John Carroll campus minister sees growing outreach
By Matt Palmer
Patti Murphy Dohn is the face of the compassion for many at The John Carroll School, Bel Air.
The 52-year-old campus minister is entering her 32nd professional year at the school, which she also attended. She is one of the most popular figures on campus because of her tireless outreach and the Archdiocese of Baltimore honored Murphy Dohn earlier this year with the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Medal of Honor.
“I would like to be the face of welcome, the person that they can seek out to share happy times and sad times,” she said. “My open-door policy finds young people in and out of my office constantly.”
During the early 1980s, Murphy Dohn was an aspiring journalist who answered a classified advertisement in the Aegis Newspaper in Harford County for a religion teacher at John Carroll. She had been a theology major and loved the written word.
“I was a journalist in high school and college, as well as a bibliophile,” she said. “I was surprised to find myself on the faculty of John Carroll. Over the first three or four years, I developed a love for teaching and a love for young people.”
In addition to attending John Carroll, Murphy Dohn also attended the since-closed Sacred Heart of Mary School, Graceland Park, and the still-thriving St. Margaret in Bel Air.
“I’ve been passionate about Catholic education all my life,” Murphy Dohn said. “It seemed very natural that I would adopt the mission of Catholic education and make it all my own.”
All three of her children - Meghan, Joseph and Katie Murphy - are graduates of John Carroll.
Throughout the years, she has maintained a presence in the classroom – she still teaches a religion class – while serving as a campus minister.
The school day is filled with students bringing their lunch to Murphy Dohn’s office to talk about issues.
“Food always brings about good conversations and provides teachable moments,” Murphy Dohn said.
Her ministry doesn’t end when the school bell rings. Students have her cell phone number and text her frequently with concerns.
“They know that I’m there for them,” Murphy Dohn said.
She uses her Facebook page as a place for prayers for families going through crises, including death and illness. She calls her friends on social media her “prayer network.”
“I never in my wildest dreams thought Facebook would become part of my ministry, but I have found that it is integral,” she said.
The community of John Carroll has particularly needed her brand of compassion and prayers in recent months. Several recent graduates and current students have died during the last several months.
“I have found that this allows me to work closely with the students and their families and to help share their burden of grief and sorrow,” Murphy Dohn said.
While fulfilling, Murphy Dohn’s outreach can also be emotionally taxing.
“We are all challenged to remain faithful and realize that our love in God is taking care of all of us through each crisis,” she said. “Young people, in particular, want direction, want the faith connection. They want to be reminded that what we’re going through, as difficult as it is, has hope and the promise of being reunited with their loved one in heaven.”
Murphy Dohn said helping young people grow in their faith has been her great calling.
“I love my church, I love my faith, I love the men and women who inspire me,” she said. “I really believe I was called to serve in our schools.”
Copyright (c) Aug. 23, 2012 CatholicReview.org