I just posted this 2011 memory-photo on Facebook on November 29, 2015:
Four years ago today at Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House:
"Junior Retreat closing Mass today with the fantastic Father Brendan Carr!!"
(Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)
I was overcome with sadness when I learned Monday afternoon of the death of Father Brendan Carr
, a good and holy retired Baltimore priest. Holy Trinity Church
’s Youth Ministry had announced Father Carr's death on Facebook.
He was a beloved priest who impacted the hearts and lives of people of all ages.
Father Carr could have been the “poster priest’ for this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“They poured out their hearts to him”
Father Carr had joined me and my John Carroll
students on our junior retreats in 2011-2012, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation and their class Mass at the Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House
in Sparks, Maryland.
He was one of the most effective priests that I ever worked with in my 30+ years of retreat work. Youth were drawn to him. They poured out their hearts to him. They waited hours to have him hear their confessions.
Father Carr's true kindness and grandfatherly approach with my students, along with the twinkle in his kind Irish eyes, led to four hours of confessions and a joyful celebration of the liturgy each and every retreat.
Taking a personal interest in each student:
I remember the first time that Father Carr joined us. My morning retreat session included a two-hour slot for confessions and Mass, the scheduled timing based on past experiences. After I led a prayerful examination of conscience, Father Carr spoke a few words of gentle encouragement to my students and went back to the the small Reconciliation room.
When the first student came back into the Chapel after her confession, she was smiling ear to ear with joy. The other students looked at her with open mouths. She exclaimed, "He is so cool. And he asked me about my dog!”
That sealed the deal... Students went to confession one by one for four hours. I had never had such a strong response for the sacrament. Father Carr took such a personal interest in my students. They, in turn, responded and God worked with His amazing grace, as He always does.
We were late for the 12:15 lunch that day, and the ladies in the dining room were concerned about what was going on. And we had not even had Mass yet!
This required some quick reworking of the schedule and the need to start our lunch without the full group present.
His calling within a calling:
Father Carr joined us in the dining room about 50 minutes later after hearing the confessions of all those waiting in the Chapel. He reminisced with me about his days as a Christian brother in both Pittsburgh and at Calvert Hall, where we had several mutual brother-friends over the years, now departed.
He spoke also of the joy of having his “calling within a calling,” serving God as a religious brother before heeding the call in 1972 to be ordained a diocesan priest. Father Carr’s impact on young people began in the schools and continued in parishes and during youth retreats. Father explained that he always enjoyed helping his close friend Father Tom Ryan who served as chaplain at Towson Newman Center and at Archbishop Spalding.
The three most important rules of life:
The most powerful message that Father Carr left with my students, one that I'll never forget, was included in his homily. He gently challenged my students, imploring them to never forget the three most important rules of life:
Holding up his index finger, he said "Be kind."
Then holding up his second finger, he said “Be kind."
Immediately followed by three fingers held up, he said, "And... Be kind.”
Indeed, that simple and powerful message always made an impression on everyone who was present in that Chapel.
Our first Mass with the new Roman Missal:
By the way, Father Carr was the priest who first celebrated Mass with us using the new Roman Missal in 2011. It was Monday of the First Week in Advent and the new Missal had just been implemented that weekend.
Father kept apologizing to my students for not making more eye contact with them, since he had to read the new Eucharistic Prayers and turn the unfamiliar ribbon-lined pages. My students were quick to smile and put at ease the priest who had captured their hearts.
Memorial candle in the Retreat House Chapel:
When I learned of Father Carr’s death on Monday, I immediately texted my dear friend and retreat colleague Kellie Reynolds of St Stephen Church, Bradshaw.
And where was she?
At the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House! God’s timing is impeccable.
Kellie lit a candle for me and my now-alumni students in the O’Dwyer Chapel, in memory of Father Carr and in honor of the huge impact he had on my students during their retreats. He was a wonderful priest and touched the hearts of so many youth on retreats from parishes and schools around the Archdiocese.
In loving memory of Father Carr:
Photo by Kellie Reynolds at the Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House Chapel
Remembering Father Carr:
"Father Carr was so sweet. He made every single person on retreat feel important and really wanted to know about us."
—Courtney Wilson, John Carroll Class of 2013
“I’m so sad to hear of Father Carr’s death. He was awesome! I was the one who went to confession first that day, and he was so cool and down to earth. I remember how he took his time and was very interested in each of us. He was so nice, making my confession time feel very comfortable and relaxed. He will be missed.”
—Sierra Fica, John Carroll Class of 2013
"I remember Father Carr also came to the rescue for us during an APYM (Association of Professional Youth Ministers/ Archdiocese of Baltimore) meeting day. I think our scheduled priest got sick. Father Carr was always so easy going and would go with the flow! He always had a smile on his face."
—Kellie Reynolds of St. Stephen Church, Bradshaw, recalling Father Carr's ongoing kindness
Father Carr will lie in state at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Glen Burnie, on Monday, January 18 from 3:00 pm until 6:30 pm, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 7:00 pm.
Contributions can be made in Father Carr's memory to Archbishop Spalding High School, 8080 New Cut Road, Severn, MD. 21144;
Friends of Animals, 777 Post Road, Suite 205, Darien, CT. 06820.
God rest him!
May the angels and saints lead Father Brendan Carr into Paradise.
January 14, 2016 12:46
By Patti Murphy Dohn
December 3 has been an important day in my calendar for years now.
It was on this date in 1815 that the first bishop in our United States went Home to our Lord.
John Carroll, a native Marylander and Jesuit priest, was born on January 8, 1736 in Upper Marlboro, less than 40 miles south of the site where he would later have the first Catholic cathedral built.
Father Carroll was appointed the first bishop of Baltimore to serve our newly-formed nation by Pope Pius VI in 1789. He was 53 years old.
Considered to be the patriarch of American Catholicism, John Carroll later became the nation’s first archbishop in 1808 when Pope Pius VII elevated Baltimore to the status of archdiocese when he created the Dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown, Kentucky.
Archbishop Carroll’s final resting place is now located in the crypt of the Baltimore Basilica, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, America’s first Catholic cathedral. He had commissioned the building of this cathedral in 1806 with the design of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Though he never lived to see its completion, Archbishop Carroll's body was transferred there from the seminary crypt upon its completion.
My life with John Carroll:
When I attended high school four decades ago at John Carroll
in Bel Air, I did not yet realize that my life would be so richly influenced by the scholar and patriot for whom the school was named. Though other institutions of learning bear his name, this Harford County school is the only one located in the diocese where he served for so many years.
Returning in 1981 to teach Religion and later serve as Campus Minister at John Carroll (the school), I found John Carroll (the man) becoming part of the fabric of my life.
As I taught about his life and influence on the American Church during the early years of our nation, I discovered more and more that John Carroll (the scholar) was both a pioneer and an early patriot. His zeal for the Faith and for our country was inspiring on so many levels.
But it was his deep devotion to our Blessed Mother that resonated most strongly with me. For years I shared with my John Carroll students that the best way to pay tribute to the man for whom our school was named was to imitate his devotion to Our Lady, reciting the rosary regularly, and visiting the cathedral that he named in honor of her Assumption.
While on his deathbed, Archbishop John Carroll reflected,
“Of those things that give me most consolation at the present moment is, that I have always been attached to the practice of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that I have established it among the people under my care, and placed my Diocese under Her protection.”
(From The Life and Times of John Carroll, by Peter Guilday, Encyclopedia Press, NY, 1922)
Connecting at his cathedral:
For a number of years, I gave tours of the Baltimore Basilica to my sophomore students after we had served the lunchtime meal next door at Catholic Charities’ Our Daily Bread. The highpoint of our tour was always the visit to the crypt where Archbishop Carroll is buried. The marble cover to his burial spot is engraved in Latin with his name. It never ceased to amaze me how my students felt a kinship with our school’s namesake through this visit to his tomb.
Since my retirement in 2014, I have had the opportunity to read more from Archbishop Carroll’s writings and deepen my affection for the man whose name and initials have became engraved on my heart.
As we remember Archbishop Carroll today on the 200th anniversary of his death, may we be inspired to rediscover our own connections to the Church in Baltimore and the roots of American Catholicism, and like him, deepen our devotion to Our Lady.
December 03, 2015 02:08
By Patti Murphy Dohn
Just six days until Pope Francis arrives in the USA!
Papal memorabilia galore:
If you are traveling in the vicinity of the cities that Pope Francis will visit next week, you will likely see lots of displays of souvenirs related to this first apostolic visit to the United States.
Memorabilia vendors are as varied as their offerings. There are official vendors authorized by the various dioceses and the 2015 World Meeting of Families. There are also unofficial outlets, many of which offer cheap trinkets at a low cost to make a fast buck.
Pope Francis bobble heads, anyone?
Serious collectors and those who wish to purchase gifts for lasting memories should look toward the official merchandise for sale on the official papal visit websites. These authorized vendors have a vast array of items, including rosaries, medallions, prayer cards, books, artwork, mugs, and apparel with official logos.
Shop in person:
If you want to take a road trip to Philly in the next week or if you plan to attend either if the papal gatherings on September 26-27, you can shop in person.
Aramark is the official vendor for the World Meeting of Families and the visit of the Holy Father to Philadelphia. They had a grand opening last Wednesday for their official World Meeting of Families merchandise shop in the Aramark Tower at 1101 Market Street in downtown Philly.
According to their website, other locations will be open next week during the Congress and papal visit at the convention center, on Independence Mall on September 26, and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26-27.
Official vendors will also be on-sight at locations near the papal events in New York City and Washington, D.C.
For online purchases, the official catalog with over 200 commemorative items is available here
Proceeds will benefit the World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015 and the visit of Pope Francis.
My collection of papal visit memorabilia:
Being an aficionado of anything related to Church history and the papacy, I have huge collection of papal memorabilia. I am also a Vatican philatelist with an enormous collection of stamp albums, first day covers, postcards, and Vatican yearbooks.
So it shouldn't surprise you that I have lots of mementos from past papal visits to the United States. I gathered as many items from my collection as I could in 15 minutes and took photos to share.
Above: From 1965:
Pope Paul VI was the first pontiff to visit our country. Though I didn't participate in this 14-hour visit, I have two books with lots of photographs and excellent coverage.
Above: Pope St. John Paul II made seven trips to the United States during his 27-year pontificate.
Here are some of the many books that recap his visits.
The first time I saw Pope John Paul II was in Philadelphia during his very first visit to the USA. The Mass he celebrated on there Wednesday, October 3 was held in the same location where Pope Francis will say Mass on September 27.
The third trip of his papacy (the first was to the Dominican Republic and Mexico; and the second was to his native Poland), it occurred exactly one year after the conclave which elected this pope who would become a saint.
Though I have a number of keepsakes from that historic week, including items from my volunteer work that week at the on-site Catholic Press office, I have only included three items here:
Souvenir edition of Newsweek magazine, the famous Pope John Paul II collectors edition comic book, and a signed copy of Pope John Paul II: A Festive Profile written by my college professor, Rev. Ludvik Nemec, who was an old friend of the Holy Father.
Above: World Youth Day 1993 in Denver was the occasion of another visit of Pope John Paul II. Though I did not attend since I had three young children, one of my John Carroll students, Kristy Manning, JC Class of 1996, won a contest and represented our school. Kristy was especially excited since she was not Catholic and loved our Holy Father. She had a wonderful experience with the youth celebration from St. Margaret Church in Bel Air, and brought me a gift to show her gratitude for my support in encouraging her to apply for the contest. The framed First Day covers, which were hand-stamped daily from August 12-15, were proudly displayed in my classroom and in my Campus Ministry office until I retired from John Carroll last year. When I see them, I think of Kristy and her experiences at World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II!
Above: The 1995 visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Baltimore was one of the highlights of my life.
And my collection of mementos show it...
A Religion teacher at John Carroll at that time, I was part of the committee that coordinated the service of our youth as city ambassadors and parade honor guard.
My service allowed me to participate in the youth concert at Pier Six the night before the papal visit. Performers included Boyz II Men, Michael W. Smith, and Kathy Troccoli.
The highlight, the Holy Father speaking live to the youth via satellite on the big screen from NYC,
"But the loudest cheer of the evening was reserved for a 75-year-old from Rome who wasn't even there, a transplanted Pole who closed the concert not with a song, but simply by telling the crowd by satellite that he was looking forward to his visit to Baltimore."
Seen from left: The official commentaries book from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, along with the video and the bumper sticker, the next week's edition of The Catholic Review with special section of papal coverage, the Gospel of John which was distributed to those who attended the Mass at Camden Yards, the Mass program and booklet "A Faith-filled Celebration," and the 1996 commemorative calendar.
Above: Here's the colorful hat that my then-11 year old daughter Meighan got at the youth concert,
along with our Mass tickets, my staff badge, and the tickets, parking pass, and program
for the Departure Ceremony that my then-9 year old son Joseph and I attended at BWI airport
before the Holy Father departed for his return trip to Rome.
Memories to last a lifetime!
Everyone who attended received a packet of materials which included the Gospel of Luke, the Catholic Digest, and a water bottle.
Above: I collect Mass programs from historic occasions too:
Here's the Mass program from Holy Father Emeritus' Mass at Yankee Stadium and my family's tickets.
Above: People give me stuff...
Over the years I have received a number of gifts of papal and church-related memorabilia from families who just don't know what to do with it anymore and don't want to discard it.
Here's an example of a framed certificate of authenticity from the Archdiocese of New York with a small section of carpet from formed a 1000-foot gold cross on the stage at the October 7, 1995 Mass of Pope John Paul on the Great Lawn of Central Park.
"A procession of 1600 church dignitaries filed over this monumental cross to offer communion to the more than 200,000 faithful who celebrated the historic Mass, the highlight of the Holy Father's 1995 World Tour."
Yes, I have this in my home office.
By all means, send your Church-related collectors' items my way!
Do you have any interesting papal memorabilia?
I want to hear about it:
Read more from my series on the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the United States:
Part 1 includes all the basics that you should know:
Part 2 includes lots of memories from those who attended or participated in past papal visits to our country:
September 16, 2015 12:32
By Patti Murphy Dohn
The photos are all over Facebook…
Bright smiling faces (mostly), new book bags, shiny shoes, fresh haircuts, clean school buses, and some teary-eyed Moms (and Dads).
The new school year has started for most of the schools in our area. As a matter of fact, our grandson Tyler started third grade this morning at Piney Ridge Elementary School in Sykesville. Both Tracy and Stephen walked him to the bus stop with cameras in hand (from their smart phones). Even their sweet dog Stella was on hand to see all the children off to their first day of school.
Our grandson Tyler was back to school on Monday
I'm not going back to school...again:
For me, the start of the new school year, as always, brought the anticipation of new beginnings and challenges.
This is the start of the second school year since my retirement from John Carroll
in June of 2014.
It was a new and strange experience last year to not be there for the first day of the new school year after 33 years on campus. My husband and I tried to fill up our newfound freedom. We even went to the beach.
Change, change, change:
But transitions can be tough. Not only for adults who may be experiencing change due to retirement or new jobs, but also for all the children who are experiencing new changes in their lives… Including those who are new to preschool or kindergarten, those starting elementary, middle or high school, and all those making transfers to new schools in new areas.
Hopefully, we pray, the parents and teachers of those most affected by change this school year will provide much comfort and will guide our children in their transitions with patience and compassion.
What’s the toughest part of back to school?
I have heard from quite a few parents and children who share that the challenges in starting a new school year include:
-reestablishing a weekday/school night routine after the freedom of summer vacation,
-having earlier bedtimes,
-packing lunches again,
-waking up to the alarm clock’s early call,
-getting back in the habit of doing homework,
-balancing school, sports, and other outside activities,
-and much more.
Every household is different and thus faces different challenges.
A prayer from the patroness of Catholic education:
One of the principal patron saints of Catholic education is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. She started the Catholic school system here in the United States under the direction of our first bishop, Archbishop John Carroll.
The following prayer from her writings is a wonderful way to start each day this year, especially for teachers and older students.
Prayer of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:
O Father, the first rule of our dear Savior's
life was to do Your Will.
Let His Will of the present moment be the first rule
of our daily life and work, with no other desire but for
its most full and complete accomplishment.
Help us to follow it faithfully, so that in doing what
You wish we will be pleasing to You.
Another great prayer for the new school year is from Sadlier Publishing Company:
It is excellent for teachers, parish catechists, and for families too:
May your first weeks of this new school year be filled with new adventures and a smooth transition to a new routine.
May God richly bless our families and our teachers!
September 01, 2015 02:47
By Patti Murphy Dohn
Perry Cohen (left) and Austin Stephanos of Tequesta, Florida have been missing at sea since they left on a fishing trip on a small boat last Friday afternoon.
It's Day 7 in the search for Austin and Perry...
And the family and friends of the boys from Tequesta, Florida who disappeared at sea on a 19-foot boat last Friday are not giving up hope that they will soon be found and reunited.
The search has continued nonstop all week with coordination by the Coast Guard and the involvement of the Air Force. They have covered almost 40,000 square nautical miles since last Friday.
As I wrote on Tuesday
, the local Palm Beach County towns of Jupiter and Tequesta are tightly knit. The locals just won't give up on these 14-year olds.
The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, which Austin and Perry cruised past on their way out to go fishing in the ocean waters, is not only the symbol of the town, but has also been called the beacon of hope for all who await the return of the boys from Tequesta.
-------The power of prayer:
People of faith from around the world have turned to prayer for the boys and their families. Thousands and thousands of messages of encouragement and the assurance of prayers have flooded social media all week with the hashtags #findaustinandperry and #prayforaustinandperry.
After Sunday night's gathering at Austin's school, Jupiter Christian School
, there have been other prayer services and sunset vigils each night at the Jupiter Lighthouse and other locations along the beach. Anywhere from dozens to hundreds have gathered to pray with lighted candles. The local Jupiter/Tequesta community is steadfastly holding onto hope that the boys will be found and brought home safely to their families.
A cousin's prayer:
Austin's cousin, Natasja, asked people to pray with her on a Facebook post on Wednesday morning:
"Please join me in morning prayer:
Dear merciful Lord,
We know our boys have the skills, the will and the want.
Please, give them the extra strength they need.
We trust in your will. In your name we pray.
'I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.'
“This is a book that was found on Austin's night stand. If you look closely you will see that he wrote in the words "I WILL". His perseverance, determination, and love of life will bring him home. THIS IS A SIGN…."
~From the Facebook page of Austin’s aunt:
She shared this photo of Winston Churchill’s book Never, Never, Never Give Up
Why my heart bleeds for these boys and their families:
Since our retirement last year, my husband and I have split our time between our homes in Maryland and here in South Florida on Singer Island. We are here just 12 miles south of Jupiter while rescuers are involved in the massive search for Austin and Perry. The local Florida news stations carry updates and send out news alerts around the clock.
For many years, I ministered to the needs of young people and their families at The John Carroll School
in Bel Air, Maryland. Crisis ministry, sadly, became one of my specialties over these years.
My students, though, grew up in a different culture than the youth in South Florida. I never worried about the fate of my school kids from being out on boats on the open sea. My biggest worries were centered around their driving, substance use and abuse, and those who were at risk of suicide. We had resources in place to help our teens when necessary.
This situation here in the Jupiter/Tequesta area is completely different. Austin and Perry grew up on the warm turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean, fishing there and along the nearby Loxahatchee River. They had excellent swimming and boating skills. The variable in this tragedy centers around the boys heading unknowingly into a huge storm.
And that's why they have not been heard from since. Their capsized boat was discovered by the Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews far offshore on Sunday afternoon. And there have been no signs of the boys or any of the items that were not found on the capsized boat... their Yeti fishing cooler, one or two life jackets, and the boat's engine cover. No sign. Nothing.
These families have not given up hope:
The parents did not grant any interviews yesterday, as they were busy arranging private searches by volunteers with private planes and boats. A well-attended fundraiser was held at local Abacoa restaurant Gumby Bay Island Grill last night to fund these efforts.
Notably, hundreds of families and individuals have walked the beaches from South Florida and up north through the Carolinas looking for debris or lost items that might lead to clues to the boys' whereabouts.
My prayers for Austin and Perry and their families:
May our Heavenly Father in His loving mercy be with Austin and Perry in their time of greatest need.
May He grant their families comfort and peace.
May He open the eyes of those who search to see clearly that which will lead to their recovery.
May He grant His grace to all those who worry and fear.
May He provide comfort for all of us in these days of uncertainty.
We trust in the Lord's providence.
We believe in His promises.
We resolve to remain open to His loving mercy today and each day.
We pray to be people of hope today and every day.
In good times and in bad, God is good... All the time.
This logo that was created for Wednesday night’s fundraiser at Abacoa’s Gumby Bay Island Grill in Jupiter, Florida. The donations are being used to contribute to private searches by volunteers with planes and boats.
July 30, 2015 11:47
By Patti Murphy Dohn
Photos by Patti Murphy Dohn
It seems as though every year goes by faster and faster…
Now that the John Carroll Class of 2015
, as well as all their senior high school peers across this nation, have finished their studies and are ready to graduate, it is fitting that I share a prayer for them and for all the graduates of the Class of 2015.
Praying for God’s grace and blessings on the Class of 2015:
High School Graduation Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come to you with thankful hearts for all those near and dear to us who are graduating from high school.
We thank you for giving each graduate the talents, abilities and self discipline required for this wonderful accomplishment.
We are grateful to You for providing the teachers, mentors, coaches and youth counselors who have taught them, nurtured them and challenged them along the way.
Now that their minds have been well equipped with the basic knowledge of many different subjects, we pray that their hearts and spirits will also be well equipped for successful living.
Add heavenly wisdom and discernment to their knowledge.
Infuse their ambitions and dreams with Your love.
Help them to desire Your good way for their future.
Remind them that you are only a prayer away when they meet obstacles, heartbreaks and challenges.
May they always be courageous enough to ask for help, advice and support when they need it.
May they never needlessly suffer alone without reaching out to You and to others who care.
As they become independent adults, help them learn the secret of dependence on You.
Give them a desire to know more about You.
May they find you in the Scriptures, in the joy of new love, in the gathering of Your people, in the beauty of Your creation and in the strength of their youth.
And now may Your blessings be theirs as they begin a new life full of joy and promise.
When I was Campus Minister, I invited the members of the junior class during their ring ceremony to place their new high school rings on their fingers with the open end of the embossed design facing toward them. This signified that the student still had more than a year left to learn and take to heart all the traditions of the JC school community and to be ready to represent that legacy as graduates at the end of the following year.
So today, on the graduation day for the Class of 2015, I invite the newest alumni, after receiving their diplomas, to take off their JC ring, turn it around, and place it back on their fingers with the embossed opening facing outward.
This commissions the Class of 2015 to go forward and share with all those they meet along their life-journey the lessons they learned from their John Carroll experience.
Lessons such as:
~Go, make a difference;
~Let your light shine;
~To be “compelling, considerate, and uncompromising,” characteristics which were attributed to our patron, Archbishop John Carroll;
And to always remember:
~In good times and in bad, that God is good... All the time!!
May our loving God richly bless the Class of 2015!!
May 29, 2015 11:09
By Patti Murphy Dohn
This week The Catholic Review
is saying goodbye and best wishes to web editor Jennifer Williams
. And I am offering my own Kudos for a job well done to this former student turned friend.
Since 1999, Jenn has been part of The Catholic Review team that brings news of the Archdiocese of Baltimore to our community and to the world. But I knew Jenn before she had an inkling that journalism was going to be part of her future vocational calling.
A 1995 graduate of The John Carroll School
where I served for many years in the Religion Department and as Campus Minster, Jennifer first experienced the thrill of seeing her writings published while in high school. She worked on the staff of the literary magazine Pinnacle
during her sophomore, junior, and senior years. (Also contributing to this magazine was her 1995 classmate Father John Rapisarda
Jenn moved into journalism during her junior and senior years, working on the newspaper staff of the Patriot
while remaining a staff member of Pinnacle
. It's hard to believe that she also found time to run cross country and track all four years, attain academic membership in the National Honor Society, all while achieving perfect attendance for those four years. That's a real accomplishment!!
After graduating from John Carroll, Jenn attended the former College of Notre Dame of Maryland, majoring in Communication Arts. A summer internship after her sophomore year with The Aegis
in Bel Air led to a full-time position there as a staff reporter. And a post-graduate internship with Baltimore Sun
features editor Mary Corey was a career highlight. Jenn later wrote about the impact of this successful editor as a mentor and a professional role model
when Corey died at age 49 from breast cancer in 2013.
Joining the staff of The Catholic Review in 1999, Jenn rose through the journalistic ranks from staff writer to news editor to web editor, learning and implementing the latest technologies as the field of journalism changed to adapt to the culture of the times. She has received awards from a number of press associations along the way.
During her years on the CR staff, Jenn has written literally hundreds and hundreds of articles.
Among her favorites are:
~"Orioles pitcher Tommy Hunter successfully closes on his Catholic faith," on his faith journey to the Catholic Church before his 2014 marriage.
(Photo: Tom McCarthy Jr. | CR Staff)
My earlier connection with Jennifer during her high school years came full circle in 2012 when she and former social media specialist Matt Palmer
invited me to start blogging for The Catholic Review
. Jenn and Matt, through our Facebook networking, knew that I was handling an extraordinary amount of pastoral care and grief crisis ministry
that summer and they invited me to write about my experiences. What followed was the beginning of "God is in the Clouds
I had lunch the other day with Jenn and "Open Window
" blogger Rita Buettner. Jenn told us that one of the best parts of the past sixteen years with The Catholic Review
has been meeting so many different people in her travels throughout the archdiocese.
I will surely miss working with Jennifer as I continue to write my blog. And it will be strange not seeing her name pop up in my email inbox twice a week with the latest CR e-newsletter. But I know that our longtime relationship is not over.
Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.”
Yes, times change. I can vouch for that as I have certainly changed and transitioned especially over this past year since my retirement from ministry at John Carroll. And now it's time for Jenn to experience her own new chapter.
Jenn wrote a poem during her junior year of high school in the John Carroll Pinnacle entitled "Future of the Graduate." Though it speaks of the collective group of high school seniors moving on to a future filled with college and the certain anxiety that accompanies that transition, it surely, on second reading, reflects the mixed bag of emotions that all of us face when confronting change.
My prayer for Jenn on the road ahead is that joy, laughter, and good health be part of the journey and that her abiding faith sustain her whenever the path gets rocky.
May she know the love and prayers of those who treasure being part of her journey.
"Future of the Graduate"
~Jenn Williams '95
Where are you going?
Who do you want to be?
I can't see into the future--
Only inside of me.
Everything changes when you ask me Why?
Afraid I won't make it-
or maybe that I will.
Wondering if my success is your failure-
Sorry- if it is.
Worried that I'll somehow miss out...
Laughing if I do.
Call me. Ask me. Tomorrow.
It's the future that I dread.
Right now I'm feeling happy,
I've got daisies in my head!
Published in the 1994 Pinnacle, literary magazine of The John Carroll School
during Jennifer's junior year of high school.
May 20, 2015 11:17
By Patti Murphy Dohn
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.
"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
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."
"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.
SUICIDE CAN BE PREVENTED. YOU CAN HELP. JOIN THE MOVEMENT."
--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