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!!


March 2015
February 2015

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So stressed my husband lost my keys which has my only set of car key, house keys, my car alarm remote and now worried about someone stealing my car. I need my keys! Please Saint Anthony please come around something has been lost and cannot be found.


St. Anthony has been my family's and my patron saint for over 67 years and has always helped me from the tiniest lost item to major issues. I want to say thank you once AGAIN St. Anthony for helping my son and family over this past horrendous year in getting jobs and back on track. And for "finding" their faith for them again. AMEN

God is in the clouds

The importance of a Catholic high school ring: Sharing memories and traditions with the John Carroll Class of 2016

The John Carroll Ring (Photo: JC Patriot

Congratulations to the John Carroll Class of 2015!!

At 7 p.m. tonight, they will gather with classmates and loved ones for one of the best traditions of their high school experience in Bel Air: the reception of their John Carroll ring.

This ring ceremony —and all the festivities that accompany it— is part of a time-honored tradition and legacy that has been passed down to every class since the very first class received their rings to identify them as members of the John Carroll Class of 1968.  
The school celebrated their fiftieth anniversary year last year, and after fifty years, there are plenty of traditions to celebrate and to remember. 

It's a rite of passage at the Catholic high school in Harford County. And the excitement spans three days.... The ring ceremony on Thursday evening, the Mass and breakfast on Friday morning, and the Ring Dance on Saturday evening. 

Honoring the Sisters of St. Joseph:

The first faculty members of the school in 1964 were four Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Because of their community’s legacy to our school for 45 years, Saint Joseph has always been a special patron saint for John Carroll. The timing of the Junior Ring ceremony and dance has always been placed close to the March 19 Solemnity of St. Joseph's Day to honor the Sisters for their selfless service to our students over their years of ministry.


Notice the embossed design representing the school on the onyx: 
Their John Carroll rings were part of the wedding photo shoot for Tony Herman and his wife Stephanie Ward Herman, both members of the Class of 2007 (Photo: Photography by Brea)

Part of the tradition includes how to wear the ring as a student and later as a graduate:

When I was Campus Minister, after the juniors had each received their ring boxes during their ceremony, I had invited them to place the ring on their fingers with the open end of the embossed design facing toward them. This signified that the student still had more a year left to continue to learn the traditions and heritage of the school community and to be ready to represent that legacy as graduates at the end of the following year.

In the same manner, at graduation, I would prompt the new alumni, after receiving their diplomas, to take off their JC ring and place it back on their fingers with the embossed opening facing outward. This commissioned the new graduating class to go forward and share with all those they encounter 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, both in good times and in bad, that God is good... All the time!!

Reflections from an alumnus-faculty member:

Michael Gaudreau, who graduated with the Class of 1970, has been teaching Art at John Carroll for forty years. He has also been the speaker at the annual Ring Ceremony, sharing his reflections on the meaning of the ring to the thousands of JC alumni.

Michael recalls faculty member Ed Miller recruiting him, as a new alumni-teacher, to say a few words to the juniors on what his JC ring meant to him. Subsequent classes kept inviting him back and now the Gaudreau stories are part of the legacy of receiving the school ring:

“I joke about being a tradition. When I started telling the story, the school was too new to have traditions. As I tell the kids (and their parents), ‘Now we have a history, and within history is story, and this is ours.’ I enjoy it when the Juniors begin to realize they are part of something bigger than a piece of flashy jewelry.  

“I wear my ring all the time. It is a timeless, modern, and well-designed piece of jewelry. I always ask the audience to raise their hands if they still wear the ring and many do. This makes an impression on the kids.” 

Michael’s shares lots of great stories, including those about the ‘high-recognizability’ of the gold and onyx ring. He loves relating how older alumni see younger graduates wearing their ring and make the connection, about grads recognizing the ring on other grads all over our nation and throughout the world, in places such as Italy, Ireland, Russia, and Thailand. 

Among his favorite stories are the ‘lost ring’ stories, including the girl who lost her ring on the beach in Ocean City in 1985. It was found fifteen years later by a beachcomber with a metal detector. He returned the ring to the school office and the owner was identified since our juniors get their names or initials with graduation year engraved inside. 

Michael shares that he has learned more about the origin of the John Carroll ring over the years. 

Some fun facts include:

  • The first design of the ring was drawn on a paper napkin by the school’s first Art teacher Frank Kelly while having dinner with the first principal, Rev. Raymond Wanner, at a restaurant in Aberdeen.
  • The Class of 1968, the first to receive the ring, didn’t much like the onyx and gold design, but changed their mind after they got them and saw the unique and classic style.  
  • The shape of the imprint on the onyx was based on the shape of the school chapel, which was designed by Michael Gaudreau’s uncle, Thomas L. Gaudreau of Gaudreau, Inc. Though many have believed the chapel to be shaped like the bishop’s mitre—in honor of Archbishop John Carroll—Thomas Gaudreau designed the chapel as though God was cradling something special, the people gathered within, in His hands.
  • Principal Father Ray Wanner wanted the ring to be simple and beautiful, something that would not be thrown in a drawer after graduation. His belief was that exposure to beauty, in good design, in landscape, art, and in architecture, made for a richer life, and in doing so brought us closer to God. 

Graduates share their stories with the Class of 2016:

“… super-excited for my sister:”

Sierra Ficca of the Class of 2013, a student at Towson University, wears her JC ring every day. She recalls how special her ring ceremony was and is looking forward to this evening’s program when her younger sister Nicolette, Class of 2016, receives her ring as well.

“The JC ring is a symbol of the best four years of my life! Everyone says college will be the best, but for me it was high school at John Carroll where I met lifelong friends and have close ties with the faculty and teachers!”

Sierra happily recalled a fond ring memory: 

“Courtney Wilson, my best friend from high school, and I were heading to Rock Spring Swim Club, where Courtney worked, to relax and go tanning after school one day. We arrived in our uniforms. We were the only ones there at the pool except for an older lady who stopped us to admire our “cute uniforms” and ask where we went to school. When we told her John Carroll, she quickly held out her hand and flaunted her ring, asking to see ours! She told us that she was part of the first graduating class, meaning she was also part of the first class to receive a ring! She made us laugh when she said that her class used to color the ring with yellow chalk so the engraving would pop out. I love this story because she was so thrilled to see that the ring was still the same, and that the uniforms had gotten much cuter!”  

Sierra (on right) and Courtney after the JC ring ceremony in 2012


"... having a nice bond to my classmates."

Larry Noto of the Class of 1994, the Director of Marketing ad Sales at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, clearly remembers his Ring Day:

“It was a special ceremony and a nice tradition, the feeling of being a part of that special community and having a nice bond to my classmates. Whenever I see someone who has a ring that looks like ours, I'll ask if they went to John Carroll...   It’s a nice connection.”


“… reminds me of one of the best times of my life.”

Vickie Ensor Bands, Class of 1975, who serves as the Director of Community Outreach and Executive Director of the HealthLink Primary Care Clinic at Upper Chesapeake Health System, also wears her JC ring everyday.

“My ring ceremony and dance were both very special. First, it was held on my birthday and second, it was really the first time I was involved in something that was a tradition. I remember two special days… with the ceremony, lunch with friends, turning our rings, and going back to school to decorate for the big dance the next day. It was all so special.

“I feel that wearing my ring keeps me connected to a school community that I love, one that helped mold me into the person that I am. My ring reminds me of one of the best times of my life. When someone recognizes my ring, it makes me feel part of a special and unique group.”


“… reminds me of where I'm from…”

Midshipman 1/C Ryan Eilerman, USN, of the Class of 2011, is a 2015 graduate of the Naval Academy and works for the US Department of Defense. One of his favorite high school memories is his Junior Ring Dance:

“My JC ring means a lot to me. It's elegant and simple, and reminds me of where I'm from… my friends and family, my patriot family, and those who invested their time and energy into me. It keeps me connected to my great memories and my roots. I wear my ring all day everyday and rarely ever take it off.”

“I always get questioned on where the ring is from, and when I tell people that it's my high school ring, they are always surprised at how proud I am of saying that. I ran into a person in San Diego who noticed the ring and asked if I went to JC!


Family legacy at John Carroll:
Jon Yantz, of the Class of 2013 and a student at Frostburg State, still wears his JC ring every day.

“The JC ring is a sign of unity and family.  It is a great conversation starter and a great way to meet new people.

“With my mom (Maureen Matejka Yantz, Class of 1985) having the same ring and my brother, a junior, about to get his ring tonight, makes my ring all the more special.”


“sense of community…”

Kim Pollock Mueller, from the Class of 1987 and a business owner, shared: 

“Receiving my John Carroll ring was a milestone in life for me. It meant acceptance and accomplishment. The sense of community was even greater once I received my ring. If I know I am meeting up with friends from JC, I always wear it. 

“I remember when I was in a gift shop in Disney World when I was 25 and I ran into a graduate of JC and his son who was a student at the time. It was nice that recognizing the ring gave two complete strangers a reason to say “Hi."  


Hayley Boyle (on left) and her friends show off their new JC rings before the Junior Ring Dance in 2011

“… the unique connection I have with all other JC alumni.”

Hayley Boyle, Class of 2012, shares about being part of a longline of John Carroll graduates in the Boyle Family: 

“My Ring Day was very special, as I knew I was joining a lot of my family and many alumni in this great tradition. I felt honored to carry on such a unique tradition. The ring breakfast, ceremony, Mass, and dance made all of us juniors feel super special.

“I wear my JC ring every single day, only taking it off when I swim in the ocean. I was on a vacation in Florida when a woman came up to me and recognized my ring. It is amazing how noticeable the ring is even far from Bel Air!

“The JC ring is the unique connection I have with all other JC alumni. It is very special to my heart. When I look down at my ring, it reminds me of the amazing things JC gave me.”

Hayley (second from left) and her friends Emily, Kaitlyn, and Caroline had just received their JC rings and were eager to start the traditional ‘turning of the rings’ for good luck! 


“… knowledge, unity and pride.”

Jessica Farrell Trout went to JC with my daughter in the Class of 2002:

“My JC ring represents knowledge, unity and pride. To this day, I still enjoy seeing people in all different places wearing their ring. Meeting people of different ages from different locations, all because you share a common background, is pretty cool!

“The ring ceremony and dance were very special to me and will always be remembered. The dance was just as special to me as senior prom. I felt like it brought us all together as one by giving us our rings and then celebrating after.”


Another long family tradition:
The JC rings of current-senior Amanda Brannan and her Dad, Steve Brannan, Class of 1980

Amanda Brannan is a current senior, a member of the JC Class of 2015 who received her ring last March: 

“I wear my ring everyday… 24/7! It is a tradition. My dad has a ring, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and now I have a ring. 

“It means that you are a part of the John Carroll community even after you graduate, it’s more like a family. I am proud to wear my JC ring.           

“Ring week last year has been my favorite week so far at John Carroll. So many memories that I will never forget. I loved every minute of it, and I would do anything to be in the shoes of the Class of 2016 right now and experience ring week all over again.”                                                                 

Amanda celebrates with me, her Campus Minister,  last March 


“… represents the greatest years of my life thus far.”

Lindsey McCumber, Class of 2014 and student at UCLA: 

“I wear my JC ring nearly every day. The JC ring and its uniqueness symbolize the unique and unifying experiences I had in my four years there. It is extremely special to me and represents the greatest years of my life thus far. 

“The ring dance was special to me because it differentiated what other schools consider their junior-senior prom. Our ring dance had a purpose and was only for our junior class. It was incredibly unifying.”

“In my senior year, I lost my ring for three weeks, noticing it missing while at a friend’s house in Bel Air. Somehow, nearly a month later, a classmate’s mother found it in the mulch of a preschool playground in Aberdeen! To this day, I have no idea how it got all the way over there, twenty minutes away, unharmed." 

Lindsey and her boyfriend Dylan at her Ring Dance


“… represents a community that spans generations.”

Ryan Selvy, of the Class of 2011, is about to graduate from MICA:
“The excitement of Ring Week is very memorable: the breakfast, turning our rings, and the induction into the community made the week very exciting. All the events made me feel like I was a part of something much bigger than myself.”

“A lot of people have walked up to my sisters (who graduated in 2006 and 2008) and Mom (of the Class of 1983) in the middle of nowhere and found out they were also alumni because of wearing their JC rings.

“The JC ring represents a community that spans generations.” 


“… a symbol of family…”
Emily Soller of the Class of 2012, a student at Stevenson University, shares:

“I wear my ring every day and barely take it off for anything. It's like it became a part of me and I felt different if I didn't wear it. 

“The JC ring is a symbol of family to me, and each year a limited number of students are lucky enough to become part of this family that can last a lifetime. It's one of the most memorable moments in high school when receiving your ring and finally becoming a part of something special.

“The whole ring week was the best time in high school. Everything about it was special and memorable. And going to the dance with my best guy friend made it even better and just so much fun. To me, it was definitely better than prom because it had more meaning behind it.  
“Recently, I was getting an upgrade on my phone at AT&T and the gentleman helping me saw my ring and told he graduated from JC back in the 80’s. We spoke about teachers and different events at school. It was just nice to meet someone of a different generation and share different stories about JC.” 

Sharing the JC ring tradition with her four children:

Bernie Evering Webster of the Class of 1978 is married to a JC grad and they are parents to four JC graduates. She shares:

“I wear my JC ring almost everyday. It means that I was part of a bigger picture when I needed it most in my life ... My Dad died a year before I started attending John Carroll. And JC was the family that I needed!  To me, the ring symbolizes that family. 

“I’m very proud to say that my four children all have a JC ring too. My ring ceremony was special to me, as well as the four programs for my children. Each one ‘transported me’ to a special place. Mr. Gaudreau told the story of the ring with such pride. It gave me a whole new perspective on the ring design and made me love it even more!

“Once, when we were in the Outer Banks, swimming in the ocean, a woman waded up to me and asked if I went to John Carroll in Bel Air…  I was floored… and it was all because of recognizing the JC ring.”


“… a huge milestone…” 

Sara Stifler of the Class of 2011:

“My ring ceremony was a huge milestone and, after growing up playing with my parents' high school rings—those big gaudy things—I was excited to have my own, and was even more excited because I think the JC ring is absolutely beautiful. It's classic and I just think it's lovely.” 


Lost and found… twice:

Mandy Pazdersky Harry of the Class of 1998:

“It makes me proud to have attended such a wonderful and close knit school. I think I would like to start wearing my JC ring more often.

“I lost my ring twice. Once, during senior year at cheerleading practice outside on the lawn… It was found only after the lawnmower mangled it. So I had to get a new one.  Then, I lost my new ring during senior week in Ocean City while doing cartwheels in the sand.  Several of us went searching for it with no luck.  About six months later my grandfather gave me a note on Easter Sunday that had been sent to him.  Someone with a metal detector found my ring and sent letters to several people with my last name.  They sent it back to me!!”


“… being a part of JC's legacy …”

Travis Nelson, Class of 2014, is a student at UCLA:

“I wear my JC ring every day. To me, the ring means being a part of JC's legacy and is one of the major things that validated my time at JC.

“The ring ceremony gave me a real sense of community with the school. The ring breakfast and the rest of that day were really proud moments.”


"... share that bond with my three sons..."

Judy Wallace Fritz, Class of 1980 and local business owner: 

“I wear my JC ring all the time. It always meant a lot to me because of the memories and pride I have for my high school. It means even more to me now that I share that bond with my three sons - all proud JC ring-wearers. 

“Ring Day was a great memory. Hearing the story about how the design came to be was very special and made the ring even more meaningful to me. It's more than a beautiful piece of jewelry; there is such meaning and history behind it. 

“Just this past Saturday I was at an event and was introduced to someone. We shook hands and, while holding his hand, I turned our hands to show that we both were wearing JC rings… An instant friend and warm connection! I have no friends from other schools who continue to wear their ring 35 years after graduation. We are special. We are forever patriots!”


“Patriot pride”

Tyler Fritz, Class of 2010, works with Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and is the son of Judy Wallace Fritz ’80 (above):

“While working here in Walt Disney World, I wear my ring proudly everyday. The JC ring means pride to me. Patriot pride. It's the one thing that reminds me of all of my fantastic memories I made at John Carroll… All of the wonderful people I met and all of the things I was a part of during that time.

“My ring dance was really special to me! My junior year is when I made my core group of friends and we all were able to attend the dance together.”

Tyler (second from right in front) and his friends gather before their Junior Ring Dance in 2009


“God's presence shines through…” A ring story from Appalachia

Shannon Olsen, of the Class of 2013, is a student at Millersville University:

“I wear my JC ring all the time. For me, it is carrying on a tradition not only for the school, but also for my family. It is a sense of pride for the amazing school that gave me so much. It is a symbol of belonging. My ring ceremony was special because I was the first of the second generation in my family at John Carroll, and for me, I was carrying on my family's legacy at the school. 
“When I was down in Terra Alta, West Virginia, the summer after my junior year for the Appalachia Work Camp, I was at my work site helping build a new deck. I was getting ready to use the chop saw, and I was scared that my ring would get damaged so I wrapped it up in my sweatshirt and placed it under the tree. At the end of the day, when I went to grab my stuff so we could head back to camp, I picked up my sweatshirt and my ring was not there. I panicked and began frantically searching all over the site, along with the help of a few of my friends. After about 30 minutes, we were told that we had to go back for dinner. I was heartbroken that I had lost it. We all got back to camp for dinner, but I was too worried and sad to eat anything. My site leader, Jenna Silcox, also a JC alum, said that she knew I would not be satisfied unless I had checked every inch of our work site. So the two of us drove back over and began searching again. After about 10 minutes, our clients came outside and asked if they could help us look. The husband was about to drive up the road to his daughter's home to borrow her metal detector to see if that would help, when he began walking back from his car toward me. As he approached me, I noticed that sitting in his hand was my ring. I burst out in tears because I honestly thought I was never going to see it again.  

“After this incident, my ring almost never leaves my finger. I feel God's presence so much whenever I am in Terra Alta, and it is because of the amazing people that live there. Without the kindness of my clients, I would have never found my ring, and it is just in little things like that when God's presence shines through in my life.” 

Shannon (third from the left in middle) and her friends show off their new rigs before the Junior Ring Dance in 2012


"... very proud that I had the chance to go there."

Tori Quinn, of the Class of 2011, is studying at York College of Pennsylvania:

“I've been wearing my ring ever day since I received it my junior year. The ring means a lot to me. When I look at it, I think about my years at John Carroll, about the education I received, and how much John Carroll has helped me in college. 

“The ring means a lot to me especially when people recognize it and ask me about my experience. I feel very proud that I had the chance to go there.”

Tori (on right) celebrates receiving their JC rings with her friend Kristen in 2010


"... becoming part of something much bigger than I could ever imagine..."

Abbey Levee is a current senior, the Class of 2015, and received her ring last year:

“I always wear my JC ring, it's like a part of me. My ring is the symbol for all the things I've endured and been blessed with in my four years at John Carroll. I couldn't imagine spending high school anywhere else with any other community. My ring shows to the world that I am part of the growing legacy that is John Carroll and the people in it.

“My Ring Ceremony was one of the most memorable moments of my life. As I sat on the stage waiting to receive my ring, I felt like I was becoming part of something much bigger than I could ever imagine… and I was right… There will be nothing but great memories with great people.” 

Abbey and her friend Billy show off their rings at the Junior Ring Breakfast last March.


Want to read more about the John Carroll ring and see more great photos of JC juniors celebrating this traditional rite of passage?

Check out my 2013 post:

March 26, 2015 10:13
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrating the Irish feast day in South Florida

The Irish high holy day has always been a big deal in my family. That’s because it’s my birthday and the reason why I have my first name.

Since my husband and I retired last year, we have spent much more time at our home on Singer Island, in Palm Beach County, Florida.

So how does one celebrate the "Luck of the Irish" and the “Wearing of the Green” in South Florida?

Here are our best suggestions:

Palm Beach Shores is located on the southern tip of Singer Island.
Since 1990, they have sponsored a festive parade the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.

Last Saturday, my husband George and I attended this fun occasion.
We went early so I could take photos, of course.

Our neighbor David Cross has taken part in the parade for several years as part of the Mummers group.

The Singer Island Mummers:
Our neighbor David Cross (second from left) is seen with neighbor Pat Leonard (far right), along with Nancy (second from right), and another local friend (on left) who joined in for this fun day.

George and I helped our local "St. Patrick" get suited up for his second year as the Irish patron, and I taught him how to give the bishop’s blessing.
What a great guy!!

What’s a good parade in South Florida without the local pizza delivery boat?
Yes, this vessel delivers to the boaters out near Singer Island and nearby Peanut Island. 


2. Attend the annual Gaelic Mass: 

Irish Florida sponsored the 29th annual “Irish Fest on Flagler” near the waterfront in downtown West Palm Beach.

Billed as “Florida’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Party,” this festive weekend included music, dancers, food and beverages, an Irish marketplace, and an array of children’s activities. Sunday morning started off with their annual Gaelic Mass.

Sheila Hynes is the executive director of the Irish Cultural Institute of Florida which sponsors the Irish Fest.  

George and I arrived 90 minutes before the Gaelic Mass began at the Meyer Amphitheater. I met a number of event coordinators, including those participating in this year's liturgy, and enthusiastic members of the crowd who were decked out for the “wearing of the green.”

It was great to meet Patti and Karl (on left) of West Palm Beach, and John and Rebecca of Boston (on right) before the Gaelic Mass. They were decked out in green to enjoy the Irish Fest.

“Flat Kiera:” 

Grandparents Matt and Marianne Kinnane (center: fourth and fifth from left) of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York are wintering in Beverly Hills, Florida on the Gulf Coast. They were here on the east coast this weekend visiting friends on Hutchinson Island, a barrier island on the coast of Martin and St. Lucie counties.

Marianne and her friend Eleanor went to high school together, and they have long-celebrated St. Patrick’s Day together. Fond memories include the parade in New York City. Now they get together for the festivities here in South Florida. 

One of Marianne and Matt’s five grandchildren, Kiera from Queens, New York, who will be six next month, was given a fun school project. Hence, Kiera has been able to join in on her grandparents’ adventures as “Flat Kiera.” 

I was lucky enough to meet Matt and Marianne, “Flat Kiera,” their Florida friends and neighbors, even Hazel the adorable dog!!

The Gaelic Mass:


Starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday, the Gaelic Mass was celebrated by Fr. Tom Flynn, a retired priest of the Diocese of Cleveland who spends his winters in Boynton Beach. Fr. Flynn has a great Irish wit and has celebrated this liturgy for the past five years.


Much of the congregation of this outdoor liturgy gathered around the outskirts of the amphitheater to escape the direct sunshine on the warm Sunday morning.


Liturgy participants:

Patrick Ferguson, originally from Galway, was the lector. He did a beautiful job with the Gaelic translations.

Noel Kingston, nationally-renowned Irish musician from Boca Raton, served as cantor for Mass and emcee for the Irish Fest. He hails from County Kerry and melted my heart with his rendition of "Lady of Knock" during Offertory.

After the Prayer of the Faithful, Father Flynn led the congregation in the Memorare prayer and made a special appeal to those who have not memorized this beautiful prayer to our Blessed Mother to learn the prayer and pray it daily.
Learn more about the Memorare here

3. Listen to Irish Music:

After the Gaelic Mass, George and I stayed to enjoy more of the music of Noel Kingston who served as cantor of the liturgy. Noel is well-known throughout South Florida for his poignant Irish ballads. He sang for well over an hour and had the audience laughing, singing, and crying to his rendition of “Danny Boy.”

Noel has a tradition of ending his concerts with a tribute to the branches of our armed services, followed by a  soulful “God Bless America.” We loved every minute and look forward to seeing and singing with Noel again soon!!

4. Go to the beach, of course!!

Singer Island is said to be closer to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream than any other location in North America. That’s why our waters are so perfectly turquoise in color.

What better way to spend part of St. Patrick’s Day than going to the beach and jumping a few perfect waves? 
Green bathing suits not required. 

Enjoy this recent video I took of the surf on our Singer Island beach:


5. Watch the sunset:

The luck of the Irish is a great thing, but when you live in South Florida, it’s important to stop and watch the sunset.
What better way to count your blessings than a beautiful sunset over the Intracoastal Waterway?

Our home is on the Intracoastal Waterway near the Blue Heron Bridge and we see manatees, starfish, stingrays, so many varieties of fish, an occasional sea turtle, and boats of all sizes from our seawall. Two nights ago we saw three dolphins jumping in and out of the water just as the sun was going down. How blessed are we to be able to see God’s splendor?

This baby manatee came up for a breath of air while swimming next to its mama right next to our seawall.
There was another adult manatee following them. 

Also known as seacows, manatees are large aquatic mammals that average ten feet in length and 800-1200 pounds when full grown. Read more about these gentle giants here at the Save the Manatee website


6. Pray to Our Lady of Knock:

Read about miraculous apparitions of Our Lady of Knock here and about the Shrine at Knock here.

Listen to the poignant song “Lady of Knock,” sung by composer Dana (Rosemary Scallon), while you learn more about the 1879 apparitions of our Blessed Mother in the village of Knock in County Mayo:

“Lady of Knock”

There were people of all ages
gathered 'round the gable wall:
poor and humble men and women,
little children that you called. 
We are gathered here before you,
and our hearts are just the same,
filled with joy at such a vision,
as we praise your name. 


Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland,
all my cares and troubles cease,
as we kneel with love before you,
Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace.
Though your message was unspoken,
but the truth in silence lies,
so we gaze upon your vision,
and the truth I try to find. 
Here I stand with John the teacher,
and with Joseph at your side,
and I see the Lamb of God,
on the Altar glorified. 

Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland,
all our cares and troubles cease.
As we kneel with love before you,
Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace. 

And the Lamb will conquer,
and the woman clothed in the sun
will shine Her light on everyone. 
Yes, the lamb will conquer,
and the woman clothed in the sun,
will shine Her light on everyone. 

Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland,
all our cares and troubles cease.
As we kneel with love before you,
Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

I’m wishing all of you have the luck of the Irish today and every day!!

As for me, I’m counting my blessings and celebrating my own special day…. 
And it’s going to be 86 degrees here on Singer Island!!


March 17, 2015 02:21
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Annie’s Playground ten years later: Reflections from Annie’s family and friends on turning their sorrow into the laughter of children

Annie McGann Cumpston
January 7, 1997 - March 23, 2003

(All photos from the Cumpston Family and Annie's Playground unless otherwise noted)


Dove released by Tom and Megan Cumpston at the grand opening of Annie's Playground in 2005


Ten years after the opening of Annie’s Playground in Fallston’s Edgeley Grove Park, the family and friends of Annie McGann Cumpston are planning a spectacular fundraiser to make repairs and improvements. “Annie’s EGGstravaganza" will be held there on the morning of April 4 from 10 am to 1 pm. 

Read more about this fun-filled event for the entire family here in "Annie's EGGstravaganza: Reserve April 4 for fun-filled family event at Annie's Playground" in "God is in the Clouds."


Remembering Annie:

There are no words to properly express what it means to lose a child. But the outpouring of love and support from the community provided the lifeline that the Cumpston Family needed most.

I invited Annie’s family and close friends to reflect on what Annie’s Playground has meant to them and what their hopes are for “Annie’s EGGstravaganza."

“She is dancing in the wind.”

Annie’s Mom shared her heartbreak with us yesterday as she reflected on the loss of her second daughter in 2003:

“Annie’s Playground meant finding a reason to smile again. I would do anything in the world to have my daughter here with me today and I know that our family will never be the same again, but I will be eternally grateful for the loving community that came together and helped us pick up the pieces of our tragic loss.  

“When I could not find any good coming out of our loss, our family and friends were able see beyond. The playground means that I get to see my little girl everyday in the smiles of other children. To me, it is almost like a safe haven where all those who have been lost too soon can watch over and protect those who visit. 

“The experience was bittersweet, but it meant finding acceptance. I truly believe that our sweet Angel is present in the laughter, the excited screams as children slide down slides, the courage as they complete the monkey bars for the first time, and the thrill as they get higher on the swings. She is dancing in the wind.”

—Megan McGann Cumpston

Tom Cumpston preparing Annie's memorial for the playground.


"Annie will be watching over everyone..."

Annie's sister Alice reflected:

"Annie was always so very happy, always with a smile on her face. What she loved most was putting smiles on everyone’s faces and making sure that they were okay. Annie’s Playground is a huge comfort to me and my family as we know that it brings so much good and happiness to all who come to play there. I know that Annie would want nothing more than to see all who come to her beautiful playground with smiling faces have the opportunity to spend time with their family. We all wish nothing more in the world than to have had more time with Annie.

"Annie’s Playground is all about remembering Annie and all of those who were lost and will never be
forgotten. It symbolizes coming together to be with your family and loved ones. I hope many people come to Annie’s EGGtravaganza with their families to enjoy the playground and share smiles and laughter. I know that Annie will be watching over everyone and smiling along with us.

"She truly brings comfort and happiness because I know she is always there by my side, and with the help of everyone coming together at Annie’s Playground, we can return that love and security that she has been giving us, while paying tribute to Annie and all of those who we have dearly lost.”

—Alice Cumpston, Annie’s sister, a junior at The John Carroll School


Annie's sisters (from left) Susie, Maddi, and Alice at a family wedding in April of 2014


"... family, fun, and remembrance"

From Annie's sister Maddi:

"Annie's Playground means family, fun, and remembrance. To me, it means family because it not only brings my family together, but many other families who are also looking to have fun and to hangout. No matter your age, I know that when you go to Annie's Playground you will have so much fun and many laughs. Annie's Playground is about remembering my sister for her admirable life. It reminds me of how many people knew and loved her for her sweet and loving personality through all of the bricks placed in her garden.

"For this year's EGGstravaganza, my hopes are for many more people to come and experience the fun and enjoyment that we all had last year. I encourage people of all ages, young and old, to come out and just have a good time with their friends, while searching for Easter Eggs, and remembering our sweet Angel Annie."

—Madelyn Cumpston, Annie’s sister, 8th grade student at St. Margaret School, Bel Air

“…. finding acceptance in tragedy”

From Annie's older sister Susie:

"Annie's playground means finding acceptance in tragedy. It means comfort in knowing that she will never be forgotten and that every day she plays a role in children's happiness and laughter. Annie's playground means helping other families cope with the loss of a loved one in knowing that this playground was built in memory of all lives taken too soon. For me personally, it meant doing one last thing for my little sister here on earth until we see each other again."

"My hopes for Annie's EGGstravanganza is the ability to raise enough money so that the playground can look shiny and new so when every child visits it for the first time they get to experience Annie's Playground in it's best form!"

—Susan Cumpston, Annie’s sister, sophomore at James Madison University 

Video Memorial:

Susie dedicated her 2013 John Carroll senior project to recording her sister’s legacy:

Susie hopes to keep her sister's memory alive through this most-touching video.


“… the single most enlightening experience of my life.  God was there that week.”

From Annie's Aunt Erin:

"Helping to build Annie’s Playground stands alone as the single most enlightening experience of my life.  God was there that week.  Any doubts about his existence and the goodness and selflessness of people were washed away for me.  Seeing a community of strangers come together to help heal a family was a gift to my family.  Knowing that Annie’s beautiful little life would live on in this magical place brought me some peace that is intangible and hard to explain.  As the years have passed and I see all those lovely families enjoying that little slice of heaven makes my heart sing.  Yes, I’d rather have Annie here with us but she is everywhere for all those families that never even knew her.  It is my great hope that people who go there will learn the greatest lesson…life is precarious and full of challenges, so hold dear to all the moments you have with loved ones.  Embrace the joy they bring.”

— Erin McGann Kleinman, Annie’s aunt


“Jesus lives here. Annie lives here too. Joy lives here.”

From Annie's Aunt Lisa:

"Annie’s Playground is the embodiment of living with hope. Annie’s family took a most tragic event and with faith, hope and the love of their family, friends, and countless members of our community created this treasured playground. 

"Our family worked through much of the darkest times of Annie's death through the creation of this playground. It is a place of joy. For me personally, when I hit hard times in my life, I search for joy, big joy, because that is where I feel Jesus' presence most. Jesus' joy comforts me and pulls me through the darkest times. Jesus lives here. Annie lives here too. Joy lives here.

"To me, the playground is a living breathing thing that it still being created as more families share their stories of loss through the many plaques, plantings, memorials and bricks. These same families come to Annie's to spend time with their loved ones, finding new ways to experience the joy and hope that life still offers. What a testament to the human race that when we lose a loved little one, we eventually go to where the little children are. We go to the playground.

"The playground is an open invitation for all of us to focus on what is most important in life. The Easter EGGstravaganza is a wonderful way for us to pass on to our children the practice of living life with the hope and joy."

—Lisa McGann, Annie’s aunt


"... to witness joy in the Spring"

From Annie's godmother and Aunt Lorene:

"Annie’s playground was built not only in memory of Annie, but all those who have gone on to a better place. It is a reminder that although we deeply loved, we will never lose the memories of how they touched not only our lives, but many others as well.

"Life must go one and hearing the laughter and seeing the smiles of all who enjoy the playground reminds us of this. ‘Mama Annie’ -- as we called her, because she had so much compassion for others -- is looking after all those who visit the Memorial Bricks and is able to help them have peace in their hearts.  

"This EGGstravaganza will bring the community together to witness joy in the Spring, which is the beginning of a time of regrowth. With extensive advertisement, it will reach more people who might not know about this magical place. EGGstravaganza is enjoyed by the children, the parents, grandparents and all those who remember the excitement of collecting Easter eggs and the thrill of what’s inside them!"  
Lorene Cumpston Tompros, Annie's aunt and godmother

After Annie's death, Mrs. Tompros wrote and illustrated "Trampoline Angel Annie and the Visit to Heaven," a book about death and grief for children..
To order a copy, email Lorene at:

She also coordinates the memorial bricks at the playground.

For more info on the memorials at Annie's Playground, click here.


“… what a community can achieve when they come together”

From Sharon Perfetti, who served as general coordinator for Annie’s Playground:

“For me, Annie's Playground represents what a community can achieve when they come together to support each other. While Annie's Playground was one hundred percent inspired by Annie and the desire to remember her life, it grew to include so many other children who were lost too soon.  

“And then the thousands of people who came out over the three week build to make it all come to fruition. When we started the Annie's Playground project our goal was to know that someone, somewhere would be saying Annie's name every day. And I do believe we might have achieved that goal.

"The EGGstravanza is another example of the community gathering in Annie's name and memory while getting the chance to enjoy their own families.”

—Sharon Perfetti, longtime Cumpston Family friend and co-founder of the Cool Kids Campaign, was general coordinator for Annie’s Playground which was built by thousands of volunteers in late September and early October, 2005.

Mrs. Perfetti also oversees “The Stories Between” website which shares the stories of those who have gone before us.


“… helped us greatly in our healing process.”

Kelli Szczybor, who lost a young son in 1998, is passionate about the memorial aspect of Annie's Playground: 

"Annie's playground has been a special place for many families. 

“For our family, it began during construction. We got to volunteer with hundreds of strangers from the community to create this beautiful place for each of our children in memory of a special little girl that was taken from us way too soon. It was a great feeling working together as a team for such a happy project, even though our hearts were heavy with the loss of Annie. 

“But to this day, we point out that part of Annie's playground that we helped to put together! It makes you feel so special. 

“Annie's Playground has brought my family so much peace as well. My son Ryan passed away in 1998 at the age of 15 months. We were able to sponsor a slide in Annie's playground in memory of my son. We also bought a brick paver in the memorial garden with his name on it. 

“This helped us greatly in our healing process. For years, I have been able to take my children to play at Annie's, and while they run and play, I was able to sit in the memorial garden and be at peace in my thoughts. What a treasure! 

“It always makes me smile when I pull up to Annie's at any day of the week and the parking lot is full!  I always think to myself, "Wow, Annie, look at how many families you have made happy today!"

—Kelli Szczybor 

Special Note:

Kelli and her husband Andy Szczybor have spearheaded another memorial playground, "Angel Park" in Perry Hall in memory of their son Ryan who died of leukemia at the age of fifteen months.

Watch this video about Angel Park which was produced by JC graduate George Stover and Adventure Productions:


“… to escape, to play, to laugh…”

Family friend and committee member Steve Lutche reflected:

"Annie’s playground is an everlasting tribute to Annie who inspired an entire community who came together to build something so good in spite of something so tragic. Annie continues to live with us today through her family and the playground, and she continues to protect and watch over her friends and loved ones. She left us all way too soon. She is our Angel Annie.  

“The playground has done so much good. It continues to be a destination for all, the young, the old, for all their families, to enjoy the activities, to escape, to play, to laugh.  It is part of our family, having helped from the very beginning to make it a reality for our generation and those to come. It is peaceful, yet vibrant. 

“The EGGstravaganza will continue the celebration of all the playground represents, and the celebration of Annie, an innocent, vibrant, and loving young child who left us too soon, but who continues to inspire."

—Stephen W. Lutche, Esquire


“… being able to witness the innocent joy of children…”

"Annie's Playground is a special part of Harford County because it is a place to remember those that we lost too young, while still being able to witness the innocent joy of children who may not understand why the playground was built. It is a place that we can remember the joy that Annie & Kurt brought to our lives everyday. 

"Hopefully this event will help Annie's Foundation raise the money necessary for the upkeep of this special place."

—Meaghan Owens, on behalf of The Kurt M. Chenowith Foundation


For more info on the memorials at Annie's Playground, click here.


“… through the laughter of the children”

Amanda Brannan could have been Annie's classmate today:

“I never got the chance to meet Annie, but I have been able to meet the rest of her family. Annie's playground is a safe place that I like to go to during the summer. This past summer I was training for my 39-mile walk in New York. I would walk the Ma and Pa Trail and stop at Annie's playground to have lunch. I loved stopping there at Annie's and just thinking about her. 

“Annie would have been in my John Carroll Class. She lives on not just through the St. Margaret School and John Carroll communities, but through the laughter of the children that come to Annie's playground.”

—Amanda Brannan, senior, John Carroll Class of 2015


“… memories and fun times.”

More memories from another John Carroll student:

“To me and my family, Annie’s Playground means memories and fun times. As kids, my parents used to always take us to Annie’s playground. There we would play ‘capture the flag’ or ‘hide and go seek’ or, my favorite, ‘tag.’ We could run around there for hours! 

“Now, when we take my little sister to play there, I typically take a friend or two and we take a walk along the scenic pathway.

“For the upcoming fundraiser, I hope it is a huge success so that current and future kids will always be able to make the long lasting memories that my family and friends and I were able to make!”

—Reiley Overend, freshman, John Carroll Class of 2018


Members of the John Carroll Class of 2015 gathered with the Cumpston Family in May, 2014 after Mass.
Then-juniors, the students pictured were kindergarten classmates of Annie at nearby St. Margaret School.
The Cumpston Family also honor Annie's memory annually with scholarships at John Carroll and St. Margaret's.
(Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)


God is indeed in the clouds:

As time and wisdom teach us, God is there with us in our darkest days, carrying us through with hope to deeper understanding and faith.  

Annie Cumpston’s legacy lives on through the laughter and playtime of the thousands of children who visit the playground named for her each year. 

We pray in deep gratitude for that special gift that Annie’s family and friends have shared with so many.

Memorial at Annie's Playground: Photo: Baltimore Sun/Aegis


Learn more about Annie Cumpston and Annie’s Playground:

Originally published on April 27, 2004, this article was reposted on January 8, 2015 in honor of Annie’s 18th birthday      

3. The Baltimore Sun and Aegis photo gallery:
By The Aegis staff and file photos

4. Take a video-tour of Annie’s Playground:
Produced by Robert B. McArtor, REALTOR with Maryland HOMES Team, RE/MAX Components, enjoy this 8-minute video-tour. 

5. Read about how Jim Hunter, the announcer for the Baltimore Orioles, came up with a great idea for fundraising:
The Baltimore Sun: February 20, 2005: “Plans for Annie's Playground are coming together

March 07, 2015 08:23
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Annie’s EGGstravaganza: Reserve April 4 for fun-filled family event at Annie’s Playground

"To all that visit here: live, love, and laugh during your lives and never take for granted the time we have together”

— Memorial plaque at Annie’s Playground


Annie McGann Cumpston would have been a senior at The John Carroll School today. 
January 7, 1997 - March 23, 2003

(All photos from the Cumpston Family and Annie's Playground)

Remembering Annie:

Beautiful six-year old Annie McGann Cumpston had just left the circus with her three sisters and her parents on March 23, 2003 when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver while in the cross walk holding her Mom’s hand near the 1st Marina Arena.

The outpouring of support from the community resulted in a memorial beyond the family’s wildest dreams: Annie’s Playground in Fallston. Opened in 2005 in Edgeley Grove Park, the memorial playground celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

Ten years after Annie's death:
Watch Annie’s Dad, Tom Cumpston of Jarrettsville, talk in 2013 about what Annie’s Playground has meant to his family in this video by The Baltimore Sun. Click on this link.

Annie’s Mom reflects on the heartbreak that eventually found a way to smile:

“Annie’s Playground meant finding a reason to smile again. I would do anything in the world to have my daughter here with me today and I know that our family will never be the same again, but I will be eternally grateful for the loving community that came together and helped us pick up the pieces of our tragic loss.  

“When I could not find any good coming out of our loss, our family and friends were able see beyond. The playground means that I get to see my little girl everyday in the smiles of other children. To me, it is almost like a safe haven where all those who have been lost too soon can watch over and protect those who visit. 

“The experience was bittersweet, but it meant finding acceptance. I truly believe that our sweet Angel is present in the laughter, the excited screams as children slide down slides, the courage as they complete the monkey bars for the first time, and the thrill as they get higher on the swings. She is dancing in the wind.”

—Megan McGann Cumpston


“Every life has a beginning and an end. Let’s celebrate the stories in between.”

Check out the poignant stories shared on “The Stories Between,” a website created by longtime Cumpston Family friend, Sharon Perfetti.

Your vote supports this website which shares the legacy stories of Annie and so many other who have gone before us.


Read more stories from Annie’s sisters, relatives, and friends tomorrow in Part 2:

Tomorrow I will share more stories about what Annie’s Playground has meant to the Cumpston Family and their close friends. 
Watch for it here in “God is in the Clouds.”


Annie's EGGstravaganza:

The Cumpston Family and members of the community are in the final planning stages for "Annie’s EGGstravaganza," a fundraiser to support needed repairs and improvements at Annie’s Playground.

Mark your calendars: Annie’s EGGstravaganza on Saturday, April 4:

To celebrate the tenth Anniversary of Annie's Playground, a fun-filled day for the whole family has been planned:

Activities included on April 4:

Annual Easter Egg Hunt from 10 to 11:30 am (Registration stars at 9:30 am for three different age groups)

Visit from the Easter Bunny, 

HIGHLIGHT: Easter Egg Drop by helicopter from 11:30 to 12 noon: 1000 eggs!!


Lots of activities including Harford County ambulances and fire engines to promote safety awareness.

All activities are free and open to the public.

Support the Raffle:

Tickets are available for $10 and will directly benefit Annie's Playground:

Your ticket will correspond to a numbered egg which will be dropped from a helicopter:

“All of the eggs that land in our giant Easter basket will be eligible to win our GRAND PRIZE worth over $500!!! We will also have 15 other great prizes for eggs that land in our Easter Basket! The more tickets you buy, the better chance you have of taking home our GRAND PRIZE!”

How to get your tickets:

To purchase tickets: Make your tax-deductible donation payable to Fallston Rec. Council.

Send your check to: First Home Mortgage, 808 Baltimore Pike, Bel Air, MD 21014

Note: The numbered tickets to match the numbered eggs will be mailed to you, so be sure to include your full name, mailing address, and phone number along with your donation. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the event.

You can also stop by to pick up tickets in person at First Home Mortgage in Bel Air.

For more information on this event, please call 443-879-9820.

Volunteers needed:

If you'd like to help make Annie’s EGGstravaganza a huge success while spreading some Easter cheer, you can volunteer by emailing:

Ann Johnson:
Ryan DeVoe: for more information.

Visit Annie’s Playground at Edgeley Grove Park:

864 Smith Lane

Fallston, Maryland 21047

Harford County Parks and Recreation

410-638-3559 (Monday through Friday 1 pm to 4:30 pm)


Read more in Part 2 on Friday:

Don't forget to check in tomorrow for Part 2 on Annie McGann Cumpston and read some more poignant reflections about what Annie’s Playground has meant to Annie's sisters and their relatives and friends here in “God is in the Clouds.”

Annie's portrait from St. Margaret School in Bel Air.

March 05, 2015 01:46
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Thank a Sister: Share your stories of the good Sisters' influence on your life and family

This upcoming Sunday begins the second annual National Catholic Sisters Week. Started in 2013 in conjunction with National Women’s History Month, this weeklong celebration started last March 2014. 

The website for National Catholic Sisters Week explains that the week is “intended to shine a national spotlight on the good works and good will of Catholic sisters. It recognizes past and present sisters, from the movers and shakers pressing the frontline of social change to the faithful praying in cloistered chapels."

Calling for your stories:

In an effort to promote the good work of our local Sisters, I would like to hear your stories about the Sisters and the religious communities who influenced you and your families. Your special memories and tributes will be featured next week in “God is in the Clouds.”

My personal gratitude to the Sisters:

I am so incredibly grateful for the influence of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia and the School Sisters of Notre Dame which was fundamental in molding me into the woman of faith that I am today. These women are the spiritual heroes in my life. 

Thank a Sister:

Let's honor the faithful women religious who guided you, challenged you, prayed for you, influenced you, and were your mentors and friends.

Deadline Sunday, March 8 by 12 noon:

Email your memories and tributes to me:
Attach a photo if you have one.

Let’s thank the women of faith who shaped and formed us: the good Sisters!! 

Thank a Sister:

Enjoy this video that was made to kick off the 2014 celebration:

The Year for Consecrated Life:

Pope Francis has designated the Year for Consecrated Life, started on the First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014, and ending on World Day of Consecrated Life, February 2, 2016. 

Check out the resources, videos, and prayers from the U.S. Bishops website here.

March 03, 2015 12:09
By Patti Murphy Dohn

‘Planting seeds’ at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House: The impact of a retreat letter forty years later

Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, Maryland
(Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)

For over five decades, the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House has served the spiritual needs of the young people of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Affectionately called ‘the House’ by those of us who have ministered there, O’Dwyer hosts thousands of youth and young adults each year. 

Founded in 1963 as the CYO Retreat House, this archdiocesan facility was founded by Msgr. Clare O’Dwyer who envisioned a “spiritual powerhouse” for our youth. Cardinal Lawrence Shehan (the 12th Archbishop of Baltimore from 1961-1974) approved the purchase of an old lodge with twenty acres in the northern Baltimore County town of Sparks. Msgr. O'Dwyer directed the students from Mount St. Joseph High School on the first retreat in September of 1963. The House was renamed for Msgr. O'Dwyer after his death in 1982.

Having led junior retreats there for many years for my students at The John Carroll School, I can personally attest to the fact that lives are changed there. And for some high-risk youth, lives are saved… literally and spiritually.

A great story from the Director of the House:

Michael Downes has served as O'Dwyer's director since 2011. He shared with me this beautiful story about how retreats often impact lives many year later, sometimes in the most amazing ways. Enjoy this heartwarming story and his personal reflections that follow.

“God sending a note from her younger self to her older self”

“Last November, I received a completely unexpected phone call, and had the opportunity to hear another of those wonderful stories about the impact that being at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House had on someone’s life. It is a great story for all those who work in ministry and work with young people.

“Kathy, who lives in Oregon now, was on the phone. She let me know that she had attended a retreat here at the House as a teenager in 1972, and had greatly enjoyed being here. Kathy also let me know that during the retreat the participants wrote a letter to themselves, which after the retreat was mailed home to them. Kathy got her letter, but never opened it. The letter got put aside and forgotten about.

"Fast forward nearly 30 years later to 2000. Her mom is cleaning out the house and sends a bunch of Kathy’s things to her in a box. One of the things Kathy comes across is the letter from her retreat. This discovery came during a particularly trying time for herself and her husband. She didn’t go into a lot of detail of what was in the letter, but she did tell me a few things. 

“Kathy thought of it as God sending her a note from her younger self to her older self, reminding her of the important lessons from retreat. It contained things such as love yourself as God loves you, take time to be with God in prayer, that God is in the people you meet, and that you have much to offer. 

“…God giving her just what she needed when she needed it.”

“She (Kathy) also said it was God giving her just what she needed when she needed it. The letter was put away for safe keeping, and for a time, forgotten about again.

“Kathy then told me that a few months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily it has been found early and her treatment is going well. It is also about this time Kathy rediscovered the letter from retreat in a jewelry box. Once again it was just what she needed to hear in a tremendously difficult time in her life. It was yet another, and now a familiar way, that God reached out to her and provided what she needed. 

“This time she felt compelled to call the House and tell someone about her experiences, and it was my good fortune to be that person. Kathy talked about what a special place the House is for young people, how she was so grateful for the experience she had here as a teen, and how grateful she is for the effect her retreat has had on her 30 and 40 years later! She told me she was praying for the young people coming here on retreat, for the staff, and for the work of the House.

“…so much of what we do in ministering to youth is planting seeds…”

“The call was such a blessing and another amazing example of God’s grace. It gave a clear reminder of how so much of what we do in ministering to youth is planting seeds, and that in God’s time it bears fruit. In the busyness and the sometime frustrations of the day, in the grind of the week, we might lose sight of what we’re trying to do in our ministry, of what our mission is, and what it’s really about. The fruits of our labors might be seen that day, or in a week, or a month, or a year; or sometimes 40 years from now! 

“Reminders like Kathy’s help us to know that our work with young people does bear fruit even though we realize many times we’ll never get to see it, or hear about these types of experiences. I am so grateful to Kathy for being God’s messenger in this instance. 

“God wants us all to know that the work we do with youth every day is important and does matter. It helps to provide us the strength and hope we need to continue on in our ministry.

“This is but one of literally hundreds of thousands of stories of young people who have experienced the ministry of the Retreat House. Young people, now adults, who were given the opportunity to come on retreat, and to deepen their relationship with the Living God through activities, games, talks, prayer, reflection, Reconciliation, and Eucharist. Young people who today still continue to deepen that relationship with their Savior, who are this generation’s disciples. We pray they develop what will be a lifetime relationship with Jesus, and spread the Good News to others.
May God continue to bless us all, and continue to bless our ministry to youth!”

—Mike Downes, Director, Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House

Read more about the Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House here:

1. Read about what the House has meat to John Carroll students since the late 1970s:

4. Welcoming new director Michael Downes in 2011:

February 26, 2015 03:00
By Patti Murphy Dohn

“Be Not Afraid:” The making of the memorial tribute for Mark Pacione from the artists at Spirit and Song

Remembering Mark David Pacione

The wonderful musicians from Spirit and Song, a division of Oregon Catholic Press, put together this poignant tribute to youth ministry icon Mark Pacione who passed on to Eternal Life on December 29 at age 60. Their poignant rendition of “Be Not Afraid” has been shared many times since it launched on YouTube on February 8.  

This "Spirit & Song Artists’ Tribute” was the brainchild of ValLimar Jansen who was unable to attend Mark's funeral and wanted to honor his memory through the gift of music. 

Watch the memorial tribute here below on the YouTube link and then come back to read the amazing story of how ValLimar Jansen pulled together this poignant tribute with artists who were in all different parts of the United States, in different time zones, and on different schedules.
It was truly a labor of love. 

"Be Not Afraid: Spirit and Song tribute for Mark Pacione."
Published on Feb 8, 2015
Text based on Is 43:2-3; Lk 6:20 ff.
Text and music © 1975, 1978, Robert J. Dufford, SJ and OCP. All rights reserved.

Singing in order of appearance:

Video producer ValLimar Jansen accompanied by Frank Jansen

Tom Booth, Bobby Fisher and friends

Video editor: Rodolfo López 

The making of the video tribute:

Reflections from ValLimar Jansen:

"As you know, I could not be at Mark's funeral. So I wanted to find a way to pay tribute to Mark, who did so much for the Church. He was so encouraging to my husband Frank and me, telling us to minister, as a couple, as much as we possibly can. He and (his wife) Carol~~what wonderful peer-mentors and friends...

"I had this idea, a few years ago, inspired by the work of Eric Whitacre and Playing For Change. I wanted to choose several songs for Liturgy, from the Spirit & Song hymnal and do each song the way we created this video tribute to Mark. When Frank and I could not be at Mark's funeral, I felt compelled to bring this idea to fruition, for Mark. He did so much work for the young Church and youth ministry, I felt that we Spirit & Song artists, who dedicate so much of what we do to serve Youth and youth ministers, needed to do something special for Mark. 

"Here is the idea I had a few years ago and how we did Mark's tribute video. I called Laure Krupp, General Manager of Music Outreach and Partnerships at OCP (Oregon Catholic Press). I told her what I wanted to do and explained my artistic vision. She was in full support of the idea and suggested that I ask assistance from one of the members of her staff, Rodolfo López (Rudy), who could edit the video. This made me the Producer of the video and Rudy Lopez the Editor. I also had a very important phone call with Jesse Manibusan, so he was an important and initial consultant on the project. We decided on the key in which all of us should perform the song. Rudy suggested that in addition, I should give the artists a click-track tempo, so we would all record our individual videos at the same speed. 

"I sent a text blast to a group of Spirit & Song artists and asked if they would be willing to help me create a video tribute to Mark Pacione. I asked the artists to record themselves singing the Roman Catholic hymn, "Be Not Afraid" by Bob Dufford, at 96 click-track tempo. At the advice of Rudy, I asked them to use their computer, cell phone or iPad, at the highest resolution, and record themselves singing the entire song, for we planned to edit it with all the contributing Spirit & Song artists singing it. 

"What a task!
"All of the artists were working in dioceses or parishes, on the road ministering, in recording studios working on their next project, caring for their families and a combination of all of these things and more! I asked each artist to keep their video simple, high resolution and use an app to get the click-track tempo correct. 

"So, people started sending in their videos, created on cell phones, laptops, or iPads, and Rudy began the editing process. A few of the videos we received were not usable, because the resolution was too low. I would love to name all of the artists who sent in a video contribution, including those whose videos we were unable to use: Steve Angrisano, Josh Blakesley, Tom Booth with Bobby Fisher and friends, Sarah Hart, Frank Jansen, ValLimar Jansen, Rodolfo López, Jesse Manibusan, Chris Padgett, Curtis Stephan, Tom Tomaszek, and Greg Walton.

"Pulling everything together, adding a percussion track and beautiful photos of Mark, Rudy sent me edit after edit so I could do my job as Producer. I wrote the dialogue at the beginning of the video, with Rudy adding a line or two. I gave him notes on the final changes I wanted, approved his final edit, and we were ready to go live.

"Please look for collaborative works from me in the future! The innovative, creative, and positive ripple-effect of the life and work of Mark Pacione continues. Once again, Mark was the inspiration for us to create something that proclaims our faith, our love of Jesus and His Church and our belief that all those who walk in the light of Christ, will rise from death to live in God's glorious light of everlasting life!"

~ValLimar Jansen

The other artists reflect on their involvement:

I asked the artists involved to share what it meant to be included in this video tribute.

Here are some of their reflections:

"ValLimar called me and we spoke about possible songs and possible participants. Val facilitated the whole thing. All of us had known of Mark. Many of us had worked with him! He actually introduced me to the 'real deal crab cakes' before one of the pilgrimages I had presented at some years ago. It was a joy and honor for each of us to be part of this.

"It meant the world to me! Grateful for his faith and friendship. His ministry flows on!!"

~Jesse Manibusan

"Patti, it meant so much, because Mark meant so much. He was such an amazing man whose legacy of love will keep going for many years to come. The best tribute we can all give is to keep his spirit of love and kindness and welcome going!"

~Sarah Hart

"Honestly, I didn't know Mark very well. Val contacted me about doing a tribute... I got on the net and read up on Mark and felt an immediate connection. I think it was the joy and 'freeness' in his photo. It reflected what so many of us experience as we try to bring forth the Kingdom of God. It's hard to explain to others why we do what we do for so little materially. His picture captured the the joy in Christ that makes it so worthwhile."

~Greg Walton

"That night we were having a 'house concert' at my place in Tucson. Bobby Fisher and his daughter Serenity, myself, with Linda Ronstadt's nephew Michael Ronstadt on cello and a local drummer recorded the song.
"Before the concert started, we talked about Mark's death and his beautiful life, and then we did the song - with no rehearsal, no fanfare, and maybe a little too slow, but somehow beautiful."

~Tom Booth

From the editor of this video memorial tribute:

"I was very honored to have the opportunity to work on this video project because, although I did not know Mark Pacione personally, I was very moved by the outpouring of support for this project by the Spirit&Song artists. The desire to bring tribute to Mark Pacione was genuine and this video made it tangible. The sentiment that Spirit&Song artists expressed at the loss of such an important minister for the Church was heartfelt and honest. I am glad for the fact that because of this tribute, others will share in the knowledge of the important work that Mark Pacione did for the youth of this country, and, that hopefully, it will inspire others to take a place in this important ministry."
~Rodolfo ("Rudy") López, Hispanic Events Specialist, Clinician, Recording Producer

Watch again:

Now that you know "the rest of the story..."

"Be Not Afraid: Spirit and Song tribute for Mark Pacione."
Published on Feb 8, 2015
Text based on Is 43:2-3; Lk 6:20 ff. 
Text and music © 1975, 1978, Robert J. Dufford, SJ and OCP. All rights reserved.

Read more about the ministry of Mark Pacione:

Reflections by those who were impacted by Mark's ministry with young people:
Former members of the St. Margaret's youth group under Mark's leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s share the impact he made on their lives:

Colleagues from the Archdiocese of Baltimore and national leaders in youth ministry share the inspiration Mark provided in their own areas of ministry:

The obituary from The Catholic Review:

This YouTube folder contains eight informal videos from the Mass of Christian Burial on January 3, 2015 at St. Margaret Church, Bel Air, Maryland.

February 17, 2015 10:29
By Patti Murphy Dohn

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

The impact of a Catholic education lasts a lifetime: Part 1


The celebration of National Catholic Schools Week (CSW) was kicked off today across the United States. Always one of my favorite weeks of the year, this annual event gives our schools and parishes a chance to intentionally celebrate the strong foundation of values they pass down to many families generation after generation. The National Catholic Educational Association has sponsored CSW since 1974. This year's national theme is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”

My best CSW memories:

This year is my first "retired CSW" and I am still celebrating joyfully the legacy that was handed down to me from my lifetime of Catholic education on both sides of the desk.

I always loved the special festivities that I coordinated at John Carroll each year to highlight the many benefits of being part of a Catholic school community. From student and teacher appreciation days to honoring St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Bosco, and our school patron Archbishop John Carroll, having special speakers in to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and blessing throats for the Feast of St. Blase when CSW extended into February... all the activities were centered with a faith-based focus.

My favorite part of the week was always our highly-attended CSW Mass, often celebrated by one of our Archdiocese of Baltimore bishops. Having the Mass on Grandparents Day allowed our students to showcase their school to family members, as they joined together for our Eucharistic celebration and then enjoyed the luncheon that followed. The bishop's special blessing of all the grandparents was a heartwarming part of this annual CSW tradition.  

Bishop Denis Madden with Deacon Joseph Krysiak and Father Stephen Sutton before the 2014 CSW Mass at John Carroll


The biggest influence on my life:

Catholic schools formed me into the woman I am today, no doubt. The strong influence of the good Sisters of my youth, followed by the dedicated examples of faith and scholarship from faculty in my high school and college days were integral to my own calling to devote so many years of my life to following their lead. It was a career filled with joy as I worked with young people and their families passing on the values of faith, academics, and service.

Other reflections on our Catholic schools:

I invited those who went to our Catholic schools to again this year share the impact that it had on their lives. I had so many responses from grads of all ages that I have written two parts to this CSW blog. Here are comments from the first group...

"... prayer is an anonymous gift you can give anyone..."

Alan, a graduate of St. Margaret School and John Carroll in the 1970s, reminisced:

"In the fourth grade, whenever we heard a fire or police siren, our class would stop whatever we were doing and pray a Hail Mary together for the intentions of whomever might be sick, injured, or otherwise in need of God's intercession. It taught me that we're never too busy to pray, that prayer is an anonymous gift you can give anyone, and that often the best way to reach a Son is through his mother. Half a century later, I still say a Hail Mary whenever I hear an emergency siren."


"Catholic social teaching... my guide to life..."

Christopher, a graduate of St. Stephen School in Bradshaw, John Carroll, and Catholic University, shared some key memories: 

"An experience that quickly comes to mind--a good fun memory--was when I was in middle school at St. Stephen. I remember we were outside playing at recess when the church bells started ringing and our teachers called us in so we can see the new pope that had been elected. We all started running into the school to watch Pope Benedict XVI make his first appearance.

"As for as a lasting impact of Catholic school... I think it's our Church's seven themes of Catholic social teaching. It's my guide to life and how to be a good person to others."

Christopher's senior portrait for the John Carroll Class of 2011 yearbook


....welcoming, faith filled atmosphere....

Laure, a preschool teacher at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen and the parent of two John Carroll students, shared how she came to love Catholic education: 

"I was a public school kid and then teacher, and was sure my kids would go to public school. That is until I went to St. Joan of Arc's open house. The "family feel" and welcoming, faith filled atmosphere was incredible. It was shortly after 9/11 and the students talked about how they stopped and prayed on that day. I realized my boys could live their faith every day in school.  I left that day knowing that my kids would attend Catholic schools. My son Joe graduates this year from JC, David follows next year, and I've now taught in Catholic schools for eleven years. I love my job and the Catholic education my boys have had."

Laure with her husband Ray, one of my former John Carroll students


A multi-generational family legacy:

Jen, a graduate of St. Margaret, Bel Air, and John Carroll, shared her family legacy:

"Catholic schools have been a special part of my family, as my parents, sisters, cousins, and I have all attended Catholic schools growing up. 

"My sisters, cousins, and I attended St. Margaret School and The John Carroll School, and my cousins’ children are now at St. Margaret’s.  I attended St. Margaret’s from Pre-3 until 8th grade, and graduated from John Carroll in 2013. My sisters, Stephanie and Kathy, are also graduates of both schools.  

"The most significant impacts that these schools have had on me is instilling a sense of community, tradition, and compassion for others.  Throughout my years at these schools, I repeatedly saw our school communities come together in both times of celebration and of sorrow.  After the passing of loved ones in the school community, the amount of support and love that was shared was heart-warming. Examples are when many volunteers came together to build Annie’s Playground and when the JC community raised money for Mr. (Eddie) Maynard and his family during his (present) cancer battle. 

"The St. Margaret’s and John Carroll communities, intertwined with each other, are composed of compassionate and caring people who are there for each other. 

"During my years at both of these schools, I felt as though my teachers wanted me to succeed and truly cared about my education and progress as a student. Whenever I was in need of assistance, in my academics or personal life, my teachers never hesitated to lend a hand or an ear.

"Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher myself, and I believe that the inspiration of my teachers over the years has confirmed and furthered my interest in and love of teaching.   

"In third grade at St. Margaret’s, I was particularly interested in helping my teacher, Mrs. Bogdan, in the classroom. More than anything, I wanted to get a sense of her job and understand what a teacher really does, because she did it so well and seemed to really love working with all of us.  Mrs. Bogdan allowed me to help her a few times, and I am grateful that she encouraged me and showed how much she wanted me to follow my passion.

"I have many fond memories of teachers who have been an 'icon' at both St. Margaret’s and John Carroll.  Mr. Ken Bean, Mr. Craig White, Mrs. Margaret Kelly, Mr. George Appleby, and Mr. Ed Miller are a few teachers who come to mind.   

"My cousins, who graduated years ahead of me, would ask me if these teachers were still there, often including a funny story about them as well.  We also discuss many of the traditions that these schools are proud of, including something as simple as 'The Flea on Santa’s Tree' Christmas play performed in second grade at SMS, or the John Carroll Ring Ceremony, a special and memorable night for juniors who receive their class ring.

"Today, my sisters and I still wear our John Carroll rings, as do many other people I see out in the community. There have been many times when someone asks me if I went to John Carroll because they recognize the ring on my finger, a ring that symbolizes the values and traditions of JC. I feel proud to wear my John Carroll ring, and I am equally as proud to say that I have attended Catholics schools. The faith-based education and values that I have been taught have shaped me into the person that I am today.   

"During my education, my teachers were not only focused on teaching me about subject material, but they also taught me how to be a compassionate, giving, and respectful person.  Our years of adopting an Advent family and donating to St. Rose of Lima in Haiti showed me at a young age that we are all God’s children, and it is important for us to help those in need. As the Bible tells us, 'Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

"I learned how to love others and treat my peers with respect as a result of these projects at St. Margaret’s and John Carroll, and I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to understand the world around me. I am forever appreciative and proud that I attended both St. Margaret’s and John Carroll, and I will carry the lessons that I have learned with me as I get older.

"And, of course, I will never forget that God is Good, All the Time!"

Jen Kreis and her sisters display their John Carroll rings:

Stephanie of the Class of 2006, Jen of the Class of 2013, and Kathy of the Class of 2008. 


The wedding day of Jen's sister:

Four John Carroll graduates show off their JC rings on Stephanie's 2013 wedding day


A shout-out to her Campus Minister:

Megan of the John Carroll Class of 2005 sent me her personal gratitude:

"I just read your request for CSW input on Facebook and it made me think about how much of an impact YOU had on me. Without you I would never have survived. During that year when I was being harassed, you were my rock. You let me vent and listened and helped me with whatever you could! I couldn't have asked for a better teacher and mentor during high school."

Thank you, Megan...

You-- and all my JC students-- were the reason why I stayed at John Carroll for well over thirty years...

To make a difference in the lives of the students is most essential.


Watch for Part 2 of this CSW blog this Wednesday and hear more about the incredible impact of our Catholic schools.

Yes, God is good… All the time!!


Read more about Catholic Schools Week in my friend Rita Buettner’s “A letter to our son as he gets ready for kindergarten” from her Open Window blog:

Rita includes a blog linkup with more posts on why other writers love Catholic schools too.

Check it out!!


January 25, 2015 10:22
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Witnessing God’s wonder: Two sea turtles released in Juno Beach, Florida

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida

The winter culture in South Florida is completely different than in Maryland. Where else can you go to the beach to watch sea turtles being released back to their ocean home after medical evaluation/rehabilitation in January… with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s?

My husband George saw the notice in this morning’s Palm Beach Post. We left our Singer Island home to witness our first turtle release at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach. Located just seven miles north of us on the Atlantic Ocean in Palm Beach County, the Loggerhead has been furthering their mission to “promote conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles” since 1990.

Have you ever seen a sea turtle ambulance? The Sea Turtle Rescue is always ready to go....

The Loggerhead keeps excellent data on turtle nests during the March to October season 


Locals, tourists, and school groups gathered several hours before the 12 noon release to find the perfect spot to see the turtles go back to their ocean home. Cars in the parking lot were from many different states including New York, Illinois, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Georgia.

Arriving an hour ahead of time, my husband and I met a few staff members, took photos of the two turtles in the center's protected swim areas, and made our way to the beach. People of all ages, from babies in backpacks to retired snowbirds, were already gathering along the roped off release area. Many brought chairs and blankets for the wait time.


I chatted with a teacher who brought 40 fifth-graders from Imagine NAU School in Port St. Lucie:

Her students got a tour of other rescued turtles in the protected pool holding area before today's release.


Annie and Yettie:

Annie just came to the Loggerhead two days ago. This large sub-adult Kemp's ridley sea turtle was hooked by a fisherman on Tuesday off the Juno Beach fishing pier. The staff at the Loggerhead removed the hook and did X-rays to ensure that there were no internal hooks. With none found, the 52.5 pound turtle was scheduled to be released today with Yettie.  

Annie swims in her holding pool just minutes before being transported on the nearby gurney to the beach where she was released earlier today.


Yettie, a large juvenile green sea turtle, arrived at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center on September 10. Weighing in at 34.1 pounds, she was found floating in the Intracoastal Waterway near the PGA bridge in North Palm Beach. According to her bio, posted next to her holding pool, there was "an old healed injury to the caudal carapace. Bloodwork revealed the turtle is hypoglycemic. Radiographs showed an abundant amount of air in the intestines... Likely due to an infection which will be treated with antibiotics."

Yettie was treated with antibiotics and fluids with dextrose.

The later update showed that air was no longer present in the intestines and that antibiotics would be continued.

After four months of care, Yettie, seen above in the holding pool, was released earlier this afternoon.


Hopes and release reflections from the Education Manager:

I spoke to Kerri Allen, the education manager, before the release took place about what these events mean to the staff of the Loggerhead. She told me that “the best part is getting to share the rehabilitation work we do with the public, and seeing the joy and excitement it brings to everyone gathered.”

In light of her work in their education department, Kerri shared their hopes “to bring more awareness to the sea turtles and the work we do here, as well as the actions that anyone can do to help preserve the species and the environment.”


Annie and Yettie are transported to the beach


Yettie is carried to the water's edge by staff members


Yettie is placed on the sand, but took some encouragement to move closer to the surf

Yettie (above and below)


Annie's release:


Mike Albanese of the Venue Marketing Group took aerial footage by drone for the Loggerhead’s Eighth Annual Lights Out Gala to be held on Friday, January 30, with the theme “An Enchanted Evening Under the Sea.” 


The Venue Marketing Group drone hovers overhead as local news videographer from WPBF films Annie swimming among the waves.



Many thanks to Tom Longo, the communications/marketing manager, and Kerri Allen, education manager, for their warm hospitality today. 


For more information:

Visit the Loggerhead Marinelife Center at: 

14200 U.S. Highway One, in Juno Beach, Florida 33408

Phone: 561.627.8280



Check them out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest too.

January 15, 2015 05:06
By Patti Murphy Dohn

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