Patti Murphy Dohn retired in 2014 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 has served the school community since 1981. Presently, she is working on archiving the school's history and doing bereavement outreach.  

Patti was awarded the Medal of Honor in Youth and Young Adult Ministry by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2012. She 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. She is available for speaking engagements, consulting, and retreat work.

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


Twitter: @JCSMinistry

Facebook: Patti Murphy Dohn

God is good!! All the time!!



July 2015
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Wonderful story about an incredible person. He will be so missed by everyone who knew him. He made a positive difference in the lives he touched!!


Patti, Thank you for continuing to bless us with your insightful reflections. Peace and all good!

God is in the clouds

More Prayers for Austin and Perry: The power of hope and prayer

Perry Cohen (left) and Austin Stephanos of Tequesta, Florida have been missing at sea since they left on a fishing trip on a small boat last Friday afternoon.

It's Day 7 in the search for Austin and Perry...

And the family and friends of the boys from Tequesta, Florida who disappeared at sea on a 19-foot boat last Friday are not giving up hope that they will soon be found and reunited. 

The search has continued nonstop all week with coordination by the Coast Guard and the involvement of the Air Force. They have covered almost 40,000 square nautical miles since last Friday. 

As I wrote on Tuesday, the local Palm Beach County towns of Jupiter and Tequesta are tightly knit. The locals just won't give up on these 14-year olds. 

The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, which Austin and Perry cruised past on their way out to go fishing in the ocean waters, is not only the symbol of the town, but has also been called the beacon of hope for all who await the return of the boys from Tequesta. 
2. The “Find Austin and Perry Facebook” page has been posting regular updates all week with over 143,000 followers as of Thursday morning. 


The power of prayer: 

People of faith from around the world have turned to prayer for the boys and their families. Thousands and thousands of messages of encouragement and the assurance of prayers have flooded social media all week with the hashtags #findaustinandperry and #prayforaustinandperry. 

After Sunday night's gathering at Austin's school, Jupiter Christian School, there have been other prayer services and sunset vigils each night at the Jupiter Lighthouse and other locations along the beach. Anywhere from dozens to hundreds have gathered to pray with lighted candles. The local Jupiter/Tequesta community is steadfastly holding onto hope that the boys will be found and brought home safely to their families. 

A cousin's prayer:

Austin's cousin, Natasja, asked people to pray with her on a Facebook post on Wednesday morning: 

"Please join me in morning prayer:

Dear merciful Lord,
We know our boys have the skills, the will and the want. 
Please, give them the extra strength they need. 
We trust in your will. In your name we pray. 

'I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.'
~Genesis 28:15"


“This is a book that was found on Austin's night stand. If you look closely you will see that he wrote in the words "I WILL". His perseverance, determination, and love of life will bring him home. THIS IS A SIGN…."
~From the Facebook page of Austin’s aunt:
She shared this photo of Winston Churchill’s book Never, Never, Never Give Up


Why my heart bleeds for these boys and their families:

Since our retirement last year, my husband and I have split our time between our homes in Maryland and here in South Florida on Singer Island. We are here just 12 miles south of Jupiter while rescuers are involved in the massive search for Austin and Perry. The local Florida news stations carry updates and send out news alerts around the clock.

For many years, I ministered to the needs of young people and their families at The John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland. Crisis ministry, sadly, became one of my specialties over these years. 

My students, though, grew up in a different culture than the youth in South Florida. I never worried about the fate of my school kids from being out on boats on the open sea. My biggest worries were centered around their driving, substance use and abuse, and those who were at risk of suicide. We had resources in place to help our teens when necessary. 

This situation here in the Jupiter/Tequesta area is completely different. Austin and Perry grew up on the warm turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean, fishing there and along the nearby Loxahatchee River. They had excellent swimming and boating skills. The variable in this tragedy centers around the boys heading unknowingly into a huge storm.

And that's why they have not been heard from since. Their capsized boat was discovered by the Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews far offshore on Sunday afternoon. And there have been no signs of the boys or any of the items that were not found on the capsized boat... their Yeti fishing cooler, one or two life jackets, and the boat's engine cover. No sign. Nothing.

These families have not given up hope:

The parents did not grant any interviews yesterday, as they were busy arranging private searches by volunteers with private planes and boats. A well-attended fundraiser was held at local Abacoa restaurant Gumby Bay Island Grill last night to fund these efforts.

Notably, hundreds of families and individuals have walked the beaches from South Florida and up north through the Carolinas looking for debris or lost items that might lead to clues to the boys' whereabouts.

My prayers for Austin and Perry and their families: 

May our Heavenly Father in His loving mercy be with Austin and Perry in their time of greatest need.

May He grant their families comfort and peace. 

May He open the eyes of those who search to see clearly that which will lead to their recovery. 

May He grant His grace to all those who worry and fear.

May He provide comfort for all of us in these days of uncertainty.

We trust in the Lord's providence.

We believe in His promises.

We resolve to remain open to His loving mercy today and each day. 

We pray to be people of hope today and every day.


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

This logo that was created for Wednesday night’s fundraiser at Abacoa’s Gumby Bay Island Grill in Jupiter, Florida. The donations are being used to contribute to private searches by volunteers with planes and boats.

July 30, 2015 11:47
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Prayers for Austin and Perry: Two young sons missing at sea

Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos of Tequesta, Florida have been missing at sea since last Friday afternoon

Life, as we know it, can change in an instant: 

Last Friday afternoon, two 14-year old boys from Tequesta, Florida, a small town in Palm Beach County, cruised through the nearby Jupiter Inlet to go fishing, and headed unknowingly into a huge storm. They have not been heard from since. 

Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen have been the focus of the prayers and worries of the entire South Florida community, as well as millions of people throughout the country and the world. 

Local news stations first carried the story when a grandmother reported the boys missing late Friday afternoon, having not heard from them for several hours. The strong afternoon thunderstorm was a huge concern. And the news spread quickly as national news and social media updates were posted all weekend about these young boys who are to start high school next month. 

The expertise of the Coast Guard: 

The United States Coast Guard has been conducting a massive search since the first report that the boys were missing. The entire local community was united in prayer for their quick rescue.

Sadly, it was confirmed on Sunday afternoon that search-and-rescue crews found their 19-foot boat capsized 67 miles east of the Ponce De Leon Inlet near Cape Canaveral. Tragically, the boys were not found with the boat. And the search continues. 

As of Monday night, chief of response Captain Mark Fedor reported that extensive searches around-the-clock have covered more than 28,000 square nautical miles, a space larger than the state of West Virginia. (A nautical mile equals 1.151 miles, or 6,076 feet). 

A beacon of hope: 

The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, completed in 1860,
is the most notable landmark in the small beach town of Jupiter, Florida (established 1925): 
Located just 12 miles north of our home on nearby Singer Island,
Jupiter was rated the "9th Happiest Seaside Town in America" in 2012 by Coastal Living magazine.
It was in Jupiter that Austin and Perry attended school and where they fished and boated.


Growing up near the water: 

Family members have shared that Austin and Perry, best friends since they were little boys, were no strangers to life on the waters. This included many fishing trips on that small, single-engine boat. Young people who grow up in South Florida experience a completely different outdoor culture with many varied activities available on the water. From boating, to fishing, swimming, jet skis, tubing, snorkel and scuba... The opportunities seem endless. 

And there is no minimum age requirement for operating a boat in Florida, only the passing of an approved safety course. Hence, many young people are out on the waters without adult supervision. This matter has led to a great deal of debate this week, with discussions on the possibility of implementing age restrictions in boating regulations and proper parenting technique as hot topics for this on-the-water community. 

I stated last night in a similar testy discussion on my Facebook page that our individual opinions and parenting philosophies won't bring these boys home. But prayer and rescue teams just might. And I encouraged those involved in the discussion to please pray with us for Austin and Perry's safe return. 

The power of prayer and the social media:

Well wishes and tens of thousands of prayers have been posted by persons across the country and around the world on the "Find Austin and Perry" page on Facebook. Many of them also joined together in posting on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #MiracleMonday in hopes that the boys would be rescued yesterday. 

The parents and families of Austin and Perry are confident that there will indeed be a miracle and their sons brought home. They are offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who has information leading to the safe return of the boys. 


"And this hope will not lead to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."
~Romans 5:5 

Praying with faith and hope: 

“I think all of us who know Austin and know Perry know that they would want us to hold onto hope and remain joyful."
~Kaitlin Riceputo, fourth grade teacher, Jupiter Christian School 

A prayer vigil was held Sunday night at Jupiter Christian School, where Austin has attended since he was in kindergarten, to pray for both teens and their families. Hundreds of friends and neighbors gathered in the gymnasium to offer their prayers and support. 

A candle light prayer vigil was then held on Monday night at the Jupiter Inlet, along with a lantern launching. The Jupiter/Tequesta community is steadfastly holding onto faith and hope that the boys will be found and brought home. Community leaders hoped that their lights, along with those from the moon and the Jupiter Lighthouse, would shine as beacons of hope for the boys missing at sea. 

How you can help:

1. Pray with us for Austin and Perry: We believe in miracles. We pray that the boys will be safely returned to their families.
And, as people of faith, we trust in God to provide all of us with His grace and strength to deal with the situation and to support the families if that rescue is not to be. Time will tell. We trust in His providence.

2. If you live in Florida or Georgia, join in a beach search for debris or clues washing in from the surf. Report anything you may find to the police or Coast Guard in your area. See the photo at the end of this post for more details.

3. For boating families: Spread the word about boating safety courses offered by the U.S. Sail and Power Squadron and the U.S. Coast Guard. Make sure your children and grandchildren are enrolled.

4. Practice safe boating: Aways wear life jackets or vests, personal flotation devices, while on the water. Always.

Be sure your boats are equipped with safety gear such as a marine radio and safety flares. And make certain that someone in your family or among your colleagues knows your destination and schedule while out on the water. Safety first at all times!! 

5. Be a role model: Display your own practice of safety in all situations: on the waters, the roads, while swimming, and in your homes. Children and teenagers learn from adult role models. Be a good one.

6. Pray again: Austin and Perry's families need assurances of God's abiding love to sustain them in their time of fear and worry. May He provide them with His grace and peace to get through the unfathomable days and weeks ahead.

Prayers for Austin and Perry:

Seaman's version of the 23rd Psalm:
Written in 1874 by Captain John H. Roberts of Holyhead, Anglesey, North Wales.

The Lord is my Pilot, I shall not drift.
He guides me across the dark waters.
He steers me in deep channels.
He keeps my log. 
He pilots me by the star of holiness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I sail ‘mid the fenders and tempests of life, I shall dread no danger for He is near me. 
His love and care shelter me.
He prepares a harbor before me in the homeland of eternity.
He anoints the waves with oil, my ship rides calmly.
Surely sunlight and starlight shall favor me on my voyages and I will rest in the Port of our Lord forever.


A Prayer of Saint Augustine:

Frail is our vessel, and the ocean is wide; but as in your mercy you have set our course, so steer the vessel of our life towards the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at length to the quiet haven of our heart’s desire, where you, O God, are blessed, and live and reign for ever and ever.


Our Lady, Star of the Sea, 
Mother of God and our Mother, 
You know all the dangers of soul and body that threaten mariners.
Protect your sons and daughters who work and travel on the waters of the world, 
and protect also their families that await their return... 
Star of the Sea, light shining in the darkness, 
be a guide to those who sail amid the storms and dangers of life. 
Enlighten the hearts of ardent disciples and bring us all to the safety of heaven’s port.


For Seafarers:
A Swedish Prayer

Heavenly Father,

We pray to You for those on the perilous ocean that You will embrace them with Your mighty protection and grant them success in all their rightful undertakings. Grant them in all hours of need to see that they have a God who remembers them, and grant them grace in the hour of danger to commit their souls into Your hands.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who can rebuke the storm and bring it to silence, and lay the roaring waves to rest, show them who call to You out of the deep that You hear their prayer and will save them.

And finally bring us all to the only safe port.



For those in Florida and Georgia:

July 28, 2015 02:40
By Patti Murphy Dohn

A patron saint for the hurricane season: Praying to St. Medard for protection

St. Medard, patron saint of bad storms, pray for us!

We are in the midst of hurricane season here in the United States. It runs each year from June 1 through November 30. 

The possibility of hurricanes hitting home should be on the minds of people living in South Florida. But it has been a number of years since one struck here in Palm Beach County, so many people have been rather complacent.

My husband and I bought our home on Singer Island eight years ago, three years after Hurricanes Frances (105 mph winds) and Jeanne (120 mph winds) hit the area just twenty days apart in September of 2004. The following year Wilma (105 mph winds) hit South Florida, causing 25 deaths and again leaving a number of counties in the dark. 

The outlook for the 2015 season:

"It's very unusual… This is by far the longest that state has gone without a hurricane hit going back to 1851…
Florida is just one of those areas that is most vulnerable because they're in an area,
geographically, in which tropical storms can easily maneuver and make landfall.”

—AccuWeather meteorologist and hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski on the 2015 hurricane season

Hurricane protection prayer at Mass:

Every Sunday when I go to Mass at St. Paul of the Cross Church in North Palm Beach, I am struck by the standard weekly petition for protection from hurricanes in the Prayer of the Faithful:

That we would receive the grace of physical protection from
all storms, disaster and calamity this hurricane season, we pray… 
Lord, hear our prayer.

Calling again on St. Medard:

I first wrote about St. Medard in February of 2014 in anticipation of the winter snowstorm Pax: “Praying to Saint Medard, the patron saint of bad storms.”

St. Medard seems to be the perfect patron saint for the hurricane season. A sixth-century bishop, preacher, and missionary, he is the patron saint for protection from bad storms. As a child, so the legend goes, he was once sheltered from the rain by an eagle hovering over him. His feast day is observed each year on June 8.

Let us call upon the intercession of Saint Medard to keep us safe and to protect all those who are vulnerable during the hurricane season.

Saint Medard, patron saint for protection against bad storms, we ask you to intercede for us during the storms of our lives as well as the storms in nature.
Protect our families and our homes.
We pray for assistance for the victims of snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, especially for the upcoming snowstorm that is headed our way tonight.
Loving God, send in more helpers, and multiply resources and supplies for the aid of those in need.
You calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee; deliver us from the storms that are raging around us now.
Saint Medard, pray for us.

July 23, 2015 02:07
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Lessons learned from Leo: Remembering Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola 

Bel Air Police Chief Chief Leo F. Matrangola
(July 18, 1952 - July 12, 2015): 
Seen here at the 2012 Christmas parade on Main Street in Bel Air, the Chief was
 riding Jeannie Schick’s horse Dirk. (Photo: Bob and Jeannie Schick)

Today would have been the 63rd birthday of Leo Matrangola. He served as Chief of Police in Bel Air from 1991 until his battle with leukemia led to a medical leave of absence last October. The Chief passed on to Eternal Life this past Sunday. Flags have flown at half-mast all week in his memory.

After attending grade school at St. Margaret’s in Bel Air, Leo was a member of the Class of 1970 at The John Carroll School. He entered the Baltimore County Police Department as a cadet after his high school graduation. This led to a 45-year career in law enforcement, first in Baltimore County and then in the Town of Bel Air.

A role model and youth mentor:

Leo dedicated his life to doing good for the community and being a mentor and role model to our youth. I knew him for more than four decades. He and his family lived down the road from my parents for years, and we also enjoyed a long relationship through our John Carroll connection. He was a gem. 

Selfless and kind-hearted, Leo had a great smile and always asked about the well-being of others. And he believed in promoting programs and efforts to showcase our community’s youth.
Reflections by a young family friend:

Martha Schick of the John Carroll Class of 2013, is now a Journalism major at Emerson College, Class of 2017.

She shares some great memories and lessons learned from Leo:

"Growing up, Leo and Diane have been like another set of grandparents to me. I have a picture of me, about three years old, sitting on one of Diane's horses while wearing Leo's giant cowboy hat and grinning...  

Martha Schick shares a passion for horses with the Matrangola Family:
(Photo circa 1998: The Schick Family)

"It doesn't really feel like Christmas to me until I have one of Diane's chocolates and talk to Leo at their annual party about the latest thing I'm trying to accomplish. And whenever I got to see them, I'd get more big hugs and “We're so proud of you” exclamations than I could count.
"I can't talk about Leo and Diane separately because they were the perfect couple. Every interaction they had – whether with each other, with me, or with their animals – was filled with love. They completed each other so effortlessly, and made everyone around them feel complete by extension. I know now, at 20 years old, that if I can find someone who loves me as wholly and strongly as Leo and Diane loved each other, I will have been blessed beyond belief.
"I got to FaceTime with Leo from Boston during his last week. He was funny, a little bit irreverent, and still so concerned with how I was doing... in other words, completely Leo. 

"He talked to me about my living arrangements next year, offering advice. He gave me the number of a colleague who could give me an internship. He joked with me about politics. And we ended the phone call with an “I love you.” That was him. 

"I don't remember a time when he wasn't trying to help me, whether it was through advice or help getting me out of my first parking ticket. I don't remember a conversation that wasn't full of jokes and his throaty laugh. And I don't remember ever feeling unloved.
"Leo was not my relative by blood, but I will never be able to separate him from growing up, and I don't want to. He was fully devoted to everything in his life – Diane, his family, his friends, his job – in ways every person should aspire to be. 

"And to everyone out there, still walking on this earth: look out. Now that I've known someone as wonderful as Leo, you all have a lot to live up to."

--Martha Schick 


Police Chief Leo Matrangola died last Sunday: He would have been 63 today. 
(Aegis file photo/ The Baltimore Sun)

In Memoriam:

A public memorial service for Chief Matrangola is planned for August 22, 2015 at 1 p.m. at Bel Air High School, 100 Heighe Street, Bel Air, Maryland 21014.

Arrangements are being handled by McComas Funeral Home.

Rest in peace, good and faithful servant.

July 17, 2015 11:50
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Celebrating 70 years of marriage: Cherishing the memories

Engagement photo: Roy Dohn and Eleanor Giles before their 1945 wedding

July 16, 1945 is a day for the history books.
The Dohn Family history books, that is….

On that day, exactly seventy years ago, my husband’s parents were married. 

George’s Dad, Roy Dohn, was back home in Buffalo on a short furlough from the United States Army. He was serving his country in World War II as a Tech Sergeant in Europe. His wedding to George’s Mom was simple and happy. And that was perfect, because all they needed was each other.

Today, George’s Mom, Eleanor Giles Dohn, age 96, still lives in the Buffalo area. And she will celebrate all the beautiful memories over the past seven decades. The only difference is that she marks these past 70 years without her beloved. You see, George’s Dad went Home to God in January of 2007, after more than 61 years of living those marriage vows.

George's Dad passed on to Eternal Life on January 13, 2007 at age 91:

He would have been 100 years old on Flag Day last month.

Marking the milestones:

70 years:

Three children,

Three grandchildren,

Five great-grandchildren,

And so many beautiful memories…

George's family had formal photographs taken on the occasion of his Mom's 80th birthday:

Top: George's brother Bill stands on left with him; Their sister Jane is to the right of their Dad and Mom.

Our anniversary wish:

We know that George’s Dad is smiling down from Heaven on his dear Mom today. Their 61 years of marriage are an inspiration to everyone in the large multi-generational  Dohn Family.

As we cherish the blessings of the family that their love and marriage created, we wish George’s Mom a very happy platinum anniversary. We know that she is reliving many wonderful memories today.
And maybe shedding a tear or two, as are we.

We thank you for all the life lessons you and Dad have taught us:
We promise to never forget them.
Much love today and always!!

Roy and Eleanor Dohn celebrating the holiday season


George's Mom after her high school days in the Class of 1936 at South Park in Buffalo

Read more about George’s Mom’s high school days in the South Park High School Class of 1936 here:

July 16, 2015 12:09
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Wisdom from the sea: Lessons learned about making a difference from the starfish parable

Photo by Marissa Elion of SouthFloridaPaddle


For many years I worked with young people as their Campus Minister at John Carroll, encouraging them to make a difference in the world. It's a theme that I repeat often in my talks, my prayers and invocations, and my writings. 

“A single, ordinary person still can make a difference – and single, ordinary people are doing precisely that every day.”
— Chris Bohjalian, author 

Do you ever ask yourself if what you do makes a difference?

Photo by Marissa Elion of SouthFloridaPaddle

Summer in South Florida:

Since we retired last year, my husband and I find ourselves spending more and more time in South Florida at our home on Singer Island. When you are surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Lake Worth Lagoon, you learn a lot about life just by observing the ebb and flow of the tides.

There truly is much wisdom to be gained from the sea.

Photo by Marissa Elion of SouthFloridaPaddle

The parable of the starfish:

Loren Eiseley, a respected ecologist, writer and poet who died in 1977, penned a short reflection to address this very question: Even if you have heard his story before, it will still strike a note in your heart, I'm sure.

He wrote: 

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, 
"It made a difference for that one.” 

~ Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)

Photo by Marissa Elion of SouthFloridaPaddle


What have you learned from your time by the waters edge?

Wisdom from the sea:

1. The efforts you make to do good in our world, community, and families are critical.  

2. No matter how insignificant your efforts might seem to you, your good works do in fact make a difference. Keep doing good.

3. Persist in seeking goodness, and you will find big and small opportunities each day.

4. Just like the more than 2000 species of starfish are beautiful and unique in appearance, you too are beautiful and unique and valuable in the sight of God our Creator. Respond to that gift by doing good. 

5. Pray for insight and motivation. Your efforts to make our world a better place will never be in vain.

Photo by Marissa Elion of SouthFloridaPaddle


Prayer to make a difference in our world:

Loving God, 
We thank You for the gift of life and all the blessings that You have bestowed on us. 
Help us to be conscious of ways that we can make a difference in our world, one small task at a time.
May our efforts be a reflection of our gratitude for all that we have been given and all the beauty that surrounds us. 
May our hearts always be open to recognizing the Source of our blessings and respond by doing good.
Keep us always safe and in Your care.
We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.


The beautiful photographs of starfish featured today are the work of local photographer, Marissa Elion,
owner of South Florida Paddle, LLC.
Her mobile paddleboard company has offered SUP eco-tours, specialty paddles, rentals, and lessons since 2011
in the Singer Island area near John MacArthur Beach State Park.
Contact Marissa at for more information about her photographs and her eco-tours.


Follow Marissa’s beautiful photographs and SUP adventures on the water on Facebook and on Instagram at @southfloridapaddle.

Photo by Marissa Elion of SouthFloridaPaddle

July 09, 2015 01:43
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Among summer's simple pleasures: Watching the full moon rise over the beach

The pace of life gets slower and sweeter each year during the summer season. People seem to smile more, children's laughter is in the air, and the pace of life seems easier to handle.

My favorite part of summer has always been the simple pleasures...

Fresh fruit and vegetables, beautiful flowers in the garden, relaxing at the pool or the beach, good books, warm sunshine on your face, longer days, music on the patio, and the best sunsets of the year.

July's two full moons:

It's July already... Can you believe it? Everyone is getting ready for their Fourth of July celebrations.

But wait... July 1 offers another one of life's simple pleasures: The full moon.

And stop again and take note...

This month we have two full moons to enjoy for the first time since 2012. We start off with the first full moon on the 1st, and finish the month with the second full moon on July 31st. That second one is called a "blue moon," and won't occur again until January 2018. So cool!!

Naming those full moons:

I learned today that July's full moon is always called  "thunder moon" because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month, as well as "buck moon" because bucks start to grow antlers during July. Who knew that?

Tonight's full moon rises over the Singer Island beach: To the right is a seaturtle nest which was discovered on June 19 and marked as "CC" for Caretta caretta, better known as loggerhead turtle eggs. (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)

Enjoying today's simple pleasure:

After dinner, I headed across the street from our home on Singer Island to the beach to watch the full moon rise.

It's pretty quiet here in South Florida now with all the winter snowbirds (the human ones) back home in the northern states and Canada. So I had a long stretch of beach to myself as I set up my tripod and camera to catch the rising of the full moon. There were low lying clouds so I had to wait a bit before the moon made itself visible.

I used the Star Chart app on my iPhone to make sure my camera was on track. My neighbors introduced me to this wonderful app last winter which shows all the stars by name and location, as well as the moon and planets. It calibrates your location just by holding your device up to the sky. Pretty amazing.

Video set up on the Singer Island beach to capture the rising of the first full moon of July 2015 (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)

The result of my hour on the beach tonight?

Four wonderful videos with the rising of the first full moon of July, 2015.

Enjoy this video of the surf crashing on the shore with the full moon rising overhead:

Good luck?

Some people say that wishing on a full moon is supposed to be good luck.

I prefer to say a prayer than make a wish...

Let God be in charge.

What a glorious time to offer up thanks and praise for the beauty of God's creation than during a moment of incredible wonder, such as tonight's full moon!

Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon of St. Francis of Assisi:

Most High, all powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him.
 And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
 Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them
 clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene,
 and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
 Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.


July 02, 2015 01:01
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Shark alert: Hammerhead sculptures beneath South Florida’s Blue Heron Bridge turn fear into fun 

The beach by the Singer Island, Florida pump house (Photo: From the webcam at the Palm Beach Lake Worth Inlet)

Sharks... Just the mention of the word elicits emotions ranging from fear to excitement to trepidation to intrigue... 

They have been in the news many times over the past few weeks. There was a huge buzz surrounding the 40th anniversary of the classic blockbuster movie JAWS, followed by close sightings near the shore line in a number of beach towns, including last weekend in Ocean City, Maryland. Newscasts have also included reports of some serious injuries, with a few beaches even closing down temporarily as sharks came close to the shore as they follow the fish migrations north. 

South Florida sightings:

An hour north of our home in Palm Beach County, reef sharks swam so close to shore two weeks ago that all the beaches in St. Lucie County were closed for the day. It was a huge fright to many vacationing families as this species of shark can grow to ten feet in length. 

Check out what all the fuss was about in this 13-second video which shows two reef sharks snuggling close to the water's edge at St. Lucie's Waveland Beach. This video shows just one example of why experts advocate for swimming only at lifeguarded beaches and never going into the surf alone. Watch here on YouTube.

An underwater paradise near the Blue Heron Bridge:

Phil Foster Park is a stone’s throw from our home on Singer Island, located just north of West Palm Beach on the Lake Worth Lagoon of the Intracoastal Waterway. The park's beach, under the famous Blue Heron Bridge, offers easy access to an artificial reef and snorkel trail. The trail, perched just 200 feet offshore in 6 to 12 feet of water, depending on the tides, attracts divers and snorkelers from all over the world. Since Singer Island has the closest proximity to the Gulf Stream, the result is warm turquoise waters, with great visibility, perfect for divers and snorkelers of all ages.

The local scuba community takes pride that the Blue Heron Bridge was named the best dive site in the world by PADI’s Sport Diver magazine in 2013. The vast array of marine life contributed to that designation. You can dive or snorkel amid stingrays, seahorses, octopus, manatees, sea turtles, lobsters, and countless species of fish, just to name a few. 

Shark sculptures ready to be submerged off Phil Foster Park (Photo: Palm Beach Post) 

Shark sculptures submerged off Phil Foster Park: 

One man is trying to take the fear factor away from sharks with his artistic donation to the snorkel trail. Part-time Palm Beach County resident Thomas McDonald, also of Roanoke, Virginia, is an artist, diver, and underwater photographer. He created three concrete hammerhead sharks, each weighing 1500 pounds, and donated them as the first phase of a underwater sculpture park at the snorkeling trail off Phil Foster Park.  

I first heard of McDonald's work when I saw a notice about the shark submersion in the Palm Beach Post (photo above). His plan was to incorporate his love of art and the ocean by creating and donating these concrete replica hammerheads. 

Intrigued by the generosity of the artist, as well as the good fortune of local divers and vacationing snorkelers, I headed over to Phil Foster Park with my camera last Friday morning to see the shark sculptures being lowered into the water.

Divers, boaters, swimmers, and paddleboarders were out bright and early near the beach at Phil Foster Park to be among the first to see the hammerhead shark sculptures after they were lowered into place on the snorkel trail. (Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)

Glad that I arrived early, I was able to speak to a number of the people who have vested interests in the future of this area as a lure to the diving community, as well as a new cultural oasis.

On hand to watching the launch of the new sharks were:
(From left:) Victoria Van Dam of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Wendy Puz, Environmental Analyst for the county's Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), and Daniel Bates, ERM deputy director; (Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)

The sculptures, affectionately called the McSharks for artist Thomas McDonald, are five feet long and about thirty inches tall. They were lowered into the water by a crane on a barge during high tide on June 19, and placed into position by Pura Vida Divers, a PADI 5-star dive center located nearby on Singer Island. 

(Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)

Start of an underwater sculpture park: 

Daniel Bates, deputy director of the county's Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), watched the process with me from the shoreline, along with his colleague Wendy Puz, and camera crews from all the local West Palm Beach TV stations. 

Bates shared with me and the television news crews that the sharks are the first pieces in an underwater sculpture garden along that 800-foot snorkel trail. Citing that there are other underwater sculpture reefs throughout the world, Bates explained that algae and coral will start to grow on these pieces within a few months, then attracting even more marine life. He likened it to an aquarium.

(Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)

And in turn, more divers will also be attracted to the area, as evidenced by the number who waited to see these sculptures once they were in place. Some families with young children were among the spectators, ready to snorkel over and get their first glimpse of the hammerheads.

(Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)

Bates noted that the Blue Heron Bridge is a world-renowned location and the Department of Environmental Resources Management wants to keep enhancing it. He praised the vision and generosity of artist Thomas McDonald whose donation was at no cost to the county and local tax payers. As McDonald’s plan came to fruition, there was a growing excitement from both the arts community and from local divers.

Always ready to cover the news on the waterfront is South Florida's own James Wieland, @SurfnWeatherman of WPTV.
After conducting interviews, James dove in and hit the snorkeling trail with his underwater camera to take photos and video footage of the three sharks for the evening broadcast. (Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)


It was so nice to be able to catch up with Baltimore's good friend, Sandra Shaw, formerly of WBAL-TV,
who has been part of WPBF's First Alert Weather Team in West Palm Beach for the past five years.
Sandra did special features on a number of our Catholic schools when she worked for WBAL. 

As the sharks were submerged, sculptor Thomas McDonald was underwater in full diving gear watching the placement. Afterwards, he swam to shore and spoke to the news crews and spent a few minutes with me.

Thomas McDonald, sculptor of the three hammerheads and inspiration for the underwater sculpture reef (Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)

Artist Thomas McDonald laughed as he told me that sharks “bring out a reaction in people… some are afraid of them and many people love that fear a little bit.” He was excited to share his hammerheads, which took four months to make, with those who visit the trail at Phil Foster Park. He donated his time and artistry to Palm Beach County in memory of his father who died in May and who inspired his work. Tom explained that seeing his plan finalized at the start of the Fathers Day weekend meant a great deal to him as he remembered his Dad’s legacy.

A diver for the past thirty years, Tom was intrigued by his first visit to the Blue Heron Bridge and fell in love with the marine life there. He told me that is why he chose this location for the donation of his sculptures as it “is a world class dive site." He added that "the County has been so helpful. I'm grateful for what they have done to make this project a reality today.” 


Michael DeLuca, a rising junior at Boca High School, was also happy to be on hand for the submersion of the shark sculptures. He completed his Eagle Scout project there last November, placing two artificial reefs by the snorkel trail. 
Michael told me that it "couldn't be a better location" because of the number of divers and tourists in the area. "The hammerheads bring a cool addition... It's great that they have been placed along the trail."


Enjoy these videos of the hammerhead sculptures:

1. Watch this 1-minute video from the ERM Facebook page to see the hammerhead statues in their new environment by the snorkel trail;

2. This 2-minute video shows local snorkelers with the three shark sculptures, as well as some of the nearby marine life. 

Come snorkel with the hammerheads:

Plan a getaway to the West Palm Beach area of South Florida and come snorkel along the trail with the new shark sculptures:

Phil Foster Park is located on the east end of the Blue Heron Bridge (900 Blue Heron Blvd, Riviera Beach, Florida 33404). 
The snorkel trail can be accessed by walking under the bridge to the south side of the park, overlooking Peanut Island. The three sharks are straight out, toward the beginning of the trail.

Be sure to email me if you make plans to come for a visit:


For a few other stories on my adventures in Palm Beach County, Florida:

Check out:

June 30, 2015 03:29
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Fortnight for Freedom: Prayers and flashback photos

Archbishop Lori kicked off the fourth annual Fortnight for Freedom on Sunday (June 21) at the Baltimore's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With the theme "Freedom to Bear Witness" to the truth of the Gospel, the fortnight runs until the Fourth of July with the concluding Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Archbishop Lori, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, has been a leading spokesman for religious freedom. On the day of his installation as Archbishop of Baltimore on May 16, 2012, he advocated for this continuing legacy which is traced back to Archbishop John Carroll:

“We defend religious liberty because we are lovers of every human person, seeing in the face of every man and woman also the face of Christ, who loved us to the very end of his earthly life and who still calls on us to love and serve our neighbor with the same love he has bestowed on us.

“We do this because Archbishop John Carroll’s generation of believers and patriots bequeathed to us a precious legacy that has enabled the Church to worship in freedom, to bear witness to Christ publicly, and to do massive and amazing works of pastoral love, education, and charity in ways that are true to the faith that inspired them in the first place.”

May 16, 2012

July 4th tribute:

Last year, I featured a flashback look with photographs from the first three years of the Fortnight for Freedom on the Fourth of July.

The Fortnight for Freedom started in 2012 and is a two-week period of prayer, education, and action each year from June 21 to July 4. Sponsored by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, this timeframe was chosen specifically as "the liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power--St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome."

(CNS photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)


O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We ask this through Christ our Lord.



June 23, 2015 10:44
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Traveling the summer highways: A prayer to start your family vacation

“The greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories.”

School’s out for summer:

The schools in the Baltimore metropolitan area are almost all closed now for the summer break. 
The laughter of children is in the air.

Today is the last day for my daughter who teaches third grade at Gunpowder Elementary in Nottingham. Tonight, she and her husband and my adorable 18-month old granddaughter are headed to the beach to start celebrating the joys of summer for a long weekend.

Singer Island, Florida: Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn

Family vacations away:

Family vacations are much-anticipated, with both children and adults alike counting down the days until they are ready to go. Beach, mountains, camping, out-of-state family reunions, plane rides, train rides… The destinations may be different, but the excitement is always tangible.

Singer Island, Florida: Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn

Summer in Florida:
My husband and I had our own adventure last Sunday evening when we headed south on I-95 to spend the summer at our home on Singer Island, near West Palm Beach. Eighteen hours in the car is taxing, and we were glad that the only a chorus of “Are we there yet?” was from Daisy our pug who was ready to stretch her legs outside every five or six hours.

We arrived safely at 2:30 on Monday afternoon, happy and exhausted. By the time we opened up the storm shutters and unpacked the car, we were grateful to be there in time for dinner and the beautiful Florida sunset.

Vacation reality check:

Though summer vacations away from home are highly anticipated, many families are disappointed when the time away does not meet their expectations. A lot of money from the family budget goes into the vacation fund, and if things don't go as planned, it can be a real let-down.

It is our prayer that your summer travels with your families are filled with: 
~restful enjoyment, 
~a disconnecting from the stresses of everyday life, 
~peace and harmony among the children and adults alike, and 
~the restraint that is necessary to not overspend the budgeted funds.

May your travels result in great memories for all to cherish in the years ahead.

Prayer for travelers:

Before you hit the road or the skyways, take a moment to pray for God’s blessing.

Dear Lord, 
How we’ve waited for this vacation, and now it’s finally here. 
Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity to take a break from our daily routines and 
to replenish our minds, bodies and souls so that we may better serve You.  
Sometimes our expectations for vacations are unrealistic, and we find ourselves disappointed when things don’t go our way.  
Help us not to worry about having the ‘perfect’ vacation, but to relax and enjoy every moment, whatever it may bring.  
We are grateful for the joys that await us, whether they be the beauty of your creation, recreation with family or friends, or peace and solitude.  
Watch over us and protect us as we travel, and brings us safely home again, refreshed and renewed.  

June 18, 2015 09:25
By Patti Murphy Dohn

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