and remember at Hannah's final resting place

(Photo from Andrew Kriss)

"Think of your child, then, not as dead, but as living; not as a flower that has withered, but as one that is transplanted, and touched by a Divine hand, is blooming in richer colors."

--Richard Hooker (1554–1600), Anglican theologian

How faith helped the Kriss Family during their pain and sorrow?

Lisa and Chuck share:

"Our faith has saved us.  We did not realize how much we needed help from our Church-daily through prayer and weekly through Mass. 

"We know our Hannah’s life had purpose. She has saved us all. We all live differently now because of Hannah."

On regrets: 

"Yes, it should not have taken her passing to make us live our lives differently. We believe with all our hearts that we will be reunited again some day. 

"We believe that Hannah is with God.  She is an angel who helps God and others at all times... Hannah helps us too. We all talk to her and to God. 

"God has a plan for all of us. We need to find our purpose and live each day with that in mind.  We know God is Good." 

On other family deaths:

"In January 2009, Hannah’s grandfather, my Dad, died of a heart attack. Then in June 2012, Hannah’s godmother, Chuck’s aunt, died of cancer, just two months before Hannah's death. We believe these two untimely deaths were preparation for what happened to Hannah. We believe these two were with Hannah to help her transition to heaven. 

"We also needed to go through that grieving process so we were better prepared for Hannah’s passing."

On remembering:

"Having a whole school community pray for Hannah is comforting. Annual All Soul’s Day Masses at John Carroll are hard, but necessary."

Looking for signs of comfort:

Lisa shares: "Everyday, we look for signs, as we know Hannah is with us... a shooting star, a feather, numbers, songs. 

"I recall one particular day when I was having a horrible day...  I could not stop crying, and I needed to put on my game face for work.  I was driving along the beltway and turned on the radio to get the weather report since snow was in the forecast. 

"Immediately a song came on that was the “calming” song of Hannah’s cheer team before they took the floor to perform.  I cried even harder, but smiled even more. She was communicating with me through song, I just know it."


After the post-funeral luncheon and open microphone wake service for young people was held at St. Mary Magdalen Mission on August 18, 2012, there was a memorial launching of Chinese lanterns. (Photos by Patti Murphy Dohn)


"Memories with Hannah"

Video tribute by Adam Lazoff, Kelly McCormick, Callie Hentz, and Jackie Mooney, John Carroll Class of 2012 

November 06, 2014 02:01
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Vocation Awareness Week: Advice from Fr. James Martin, SJ, a Dominican sister, and a Baltimore deacon on hearing God's call

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything."

~Very Rev. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991), the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus

November 2-8, 2014 marks National Vocation Awareness Week here in the United States. Sponsored by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops since 1976, this annual celebration focuses on promoting  "vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations."

As a huge proponent of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as well as a member of the Screening Board for Archdiocese of Baltimore's Office of Vocations, I have always been an advocate for those discerning God's will for their lives. Religious sisters, brothers, and priests have been a huge part of my lifelong faith journey.

Today I feature a look at vocational discernment with three persons who have committed their lives to the service of God and His Church.

Rev. James Martin, SJ

"Mwamini Mungu si mtovu."  (Who trusts in God lacks nothing.)

--Swahili Proverb

Fr. James Martin, SJ is a familiar name in many Catholic households. He is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of numerous essays and books, including "Jesus: A Pilgrimage," "My Life with the Saints" and "Becoming Who You Are."

After graduating from Penn's Wharton School of Business in 1982 and working for six years in corporate finance for General Electric, Jim entered the Jesuit novitiate on August 28, 1988. The journey toward final profession included many steps and milestones, three of which were: profession of First Vows on August 19, 1990, his ordination to the priesthood on June 13, 1999, and professing Final Vows on All Saints Day, November 1, 2009.  In Fr. Martin's words, "Jesuit formation is pretty long!"

Why the Jesuits?

Fr. Martin shares:

"I didn't know much about the Jesuits and had also considered the diocesan clergy as well.  My first "pull" was to the priesthood, not religious life, since I didn't know much about religious life at all.  But once I met the Jesuits I felt that I had found what I was looking for.  They just "clicked" with me.  Their open-minded and world-affirming spirituality seemed to make so much sense."

What are the joys of religious life?

"Countless!  For me, being a religious and being a priest means not only deepening my own relationship with God, but helping others deepen theirs.  That's my greatest joy: helping others see God's presence in their lives."

Fr. Martin's advice to young people discerning their vocation:

"Trust your deepest desires.  That attraction you feel to your vocation or to a particular way of life, whatever it is, is God's calling you."

On his ministry in Nairobi:

"The most exciting, satisfying and fulfilling apostolate in my time as a Jesuit was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Nairobi, Kenya.  I was there for two years, as part of my Jesuit training, helping East African refugees start small business.  I couldn't believe how much fun it was, or how fulfilling it was.  There is nothing like working with the materially poor.  God is so close to them, and by being with them you feel closer to God yourself."

Read more about Fr. Martin's time in Nairobi in his 1999 book "This Our Exile: A Spiritual Journey with the Refugees of East Africa."

Orbis Books writes

Seamlessly combining spiritual writing, reportage, travel narrative, humor, and recent history, bestselling author James Martin recalls his time as a young Jesuit working with the refugees in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Drawing on his previous experience in the business world, he imagined that he had much to teach the refugees. But they would end up teaching him much more about life, about survival and faith, and about love and friendship.

With stories that are by turns frankly incredible, darkly comic, inspirational, tragic, and always provocative, this compelling work is a wonderfully realized tribute to our shared humanity."

Ministry with the Jesuit Refugee Service (1992-1994):

Photos and captions from Fr. James Martin, SJ:

"Adjudicating a dispute between a Rwandese women's sewing cooperative sponsored by Jesuit Refugee Service/East Africa (the Splendid Tailoring Shop and School) and their landlord. We're in the Riruta neighborhood in Nairobi. Gauddy Ruzage, whose story is told in "This Our Exile," is in the orange print dress. You can see that Gauddy was not happy with her landlord that day. Their shop was above Ray's Butchery."


"With Cesaire Mukamwiza Kanjoui, a Rwandese refugee (and former nurse) who made lovely necklaces and bracelets that we sold in the Mikono Centre, in the Kangemi section of Nairobi. We're sitting on the porch of the Mikono Centre, where the refugees used to congregate. The signs in the window (announcements of coming events) were always written in five languages: English, French, Swahili, Kinyarwanda and Luganda." (The story of Mikono Centre is told in "This Our Exile.")  Photo: Michael Coyne/JRS


"With the staff of the Mikono Center, the JRS income-generating office and shop, in Nairobi, near St. Joseph the Worker Church. Patricia Njeri, Virginia Gatonye, Michael Schopf, SJ, and a visiting Loretto Sister. That sign was carved by a Mozambiquan refugee named Tom Peter Zuze."


Sister Philip Joseph Davis, OP

"Always keep in mind that God wants Mount de Sales Academy. The evidence is all around you. He has helped us thus far, and will continue to do so if we believe in our hearts, minds and souls that God will provide. Whatever He wants will happen. If He doesn't want it, we don't want it either. We are happy only to the extent that we do His will. If we impede His will, He will always bring good out of our mistakes."

--Sister Philip Joseph Davis, OP speaks of her dreams for Mount de Sales Academy during her farewell in June


One of the many joys of my service on the Screening Board for Archdiocese of Baltimore's Office of Vocations was working with the beautiful and inspiring Dominican, Sister Philip Joseph Davis, OP.

The former Director of Academy Advancement at Mount de Sales Academy, she was one of three sisters who arrived to administrate the school in 1985, starting what Fr. Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Church in Manchester, called the "Dominican Renaissance."

A daughter of Nashville:

Three months after her graduation from St. Cecelia Academy in Nashville, the former Miss Davis joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia, professing her first vows two years later on the Feast of St. Anthony, June 13, 1964. Sister Philip taught first grade at a Nashville parochial school before returning to her high school alma mater to teach Religion and serve as Guidance Counselor until 1984.

Welcome to Baltimore:

When Sister Philip arrived at Mount de Sales Academy the following school year, enrollment was 180 girls. She was named principal, serving from 1986-1988, while increasing enrollment and overseeing renovations and updates in the aged facility.

After four years back in Nashville, Sister Philip returned to MDSA in 1992, working primarily as Director of Academy Advancement. Among the major projects she spearheaded were a new gym which was dedicated by Cardinal Keeler in 1998, the restoration of Alumnae Hall in 2001, the new convent in 2011, and new turf fields in 2013.

Honoring Sister Philip's ministry:

Mount de Sales held a festive celebration this past June 1 which included a tribute in honor of Sister Philip's Golden Jubilee. The St. Joseph Fund for the Performing Arts was established by the school in honor of her many years of service.

Four days later, the students and faculty gathered with area friends to bid farewell to Sister Philip as she finished her ministry in Maryland. She was lauded as "a pioneer, visionary, and role model of faith." Sister's new assignment will be to create a perpetual adoration chapel at her congregation's Aquinas College back home in Nashville.

Read more about Sister Philip's ministry in the latest edition of "Cupola," the magazine of Mount de Sales Academy.

Why the Dominicans?

"I was born in Nashville Tennessee so it was a natural to be in my own diocese.  I had a choice of two congregations in the Nashville area:  The Mercy Sisters (RSM) and the Dominican Sisters (OP). My father and mother and all of their families had been educated by the Mercy Sisters.  When it came time for their children to be educated, my mother wanted us to be educated by the Dominican Sisters because she thought they were the best educators.  When they opened a grade school in the west end of Nashville she placed most of us there. My three older brothers did not want to change schools so they remained at the Cathedral School.

When I was ready to enter at 17 years of age, I had been taught by the Dominican Sisters for 12 years, and also I loved their white habit.  I did not want to spend my entire life in black. That is literally true of my thinking at age 17."

What are the joys of religious life?

"The greatest joy is giving your life totally to God.  When I entered I really didn't think of teaching or being in some form of education.  All I wanted to do was consecrate my entire life to God.  The teaching aspect was secondary and not really a consideration for me."

Sister Philip's advice to young people discerning their vocation:

"My advice to those trying to discern their vocation, whether it be to married, religious or single life, is to PRAY. Attend Mass daily and receive Communion, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Ask Him, "What do you want me to do for you?" We have to ask God what He wants and He'll show us the way.

Also, the Rosary is the other daily exercise that is so important in discerning one's vocation. The Rosary, in a certain sense, "tills" the soil (soul) and prepares it to receive the Word of God to go forth and do whatever He wants. A good time to pray five mysteries of the Rosary is while driving in their car.  Jesus and Mary will point out the way."

On the joys of teaching:

"I would have to say teaching because you are basically handing on the faith no matter what you teach. Certainly, most importantly, when we actually teach the faith, but all subjects can be seen through the "Eyes of God."


"To contemplate and to give to others the fruits of our contemplation"

--Dominican motto

Perpetual Adoration Chapel at Aquinas College:

Sister Philip is back in Nashville now, working at her congregation's school of higher education, Aquinas College. The former campus Carriage House was renovated for use as the only chapel in the Diocese of Nashville offering perpetual adoration.

Corpus Christi Adoration Chapel

Bishop David R. Choby was on campus on October 22 to preside at the dedication of the Corpus Christi Adoration Chapel. Sister Philip was filled with joy as she spoke of the new chapel, noting that it opened ond the first feast day of Pope Saint John Paul II as a saint. He spoke often of deep devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Read about this historic chapel dedication day here.

The Cardinal Newman Society highlighted this event in their Catholic Education Daily:

     Read "Aquinas College ‘Furthers Catholic Mission’ with Dedication of New Adoration Chapel" here.

Watch a slideshow of photos from the dedication of the Corpus Christi Chapel here.

Want to pray from a distance before the Blessed Sacrament at the Corpus Christi Adoration Chapel?

     Click here to join in via their live webcam.

Enjoy these photos: 

Taken during Sister Philip's Golden Jubilee celebration and festivities held the weekend of June 22 at the Dominican Motherhouse in Nashville: 

Sister Philip Joseph (right) with Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore and Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and three young Dominican Sisters, all graduates of Mount de Sales Academy: (from left) Sister Anna Margaret Smith, OP, Sister Mary Caroline Ames, OP, and Sister Grace Dominic Hargadon, OP. 


Sister Philip Joseph with Cardinal Edwin O'Brien;


Celebrating with Sister Philip at the dinner the night before her Jubilee Mass: Father Jerry Francik, pastor of St. Mark Church, Fallston, and Father William P. Foley, Director of Pastoral Care for Retired Priests


Sister Philip with Father Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Church and past-President of the Mount de Sales Board of Trustees;


Sister Philip was the youngest of the nine Davis children; Seen here with her five living siblings (from left): Helen Davis Alexander, Alphonse Davis, Sister Philip, Francis Davis, Robert Davis, and Jane Davis Manning.

The three eldest siblings, Mary Jo Davis Levine, Philip Davis, and John Davis, have passed on to Eternal Life.


John Carroll Patriot legacy:

Deacon Martin J. Perry ministers at his lifelong parish of St. Mark Church in Fallston and is a graduate of The John Carroll School, as is his wife Natalie.

They passed the JC legacy onto their four children:

Amy Perry Nash, Class of 2005, and her husband Joseph Nash '04, are the proud parents of Audrey and Austin;

Laura Perry graduated in 2007;

and twin brothers, Sean and Vincent, are part of the JC Class of 2012.

In actuality, being a Patriot was always in Marty's blood. His Dad, Joseph, was the longtime Director of Guidance. Joe Perry and his wife Kathleen, Marty's Mom, raised twelve children and seven foster children, and sent most of them to John Carroll.

Hearing God's call:

Marty heard God's voice and discerned a calling to serve God and the Church as a deacon, and started his formal instruction in the Fall of 2000. He was ordained by Cardinal William Keeler on May 17, 2003.

He was grateful to be placed at his home parish of St. Mark in Fallston, where he has served since his ordination.

Deacon Perry explains, "Although permanent deacons serve at the discretion of their bishop, since I had a young family--my kids were 16,14,and 10 when I was ordained-- I requested my home parish of St. Mark, Fallston, so as to minimize disruption to my family. I was happy to find out, just a few weeks prior to ordination, that my request was granted."

On the joys of being a deacon:

"There are so many...

Walking with grieving families and aiding their understanding and acceptance of loved one's passing during wake services and funerals;

Hearing affirmation of the Holy Spirit's work as parishioners respond with grateful appreciation to a Sunday homily;

And even more so when a visit to a dying man and his family affords an opportunity for healing grace when they ask the challenging questions "Where is God in all of this?"

Preaching for the elderly residents at St. Martin's Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor--all the while realizing that their lives - lived in humble submission to God's will as they approach the end of their time on Earth - speak more eloquently than I ever could on what it means to walk with Christ.... 

And of course, assisting our priests at the Altar, and participating in a small way in their shared sacrifice expressed both in Sacrament and in their total gift of self for the people of God... 

And in the aid and encouragement of my wife, who so humbly encourages me to say 'yes' when she knows that I am needed, and to occasionally say 'no' when more balance is needed."

Deacon Marty Perry with his wife Natalie

Deacon Perry's advice to young people discerning their vocation:

"Trust your heart and spend time before the Blessed Sacrament in simple, quiet anticipation of whispered guidance."

The joys of the married diaconate:

"Being a husband, father, grandfather, and permanent deacon has provided many challenges and many particularly joyful rewards.  I have experienced the immense joys of bringing my own grandchildren into the embrace of Christ through Baptism."


Joy that knows no end: Deacon Marty Perry had just baptized his grandson, Austin Nash; This is one of Marty's all-time favorite ministry photos. We can surely see why...


"I have helped young couples better understand the Sacrament of Marriage and witness their vows. This includes young people that we have known from the time they were children through our own children. 

Also, having the neighbor kids down the street affectionately refer to me around home as "Deacon Daddy."

Deacon Marty and Natalie with grandchildren Audrey and Austin at the beach


The Perry Crew: Marty and Natalie's four children and two grandchildren; two girlfriends and one boyfriend at the beach; The only one missing is son-in-law Joe who was deployed at the time with the Air Force.


Do you know someone discerning a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, or diaconate?

Pray for and with them:

Prayer to know one's vocation:

Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you. 

But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength righ to the end. Jesus, I trust in you.


November 04, 2014 02:09
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Grief and mourning: Words of comfort and advice: Part 1

Image credit

"The great and sad mistake of many to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. 

They do not leave us.  They remain! 

Where are they?  In the darkness? 

Oh, no!  It is we who are in darkness. 

We do not see them, but they see us. 

Their eyes, radiant with glory, are fixed upon our eyes...Oh, infinite consolation! 

Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent...

They are living near us, transfigured...into light, into power, into love."

--Karl Rahner, SJ (1904-1984)

With the arrival of November, we realize anew how quickly time does go by. Before we know it, the holidays will here again. Such is the cycle of life.

From the day we are born, we are on the journey Home toward our everlasting life in Heaven. We try to live our lives as people of faith and hope.

"There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

--Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

November prayer intentions:

The first two days of November offer us times to pray and remember with the Solemnity of All Saints (November 1) and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day on November 2). And as we know, the entire month of November is a special time to focus on remembering those who have gone before us.

For some people, it is not easy to remember their loved ones without experiencing anew that overwhelming sense of grief and mourning.

Crisis ministry:

In an interview with The Catholic Review in 2012, I told then-Social Media Specialist Matt Palmer,

"It seems that crisis ministry has become my calling within a calling."

During my many years at The John Carroll School, I was often called upon to "walk" with families who were in crisis-mode and in need of pastoral care. Many members of the school community still turn to me now in my retirement when they are in need, or call and text when they become aware of another family who is in crisis.

It is always a humbling privilege to be there for families who are going through their darkest days, experiencing worry, fear, grief, sorrow, and a flood of other emotions.

Three summers ago, while I was in Florida for five weeks, three deaths occurred within JC families. It was important that I found new ways of ministering to the needs of my students and their families from across that distance. Creative uses of social media, along with phone calls, texting, and the use of Facetime and instant messaging became my lifelines with these families. Networking with our parish priests and youth ministers across the miles made this long-distance ministry work while I was out of town.

In actuality, this blog came about in 2012 as a result of this work ministering to families who were suffering. I call my blog "God is in the Clouds" as I write about life, faith, and Church history with a focus on God's presence with each one of us on our life journey. 

As many of you know, I have always declared:

In good times and in bad, God is good... All the time!!

Part 1 in a series on grief and mourning:

During this coming month of November, I will share with you reflections from people of all ages and backgrounds on how they have experienced grief and healing from the loss of a loved one. Included will be advice and wisdom on what has helped and what was not so helpful.

Just as the circumstances of one's death are so different, so too are the ways that persons experience the death of a loved one. There are no rules and "normals" when it comes to grief. Each individual person must determine what is best for him or her. But it does help to hear about what others have gone through and how they learned to heal their hearts.

As those in grief have found, life goes on around us even when they are experiencing deep sadness and sorrow. It is my hope and prayer that this November series on grief and mourning can offer helpful insights for both those who have lost loved ones, as well as those who are trying to support others who are experiencing loss.

This series will include entries on the loss of:

--Babies and young children;

--Adult children;



--Siblings and dear friends;

--Loss due to suicide.

--Loss stemming from non-death circumstances.

Want to share your experiences?

If you would like to join in and offer your personal input on your experiences of grief and mourning, please email me at:

I will then share with you a series of questions for you to reflect upon before sending back your comments.

You might offer an insight or piece of advice that would help another person. That's my hope for this series.

"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

--St. Augustine, "Confessions"

October 30, 2014 12:02
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Amid the swaying palm trees: St. Jude Church in Tequesta, Florida

Timing is everything...

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Jude, patron in cases of despair and desperation. And I just had a wonderful and spontaneous visit yesterday to a South Florida church named for this very popular saint.

The Village of Tequesta:

My husband and I took a drive north on Monday morning from Singer Island, Palm Beach, Florida to register one of our cars at the Department of Motor Vehicles, located across the county line in Hobe Sound. As we approached Martin County, we passed through the areas of Juno Beach, Jupiter, and Tequesta.

The Village of Tequesta, the northernmost municipality in South Florida, is a tiny 2.2 square mile section of land and water in Palm Beach County. According to 2013 census updates, its population is listed at just over 5800.

Tequesta's Catholics gather to worship at St. Jude Church, the most northern parish in the Diocese of Palm Beach, located at 204 U.S. Highway One. This beautiful church caught my attention as we drove by, its towering cross over the large church seen for quite a distance. Beckoning us in, and beautifully landscaped with palm trees and native flowers, my husband assured me that we would stop by on our way back from the DMV so I could check it out.

Catholicism in Tequesta:

Founded as the Jupiter Catholic Mission Church in 1957 when Tequesta was founded, the first Mass was celebrated in a local hall. Four and a half years later, the Village of Tequesta annexed fifteen acres for the building of the new Catholic church.

Built in less than seven months from the groundbreaking on May 27, 1962, the 500-seat church would be dedicated by Bishop Coleman Carroll, the Bishop of Miami, on December 16.

Bishop Carroll was appointed the first Bishop of Miami when the diocese was founded in 1958, becoming archbishop in 1968 when the diocese was elevated to archdiocese by Pope Paul VI, and serving until his death in 1977. The Diocese of Palm Beach was not established until 1984.

Adding a parish center in 1980, the parish underwent a huge renovation project in the early 1990s to enlarge the church to seat 1200 parishioners, and to add new parish offices and a rectory. Bishop Joseph Keith Symons, the second Bishop of Palm Beach (1990-1998), dedicated these new structures on the Eve of All Saints, 1993.

In August of 2003, the first inter-parochial elementary school, serving the families of St. Jude's and five other northern Palm Beach parishes, was opened. All Saints Catholic School is located in nearby Jupiter and has students in pre-school through grade 8.

St. Jude Church:

Today the church, with its beautiful towering cross, stands as a sign of welcome to those travelling up and down the main route.

So too was Tom Lehman, the parish's Facilities Manager, who greeted me while outside supervising a landscaping project, and showed me which door was unlocked for my self-guided tour.

The beautiful chapel is located at the front of the church. The chapel's congregation can look into the huge church through glass partitions directly behind the altar. It's a wonderful arrangement with the altars back to back, the main church's tabernacle visible from the chapel (as seen in the photo above), and a sense of unity from all locations.

Entering the main church, you are drawn in to the beauty of the enormous stained glass windows over the main altar and surrounding the entire worship space.


Mysteries of the Rosary and Stations of the Cross are illustrated in colorful splendor.

I love this beautiful entrance....

Such beauty!!


In the rear of the main church are prie-dieux before small altars in honor of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Maximilian Kolbe, along with candles for special intentions near a Divine Mercy image of Our Lord. A papal blessing from Pope Benedict XVI is displayed nearby in honor of the parish's fiftieth anniversary in 2007 on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The parish is very supportive of its young families, with lots of ministries available to meet their needs and two large "Family Rooms" for use during Mass.


More stained glass windows close up:


Behind the church:

Located behind the church is a beautiful, landscaped plaza with benches in the shade providing a peaceful setting for prayer or socializing. Statues and areas for meditation are arranged in this park-like setting.


In memory of the pre-born:

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for a return to the  untrue of life in our world. Amen.


"I will spend my Heaven doing good in earth.

My mission is to make God known and loved.

After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses."

--St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower


At the center of the parish plaza is an incredible statue of our Lord's crucifixion with Blessed Mother and John the Apostle gazing up at Him. It is easy to imagine the Stations of the Cross ending in this courtyard-like area.


Many blessings on this Feast of St. Jude to our new friends at St. Jude Church!!

God is good... All the time!!


Did you know about the beautiful basilica in Key West?

Check it out...

Want to read about another beautiful Florida church?

Check out my article on Catholicism in the Florida Keys, with a special focus on the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West.

The oldest parish in South Florida, this congregation traces its roots back to the sixteenth century when Florida was a Spanish territory, and Key West, known then as Cayo Hueso ("Island of Bones"), was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Havana, Cuba.

This tropical church was just raised to the status of minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

Check out 25 of the photos I took while vacationing last year in the Keys during Easter Week.

Read more here.

October 28, 2014 01:34
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Focusing on courtesy and safety on the roads: Ten Commandments for drivers

"Roads are simply no longer communication routes; they have become places where we spend a great part of our lives." --Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

Have you ever been the victim of road rage? Have you caused road rage? 

Does heavy traffic become an occasion of bad language?

Do you shake your head when witnessing the bad driving habits of motorists who share the road with you?

"We know that as a consequence of transgressions and negligence, 1.2 million people die each year on the roads... That's a sad reality, and at the same time, a great challenge for society and the church."

--Cardinal Renato Martino, Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Car accidents have long been the leading cause of death among young people. Every time we turn on the news we hear of yet another person who lost their life in a car accident. Even Pope Francis's family has been in mourning due to tragedy on the road. The wife and two young children of his nephew were killed in a crash this August in Argentina.

Did you know that the Vatican published "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road" in 2007?

Issued by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the 59-page document urges prayer for safe traveling, including the recitation of the rosary, and provides a section modeled off the biblical Ten Commandments.

The “Drivers’ Ten Commandments:"

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the freedom of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect those who are more vulnerable.

10. Behave responsibly in relation to others.

Safety first:

Perhaps reading over this set of "Ten Commandments" with our families will provide opportunities for good discussion, as well as reflection on personal practices and attitudes. May these opportunities lead to better habits on the road and peace of mind while traveling.

October 23, 2014 09:26
By Patti Murphy Dohn

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