Reflections by Patti Murphy Dohn on the Church, family, grief, saints, and hope amidst the storms in our lives... May you always find that God is in the clouds! 

Patti Murphy Dohn retired in 2014 after 33 years of service as Campus Minister, retreat director, and Religion teacher at The John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland. Committed to making a difference in the lives of our youth and their families, she has served the school community since 1981. Presently, she continues her ministry through bereavement outreach, coordinating the school's alumni prayer chain, while archiving the school's history.  

Patti was awarded the Medal of Honor in Youth and Young Adult Ministry by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2012. She served the Archdiocese on the Screening Board for the Office of Vocations under Cardinal Keeler, Cardinal O'Brien, and Archbishop Lori. She is also a past-board member for the Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, MD. and Saint 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. She is available for speaking engagements, consulting, and retreat work.

Patti and her husband George split their time between their homes in Bel Air, Maryland and Singer Island, Palm Beach, Florida.


Twitter: @JCSMinistry

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Instagram: @PattiMurphyDohn

 God is good!! All the time!!



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Beautiful story! thank you for continuing to inspire us Patti.


And your BFF didn't know this story? Great article to read. I,can envision it! What an amazing intuition you followed. Someday soon we will talk more!

God is in the clouds

The impact of a Catholic education lasts a lifetime: Part 2

Catholic Schools Week: January 25-31, 2015


On Sunday I kicked off Catholic Schools Week (CSW) with my best memories from years past during my ministry at John Carroll and some reflections by grads of Catholic schools in Harford County.

In Part 2, I'll continue to share more reflections from Catholic school grads on the impact that this education had on their lives.

More reflections on our Catholic schools: 

"...her words come back to me."

 Mrs. Susan Fisher, retired John Carroll English department chair, attended grade school at St. Charles Borromeo in her native Toledo, Ohio.

She reminisced,

"An Ursuline sister, Sister St. Simon, my teacher for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, held me accountable and didn't allow easy A's.  She treated her students as adults with intelligence instead of as children.  She also boosted my confidence by publishing an essay about me as an example of why students should be trusted and given the freedom of their own ideas."

Susan later attended Mary Manse College in Toledo, a women's college which opened in 1922 and was also operated by the Ursuline Sisters. She reflected,

"Years later, I had the good fortune to attend a women's college where this same sister had transferred; I enrolled in her philosophy course, Metaphysics.  Every time I'm in an existential mood, her words come back to me.  I hope I became a teacher who was like her in that I tried to find the best in my students and to avoid talking down to them."

(Note: Mary Manse College eventually went coed in 1972, but when hard hit by economic times in the 1970s, declared bankruptcy and closed in 1975.)

Mrs. Fisher’s AP English class hosted Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz in 2011.

Bretholz was the author of “Leap into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe.”


Read more about their extraordinary classroom experience here.

Bretholz died in March of 2014 at age 93.

Read more about Leo Bretholz's impact on John Carroll students here.



"...beacons of morality and inspiration."


2014 John Carroll grad Lindsey McCumber is now a freshman at UCLA. She shares about the impact that John Carroll had on her life:

"After attending public schools during elementary and middle school grades, John Carroll was a breath of fresh air. The teachers stood not only as instructors, but as beacons of morality and inspiration.  

"Throughout my four years, I developed a higher moral compass and became a part of a strong community full of love and support... that way in part because of the community's shared faith. I can't believe that it was sheer chance that just about every faculty member and student was happy to come to school.

"I feel that because faith served as our school's foundation, somehow it made the experience more pleasant and enjoyable, and it always made me feel safe. I never realized this in its entirety until I spent time at a non-religious institution (at college now at UCLA)... There is definitely a difference.

"Another thing that really touched me was how whenever I would discuss my career aspirations with my teachers, they would refer to God's purpose/calling for me. That was unbelievably comforting, knowing that I wasn't pursuing a silly job, but rather finding out what I was meant to do.  

"It also made me feel like my teachers actually cared about me... And I can text some of them still today about everyday problems or trials. I don't know if my friends from public schools can do that."


Lindsey (center) performed in “Singing in the Rain” November of her junior year (2012).

Seen here with friends and castmates Karly (left) and Kyleigh (on right).


Lindsey and her classmates enjoy Senior Field Day which was held the week before graduation in May, 2014.


“...truly blessed to have such amazing students over the years”

Marie Prosser, a graduate of St. John the Evangelist School in Hydes, John Carroll in 1998, and then-College of Notre Dame of Maryland for her masters in teaching, shares about the strong impact that she experienced during her Catholic school days which led to her commitment to service and education.

Marie's service include teaching science first with the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps, then teaching physics and religion at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore in 2002-2003, chemistry at the Institute of Notre Dame, and biology at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Marie also taught Spoken English as a Salesian Lay Missioner in 2012-2013 at Don Bosco Catholic High School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ;8

She reflected on teachers who made a difference and on her own years in the classroom:  

"As you know, Catholic education has had a tremendous impact on my life.  All of the teachers who encouraged, inspired (and sometimes even challenged) me certainly gave me something I would not have gotten any other way.  Here are some examples:

"Sr. Ann (SSND) was my English teacher from fifth through eighth grade.  Because of Sister Ann, I have always known more about grammar than most people I interact with.  I think of her when I pedantically correct posts on Facebook. 

"Mr. Ralph Trautwein (Deacon at St. Ignatius, Hickory) taught my AP Bio class at John Carroll the year his wife was undergoing cancer treatment. He had to miss a lot of time to care for her, but he always made a point of being there for our AP class as much as he could.  The first chance I had, I "stole" his genetics lesson about the Blue People of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky 

"I always worry that I will run into an old student, and not know his or her name.  So far, that has not happened, thank goodness!  I have been truly blessed to have such amazing students over the years, and it has been great to watch them grow up. High school goes by very quickly, and the students graduate before you know it.  The students have always been the best part of the job of teaching. 

"I left teaching this year.  I'm not as young as I was when I started, and I didn't have the energy to keep up with teenagers any more.  I now work in an office, where it is much quieter and less stressful.  My second career as an engineer suits me well, and I do not miss the classroom...yet.  But I know the time will come when it is back to school time and I will wistfully think back to my own time as a Catholic school teacher. Should I ever have kids of my own, I'd hope to have the opportunity to send them to a Catholic school."

Read more about Marie's ministry in Ethiopia here. 


“Come, Live Life”

Our National Catholic Schools Week has parallel commemorations in nations all over the world.

Enjoy ‘Come, live life’ was written by Michael Mangan, an Australian Catholic school grad and former Catholic school teacher, for the Australian 2014 Catholic Education Week. Mangan served as co-ambassador for the annual celebration which was held last July 17 to August 2 and themed “Come, live life in all its fullness”.

January 29, 2015 10:34
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Music Monday: A tribute to teachers on the Feast of St. John Baptist de la Salle

“To be entrusted with the teaching of the young is a great gift and grace of God.”

“Young people need the light of watchful guides to lead them on the path of salvation.”  

“Your faith should be a shining light for those whom you teach.”

—Quotes of St. John Baptist de la Salle

Music Monday pays tribute today to our teachers with a special prayer and song.

Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. John Baptist de la Salle, founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, and patron saint of our Catholic schools and our teachers.

“The mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.”

—Blessed Basil Moreau, CSC, Founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross


Prayer for Teachers:

Lord Jesus, You taught with words and by example—but always with out of love.

Please guide our teachers during this school day and every day to create a positive learning environment for their students.

Give them strength to meet the needs of their diverse learners.

Give them patience when moments are trying.

Give them creativity to develop engaging lessons.

Give them humility to recognize when their students are actually teaching them.

And give them loving hearts so that they may always teach out of love, just as You did, Lord.


--Adapted from 'Prayer for Teachers' by Meredith McCarthy ‘95

“The Notre Dame Book of Prayer”

University of Notre Dame Office of Campus Ministry, Ave Maria Press, 2010 

“Teacher Appreciation” song by Brian Asselin and Eric Disero


"What is nobler than to mold the character of the young? I consider that he who knows how to form the youthful mind is truly greater than all painters, sculptors and all others of that sort.”—St. John Chrysostom

April 07, 2014 09:00
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Catholic Schools Week: What is the impact of Catholic education? Part 1



It's Catholic Schools Week.

This celebration at the end of January each year provides the opportunity for me to look back and give thanks for the gift of Catholic education in my life from both sides of the desk. Our Catholic schools have had a tremendous impact on the lives of students for generations.

I asked around and got some personal feedback from people of all ages. Here's what they had to say:


On the other side of the desk: God is still by my side:

Jessica Baldridge Smythe, a 2002 graduate of The John Carroll School, chuckles whenever she shares that her school history is full of Johns: She attended grade school at St. John the Evangelist in Hydes, high school at John Carroll, followed by Neumann College (named for St. John Neumann).

She “broke the trend” with graduate work at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Now Jessica is a second grade teacher at St. Joseph School in Fullerton, Baltimore County, where her students love her.

Jessica told me, “Catholic Schools made a huge difference in my life because I didn't have to go through anything without God right by my side. I continue my spiritual journey by teaching in a Catholic School now. I hope to give the children in my class the same positive experience that I received since I was 5 years old.”

Family-like sense of community:

Justin, a John Carroll junior, told me that being in a Catholic school can be summed up in one word: Family. He explains, “This school is truly a community.”

Shawn, a sophomore who has attended Catholic schools all his life, agrees: “I think going to a Catholic school has not only helped me academically, but also socially. I feel like I have a deeper and closer connection with all my peers.”

Tangwei, a freshman from China, just started studying for the second semester at John Carroll this month. He lives in St. Joseph Hall, the on-campus dorm, and told me: “It's good to study in a Catholic school because the students and teachers are friendly.”

David is a sophomore who attended St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen for six years before coming to high school. He shared: “Being in a Catholic school has provided a safe and friendly learning environment for me. I believe Catholic education will help me get into a good college so I may start my life with a good job and, hopefully, a lifelong career.”

Years of deep gratitude:

Emily is a junior who attended St. Joseph School in Fullerton before John Carroll: “I have had many Catholic Schools Weeks from going to St. Joe’s for so many years. I personally love it. We have a lot to be thankful for and it is nice to have a week to show that appreciation to everyone who deserves it.”

Emily reflected on Monday’s Grandparents Day and on Teacher Appreciation Day on Tuesday: “It’s easy to say that we appreciate our teachers and all they do, but to have a whole day to actually show them is different, and I think it means a lot to them. It’s also really nice that we take a day to appreciate our grandparents and parents, and this is honestly my favorite day. The fact that they have made so many sacrifices to be able to send us to a Catholic School often goes unrecognized by a lot of the students, and it is nice to spend a day with them to show how much it means and what we are getting from the sacrifices they have made.”

“Catholic education is very important to me because God has had a huge impact on my life throughout the years. Praying and being thankful is one thing, but learning about everything that He has done for me, just makes me that much more grateful. Having a class where we can discuss God and different morals makes you think a lot about other people’s opinions and thoughts which you don’t get in a math or science class. I feel like we are a true family at John Carroll.”

The first in her family to attend Catholic school:

Sophomore Denny shared her love for Catholic education with me: “Catholic schools means a lot to me. I’m the first in my family to go to a Catholic school. Before John Carroll, I knew almost nothing about Catholicism or my own faith. I didn’t know what saints were or who the Pope was. Now I can’t imagine going to a school where you don’t pray every day. I love going to classes and being able to share my prayer intentions with everyone and know there is a support group. JC really does feel like a family.”

Denny reflected back to eighth grade at her public middle school when there were two deaths that impacted her that year, one was a friend and the other, the sibling of another friend. “I had to find support outside of my school community. However, at John Carroll, the death of a student or family member truly brings the school together…. Overall, I am very proud to be part of a Catholic school and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Friends, teachers, and a mastery of grammar:

Talia Kahoe of the John Carroll Class of 2012, also attended St. Margaret School, and is very passionate about Catholic education: “I tell people all the time how grateful I am to have gone through 12 years of Catholic schools. Apart from the actual education, I can proudly say that I knew every single person in my graduating class. This is incredible. Even during my senior year I was making new friends and learning from so many different people, as opposed to getting overwhelmed by large crowds and cliques.”

Talia agrees that teachers in Catholic schools are a huge part of the incredible impact on students’ lives: “I need to touch on the relationships I made in high school with the faculty. There are so many inspirational individuals at John Carroll, and I'm thankful every single day for who I have become because of them.”

Talia smiling told me that her grammar skills, mastered from years of Catholic education, are notably impressive to her classmates in college: “Such a little thing I haven't really appreciated until I got to college.”

Strong Catholic values taught by spiritual role models:

Megan Early Brady, a graduate of St. Margaret School, John Carroll, and the University of Scranton, cherishes her Catholic education and is proud to be raising her children in the faith and sending them to Catholic schools in North Carolina.

“It is worth every bit of sacrifice to provide our children an environment that nurtures their spiritual development through lectures, critical thinking, service to others, and most significantly, by example. Even the smallest preschoolers absorb the message.”

Megan went on to share a story about her sons: “One afternoon, after I had admonished my youngest son for interrupting a conversation, my middle son told him ‘when you interrupt, you are stealing.  And that is breaking a commandment!’ I was perplexed and seriously had no idea what he was talking about.  He went on to explain to me that when you interrupt two people in a conversation, you steal two things: the time of the person who is speaking, and the attention of the person who is listening.

Megan went to explain: “How did my six year-old come up with this? How did he gain this wisdom? The answer: his GYM teacher!” It seems that children in her son’s class were talking and not listening to the Gym teacher’s instructions one day, so “she taught them. She used the moment to teach them a lesson about the value of respecting other people’s time and attention.”

“In my opinion the most marked difference between a Catholic and secular education is that the Catholic values permeate… There is a higher standard for the faculty, staff, and students—a common understanding that we are holy, by the Biblical definition, ‘different.’ Our ultimate authority is not the principal, or the dean of students, or the university president.  It is Him.  And as such, we act in ways that reflect we are Catholic—we demonstrate we are holy, different.”


Fostering Vocations:

From IND to the Daughters of Charity:

Sister Amanda Kern, a 2003 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore, told me that she never would have become a Daughter of Charity if it weren't for Catholic schools.

"I didn't attend Catholic school until high school. Although I didn't become a School Sister of Notre Dame, seeing these Sisters at IND and their daily work was a "tug" from God that maybe that might one day be an option. Simply being in a Catholic school with such a loving environment was a support when I began discerning religious life.”

After her graduation from IND, Amanda went on to study at Mount St. Mary’s University and then did several years of fulltime service work before she entered the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

Sister Amanda shared that while attending IND, “I saw real poverty for the very first time, which was the first domino that led me to join a community whose whole focus is service of the poor.”

Our prayers are with this fine young woman during these important seminary formation years, and now as she prepares for her upcoming ‘apostolic experience’ of living and working fulltime for six weeks with the Daughters in Utica, New York starting in late March. You are in our prayers!!

The Influence of the Sisters of Mercy:

Deacon Kevin Reid is certain that his vocation as a Permanent Deacon came from his eight years of grade school with the Sisters of Mercy in the 1960s at St. Peter School in Warwick, Rhode Island. “They were an example to each of us of faithful service to the Lord and to us students. They gave their life's vocation to each of us.”

Deacon Kevin has made use of his God-given gifts and talents, as encouraged by the good Sisters, with his service to the Archdiocese of Baltimore at Immaculate Conception Church in Towson, as well as over the years professionally as a chef. He is now ‘blending’ ministry and the sharing of good food in his new position at the residence of the Archbishop of Baltimore, with meals and events with Archbishop Lori and his guests. Food for the body and soul!!


How have Catholic schools impacted and influenced you?

Email me with your reflections:


In Part 2:  I will share how Catholic schools have impacted my life and what I think is missing in Catholic education today. Stay tuned.

January 30, 2014 02:35
By Patti Murphy Dohn