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!!


January 2015
December 2014

Email Subscription

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Comments

Thanks for the opportunity to collaborate, Rita, on a topic so dear to our hearts!!


Beautiful, powerful testimonies! Thank you, Patti, for linking up and for sharing these wonderful stories. Looking forward to part two!

God is in the clouds

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

The power of a smile: Words of wisdom to keep you smiling all day

"A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken."

―Proverbs 15:13

Praying for peace with the boating community:

When my husband George retired last March, he bought his first boat from one of our neighbors in Florida. And when we returned to our home on Singer Island in early June, after I retired from my ministry at John Carroll, George and I went through the steps necessary to become official Florida boaters. We took the local course through the U.S. Power Squadron, passed the test, and got our Florida boating licenses.

Our next-door neighbor is the commander of the local Palm Beach Sail and Power Squadron and the instructor of the boating course. He encouraged us to become members, and to serve the squadron actively during our "rookie year."

The commander invited me to serve as chaplain, a role for which I have much experience as longtime John Carroll Campus Minister. And this past Saturday night was the annual Commanders' Ball for which I was asked to give the invocation.

Gathering for this festive occasion just two days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I made note to those attending the formal gala that we would be remiss to not pray for peace in the world. I shared with those in attendance that Blessed Mother Teresa said, "Peace begins with a smile."

The cost of a smile:

There is so much truth in that short statement, isn't there? When a smile is given forth, a barrier is broken, so to speak, and both parties are put at ease. Smiling costs us nothing and usually regenerates itself over and over.

The wisdom of smiling: 

"A smile cures the wounding of a frown."

―William Shakespeare


“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

―Blessed Mother Teresa (1910-1997)


"A smile is the shortest distance between two people."

―Victor Borge (1909-2000)


"A warm smile is the universal language of kindness."

―William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)


"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."

―Phyllis Diller (1917-2012)


"Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."

―Blessed Mother Teresa (1910-1997)


"Here's wishing you the smiles o' life and not a single grumble."

―Irish Blessing


"If you see a friend without a smile, give him one of yours."



"The world always looks brighter from behind a smile." 



“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.”

―Maya Angelou (1928-2014)


"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been."

―Mark Twain (1835-1910)


"A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever."

―Author Unknown


"If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it." 

―Andy Rooney (1919-2011)


"I've never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful."

―Author Unknown


"All people smile in the same language."



"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

―Blessed Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

January 13, 2015 11:39
By Patti Murphy Dohn

The legacy of Mark Pacione: Part 2: Archdiocesan colleagues and national Church leaders share their treasured memories

“Rescue is what we’re about. We’re an evangelizing church. We get out there and proclaim the word of God … we carry the word of God in our hands and our feet. We try to rescue the world and bring it to some kind of healing.” –Mark Pacione

Memorial Tribute to Mark Pacione:

Don't miss "Part 1: Remembering Mark Pacione: Stories from youth who were impacted during his local ministry” included memories from former youth who were impacted by Mark’s early ministry at St. Margaret School/Church in Bel Air in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The focus for Part 2:

Now we will hear from those who served with Mark or were impacted by him during his service to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as well as in national youth ministry.

Colleagues from Mark’s ministry with the Archdiocese of Baltimore:

“It isn't necessary to give a keepsake to someone you are fond of. But remember we must love without measure and help others without counting the cost. " -- Saint Bernadette

Bernadette Kovalsick:

“… his arms wide open…”

Bernadette, as the Youth Minister at Aberdeen Proving Ground, for the Archdiocese of Military Services, remembers the early days of youth ministry at APG in 1998 when one of the Catholic priests on Post suggested that she link with the local diocese for collaboration on retreats, training, and youth events. She first spoke to Mark Pacione when she called to sign up for local youth training with the Baltimore Archdiocese.

Bernadette recalls:

“It felt like I had known him for years… he was so caring and sensitive to our concerns. When I arrived (at the training), this giant of a man, smiling, with his arms open wide said ‘There's my military adoptee.’ For over fifteen years, that welcome was constant. But not just with Mark, but also with my ArchBalt family, as I called them. He inspired each of us to believe that we can achieve beyond our dreams to lead our young church in His Word, with doctrine, spirit, music, laughter, and most importantly, the shared attitude of family.

“I have been so blessed with my relationship with the Archdiocese of Baltimore that began with Mark. I have encouraged many of my military counterparts to reach out to their local civilian dioceses for training and events. I travelled alone to the last NCCYM conference in San Antonio, but as I entered the conference center, I heard "Bernadette" and saw smiles and arms open wide… again a family reunion with my ArchBalt family.

“Mark conveyed in many priceless ways that our keepsake, in a sense like a priceless amulet from our Nana, is our love for our faith and that we inherit responsibility to our young church. The love he extended was the ArchBalt Youth Ministry family. His mentoring to them was powerful. He guided them in the love of faith with the same unconditional love as a Dad to his child.

“Mark, faithful servant, thank you for being there for so many of us. Our tears are blessed because of knowing such an incredible man. Rest in His light.” 


"No one can undo the good and holy things that God has placed in me."

Father Austin Murphy:

“ was the ‘Jim Henson’ of our youth ministry community”

Father Austin, the pastor of Our Lady of Hope & St. Luke Parishes, who worked with Mark in many capacities, including when he served in Catholic youth ministry at Towson University, shared with me:

“I want to share my thoughts on Mark's impact. As I soak in this sad reality, I believe that Mark was the ‘Jim Henson’ of our youth ministry community. He was innovative, imaginative, energetic, optimistic and encouraging, and we all carry a bit of Mark in us through our ministry.  He believed that everyone --***everyone -- was called to be a saint, and nothing could obscure that for him. He sang, ‘No one can undo the good and holy things that God has placed in me.’ And he lived it too.”


Father Marty Nocchi:

"... the one who could set the scene and tell the story of Msgr. Clare O'Dwyer..."

Father Marty, the pastor of St. Mary's Church in Govans, got to know Mark Pacione well when Father served at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House. He was the last priest-director of the House.

He recalls:

“When I first started working at the retreat house, Mark and I would meet regularly to talk about the vision and mission of the place.  Mark was the one who could set the scene and tell the story of Msgr. Clare O'Dwyer and how his dream became a reality… 

“It was during that time that our shared vision became a new reality for the 21st Century: ‘a spiritual powerhouse’ for youth.  I still remember those conversations, while on retreat, when that vision began to take shape for the future of the retreat house…  Mark wanted that to be the reality for years to come, as much as I did…  He loved the House and would do anything for that place.”

Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, Maryland


Hey young people who are gathered here, Help me to see your world so clear.
What is the pain that holds you down? What are the secrets that you have found?

It’s my world/ Let me see it through your eyes; It’s your world/ Let me love it through your eyes;

It’s home/ Let me see it through your eyes.

-- frequently sung by Mark Pacione


Matt Palmer:

“…you could have heard a pin drop…”

Matt, former “Catholic Review” beat reporter for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and current Social Media Strategist for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, first met Mark Pacione in 2008 when Matt joined the Review staff.

He recalls:

“Mark invited me to his office so that we could talk about covering his department’s outreach. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the start of a friendship where he became a kind of mentor to me.

“Back in November of 2008, he invited me to cover the Baltimore Catholic Youth Conference in Ocean City. Very early on there, the administrative team found out they didn’t have enough bottled water for the weekend for the young people. So, he recruited me to come with him to calmly scour the aisles of whatever was open during the offseason in Ocean City. He and I basically claimed whatever bottled water was left on the island. Through it all, he was calm and asked me how I was doing, what was going on with my life, and so on. I kept thinking, “Why isn’t this guy wigging out yet?”

“Later that weekend, there was a dance and the kids were bouncing off the walls. Mark knew they needed peace before bedtime. He grabbed a microphone, from who knows where, and started singing an old spiritual. Within a few minutes, you could have heard a pin drop. Whether it was one on one or with a group of 500 teens, he projected the peace of Christ.

“I'm married to a protégé of Mark's (Cassandra Palmer). That peace and Christ-centered love that Mark projected is felt each day in our home and I'm so grateful for that.”

Matt Palmer took this photo on May 5, 2011 when Mark Pacione was awarded the Cardinal Shehan Award, the highest honor of the Division of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.


Kellie Reynolds

“…blessed to be among his descendants.”

Kellie has been the Coordinator of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at St. Stephen Church in Bradshaw since 1998.

She reflected with me:

“These days people have lots of ‘friends’ online and in person, casting a wide net that may not touch deep waters. But somehow Mark had a unique gift to be really present to people in such a way that his net of friends, though far-reaching, was also incredibly deep. One may feel small among all those who knew Mark, but to Mark, you were anything but small. To Mark, you were a brother or sister in Christ. You were the most important person in the universe. When I think back on hearing Genesis 5:15 proclaimed this past Sunday, I have a distinct picture of God speaking to Mark, and asking Mark to reflect on each and every life he touched.

“He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And we are blessed to be among his descendants.”

Mark and Carol Pacione with Kellie and her husband Jay Mohney at their October, 2010 wedding.


Patrick Sprankle:

The Director of Youth Ministry/Adolescent Catechesis at St. Louis Church, Pat has known Mark Pacione since 1983, the early days of youth ministry in the Archdiocese. His wife Lee Ann goes back further as she and Mark grew up together in St. Anthony’s parish.

Pat shares:

“Mark was later Lee Ann’s youth minister at St Margaret Church. He was our best man, our son's godfather, and was very close to each member of our family. Carol and Mark were the sponsor couple for our marriage. And I was part of a monthly 'breakfast club' with Mark and Bob McCarty.

“It takes a whole church to raise a family."

“Mark and Carol were such an important part of our family, from our own development as individuals, to personal involvement in our marriage preparations and wedding. Mark even wrote and performed "She Brings" at the wedding, a song about our relationship.

“Through the years, we shared meals, house dedications, births, job changes, deaths, academic accomplishments, youth ministry experiences, joys and struggles.  We were constantly amazed and blessed by Mark's compassion for and attention to his own family including Carol, Beth, Ian, Mary Louise, Claire, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, and the Church family that gathered many times at their houses.  We were surprised and touched by countless cards and calls to each one of the Sprankles as we celebrated milestones or just because...

“As we gathered for the countless parties and dinners, we would find him either standing at the stove or by the grill, preparing gourmet feasts in a spirit of great love and care.  He was the ultimate in hospitality and always had a kind or humorous word for our children or us.

“Most recently, Mark sent selfies to our kids to remind them that they were loved, and they even found a 'care' package on their doorstep with their favorite foods included. And at his 60th birthday party in October and our last Christmas chili feast, and even when Bob, Mark and I ate our last breakfast club, Mark was sure to express his love for each of us in some way.

“Mark's example, his faith legacy, was bigger than any words could describe and he will live in the hearts of the Sprankle family forever.”

Mark and friends sing a special fun song they personalized for Pat Sprankle’s (seated) birthday;


Selfie fun with: (from left) Maggie McCarty, Carol Pacione, Bob McCarty (front), Pat Sprankle (back), Lee Ann Sprankle, and Mark


Linda Tooma:

“…took care of all those devastating things that I couldn't begin to think of doing, as if it was his honor…”

Linda is a member of St. Joseph Parish, Cockeysville. She first met Mark Pacione when her sister, Sister Lynn Tooma, SSND (1950-1991), worked with him in the 1980's. The former coordinator of adolescent catechesis for the Baltimore Office of Youth Ministry, Sister Lynn died suddenly in 1991 at a meeting of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry in Albuquerque.

Linda reflected:

“When I think of Mark, I immediately find a warm smile on my face. For those of you who may remember my sister and knew her well, you would know that only certain people could bring out the child in her, the laughter, and her own appreciation for what she had to offer. Mark was the Number One person who "got her."

“I mainly recall the stories of the many Youth Ministry conferences, High-LI sessions, seminars, and the meals she loved preparing for ‘her boys’ as she called Mark and Bob McCarty.

“Although it has been 23 years, I still remember very clearly how Mark was the one who made sure I had someone with me when I was told of my sister's passing. He took care of all those devastating things that I couldn't begin to think of doing, as if it was his honor, not his burden.

“In short, that describes the Mark I knew, a person who, even in his own grief, gained energy and strength by doing for others. I recently reconnected with Mark in conversation, and was looking forward to having him and Carol come over and share more stories.

“Although that was not meant to be, I truly feel his presence, and that of my sister even more strongly now, as I believe they are organizing heaven's most special events, guiding us in ways that they guided so many on earth. I am very sure that Mark's entrance to his eternal home was accompanied by the welcome phrase, ‘Well done, my friend.’"

Linda’s much-loved sister, Sister Lynn Tooma, SSND (1950-1991)


Julia Vidmar:

“… treated me like I was his daughter …”

Julia is the Administrative Assistant in the Archdiocesan Vocations Office.

She shared:

“I have worked on the same floor as Mark for the past two years. He was a joyful man who never walked by my office without a wave or a smile. Often he would even stop to inquire how I was doing, and was quick to offer encouragement if needed.

“Mark was one of the people who could bring a sense of lightness into the atmosphere at the office. I enjoyed our daily work banter and his sense of humor. I was impressed by his reverence at daily Mass and his love for his faith. It was evident to me that this was the reason he loved his work.

“Mark treated me like I was his daughter and I knew that he was looking out for me. Mark brought a joyful presence to the workplace and it will not be the same without him. He will be greatly missed!”


Jennifer Williams:

“…took me under his wing.”

Jennifer is the web and social media editor for “The Catholic Review.”

She recalls:

“When I was 22 years old, I took a job as a reporter for the Catholic Review. Attending Catholic middle and high school left me well-versed in the importance of community service, but aside from CYO dances, the world of youth ministry was somewhat of a mystery to me. I had never heard of a youth pilgrimage where hundreds of young people march through the streets of Baltimore or trips to other cities to interact with thousands of Catholic teenagers from across the nation.

“Mark Pacione, who was at the time the director of youth and young adult ministry for the archdiocese, took me under his wing. He introduced me to the movers and shakers in the world of youth ministry, got my boss to allow me to travel to St. Louis and Indianapolis to cover NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference), and wrote letters to the editor when he was particularly pleased with our coverage.

“What I learned about Mark in this time is the absolute love and dedication he had for young people. He would spend hours outside of the normal workday working on scheduling and activities, from budgeting for dozens of pizzas to be delivered to the youths one night to planning ice breakers and sing-alongs.

“I can still hear his smooth voice as he strummed his guitar and sang the soulful spiritual “Wade in the Water,” which until then, I had never heard.

“My role changed several times over the years here and Mark always remained an avid supporter. Each time we ran into each other, I always asked how his daughter was doing, and he always questioned, “Are you still playing football?”

“Like many, I was absolutely in shock when I heard about his death. Without question, the Baltimore Archdiocese is richer because of all he shared, and so am I.”


“Trying to understand the church that we are becoming.

Trying to imagine the church that we could be.”

--Bio note on the Twitter account of Mark Pacione; He worked most recently with the Archdiocesan Office of Research and Planning.


Reflections from national youth ministry leaders:

Brian K. Johnson:

“…mentored by the best that Baltimore had to offer…”

The Diocesan Director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Brian has known Mark Pacione since his participation in High-LI as a high school student in 1980. Their relationship continued over three decades with Brian’s work in youth ministry on the parish level in Baltimore from 1988-1992, and then with his work on the diocesan, regional, and national levels of leadership.

Brian shared with me:

“When I began my role as a youth ministry leader at St. Cecilia and St. Gregory the Great parishes, I was mentored by the best that Baltimore had to offer…Sister Lynn Tooma and Mark Pacione. There are too many experiences to mention now, but one still serves true in my role today…

"Upon my acceptance of an associate director position in the diocesan office of youth ministry in Galveston-Houston in 1992, we were in attendance at the Region 14 (now Region 4) gathering in Wilmington, Delaware. Mark was the first person that I told that I was offered the position. We had close to a two-hour conversation, some of which is a blur, but Mark shared the following pointers about embarking on diocesan ministry. He told me these things:

1) Immerse yourself in the community,

2) Be present to those you serve and journey with,

3) Don't assume to have all the answers,

4) Speak less and listen more,

5) Remember where you are from, and

6) Stay rooted and grounded in your personal prayer life because you can be consumed by so much that you forget to take of yourself.

Brian concluded:

“Mark: I didn't forget any of this. Your words have stayed with me to this day as I recall all that I have gone through in 26 years of ministry within the Church. I hope I've done well by you! I will miss you until we meet again.”


Dr. Kelle Lynch-Baldwin, PhD:

“… on his knees in a small village church, at the feet of the elders.”

Kelle, the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, has known Mark Pacione since 1994. She served as a Baltimore youth minister in the parishes of St. Augustine, Elkridge; Shrine of the Little Flower, Shrine of the Sacred Heart, and St. Francis on Harford Road. She was also a founder of the Baltimore Work Camp.

Kelle recalls:

“In the Spring of 2014, I contacted Mark to see if he would be interested in coming to the Diocese of Fairbanks to facilitate two retreats for folks across the ministry spectrum. The first would be offered in North Pole (a ‘suburban’ parish), while the second would be in Galena, an Athabascan village of just 375 people located 270 miles from Fairbanks, which had been decimated by a 2013 flood. Mark’s response was immediate… “Of course!”

“And so, in October, Mark’s “yes” came to fruition.

“There were many epiphanies during his week here, but the one that made the indelible impression occurred in Galena. Village ministry requires flexibility in spades, as commitment to events is not organic to Native culture.

“Therefore, when the first evening began, and more than five times the people we anticipated flowed through the doors, including parish ministers as well as non-Catholics, elders, and families, Mark declared, “We’re moving from retreat to parish mission!” 

“The village elders, all women in this matriarchal culture, were seated together. Mark went to the elders, knelt before them, and asked them to please share stories with him of what it was like in the days of their youth to be Athabascan and Catholic.

“This is the image that I see in my mind’s eye, Mark Pacione, with all of his experiences directing mega events, a mentor to countless youth ministry folks, role model for an untold amount of Catholic young people, on his knees in a small village church, at the feet of the elders. 

“In this moment, Mark was at once both disciple (one who learns) and apostle (one who is sent), modeling not only true ministry, but how to live a faith-filled life.”

Proud of his Baltimore: Selfie in Alaska


Dr. Robert McCarty, D.Min:

“…the entire country was his parish.”

The executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, Bob has been both friend and colleague with Mark Pacione for more than thirty years. They worked together for fourteen years in the Baltimore Office of Youth Ministry, and then seventeen years collaborating on ministry projects for NFCYM.

Bob shared:

“For over thirty years Mark and I shared our personal and professional journeys. Ministering together in the Office of Youth Ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and then together developing programs, resources, and services in the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, Mark was the consummate professional lay ecclesial minister.

“He was renowned nationally for his keynote presentations, workshops, and retreats. He combined vision with practical application, creativity with insight, and faith with the lived experiences of young people.

“Mark’s passion for his faith, his love of young people, and his creative leadership in ministry were grounded in his commitment to creating disciples of Jesus Christ. He lived a Gospel-based life and our pastoral ministry to, with, for, and by the young Church is stronger because of his influence and witness.

“Mark was always, in his heart, a youth minister, and the entire country was his parish!

Preparing to lead an in-service on the National Directory of Catechesis at the NFCYM Annual Membership Meeting:

(From left:) Mike Norman (Los Angeles), Mark Pacione (Baltimore), Brian Johnson (Galveston-Houston) and Sr. Eileen McCann (USCCB). (Photo from Bob McCarty)


Rest in peace, good and faithful servant.


January 02, 2015 11:58
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Remembering Mark Pacione: Part I: Stories from youth who were impacted during his local ministry

"There is a light that can overcome the darkness; there is no darkness that can overcome the light..."

Photo collage made by Jeff Will


“Young people are my ‘holy door’ always. They are the door to what is holy. They are the door to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They are the door to my faith."

Mark Pacione

Remembering Mark:

When Pope St. John Paul II died in 2005, there were countless calls for “Santo subito” (“Sainthood now”) as people from around the world were expressing what was on their minds in regard to the passing of this holy man and leader of the Church.

And though we are not hearing the words “Santo subito” this week, people from every corner of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and throughout the youth ministry world in the U.S. Catholic Church are indeed sharing what is on their minds….

We lost a holy man on December 29, an advocate for youth and for those who work with youth, and a true Christian role model for all who seek to be disciples of the Lord.

Our newsfeeds on Facebook and Twitter have been filled with testimonials from youth and adults who have been touched by the life of the man who lived in Fallston and who witnessed to the Gospel by the way he lived his life each and every day.

That man was Mark Pacione, who on Monday, at age 60, died suddenly and left us filled simultaneously with deep sadness and grateful joy as he made his way into the Nearer Presence of the Lord.

Mark was an inspiration to all of us who work with youth and with our Catholic schools. I met him when I started teaching at John Carroll in 1981, when he was working at nearby St. Margaret School/Church. When Mark moved on to the Archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, I attended workshops and training sessions with him, as well as brought my students to youth events sponsored by his office. Our paths often crossed over the years on retreats, at conferences, area youth events, and at board meetings for the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House.

Mark was always inspiring and a role model to youth and adults alike. Like so many other people, I will be forever changed by knowing this good and holy man.

Watch for Part 2:

"Remembering Mark Pacione: Part 2: Stories from local and national Church leaders" will be posted later today with memories from those who served with Mark or were impacted by him during their service to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as well as in national youth ministry.


"Young people, more than other generations before, are truly excited to grab that task and go rescue the world in so many ways." –Mark Pacione


Remembering the youth ministry days in Bel Air:

Some testimonies from Mark’s service at St. Margaret’s:

"He carried me..."

Shannon Baker:

Shannon, a graduate of The John Carroll School, now a school counselor in Austin, Texas, was in Mark’s Religion Class when he taught Religion and was youth minister at St. Margaret School/Church from her middle school and high school years.

She reflects:

“Obviously there are memories of dances and classroom antics, but I will always remember Mr. Pacione for his kindness on a spring day when I was a pre-teen. I can't be exact on the year, somewhere around 1980... I had surgery on both legs, and though I'd recovered from it, any lengthy walking would leave me in pain. I was never one to quit or give up, and I was determined to walk like everyone else. St. Margaret's had a field day each year. This include walking from our school to John Carroll. By the return trip that day, I was in considerable pain and lagging far behind the group. Someone could have driven me home, but Mr. Pacione knew that it was important for me to be like everyone else. It was important that I "walk" back to SMS. Without hesitation, he picked me up and put me on his shoulders. I should add that I wasn't a little kid. He was strong and he carried me with a poise that made me feel like a queen rather than a chubby girl with messed up legs. The class laughed and sang all the way back to campus. Thanks to Mr. Pacione, I wasn't left behind.”

Shannon shares this photo from her 1993 eighth graduation from St. Margaret School:

(From left) Gina Rapisarda Fritz, Susan Derby, Mr. Pacione, Cristy Kovach Hom, with Shannon Baker on the right


John and Sue Kutcher:

John Kutcher and his wife, Sue Weller Kutcher, were both highly impacted by Mark Pacione in the early 1980s during their involvement with the St. Margaret youth group.

"...intertwined faith with fun in such a seamless way..."

John recalls:

“Even at that time, it was clear that Mark was someone truly special and unique... He threw everything he had into building a community of youth, brought together by dozens of events, each designed to build collegiality.

"There are so many testaments to what Mark built in his years at St. Margaret's, but none so strong as the fact that over 30 years later, most of those friendships remain some of the strongest each of us have.  Watching my sons grow up in high school now, I can appreciate even more what Mark did for all of us, and for the community he served.  The Youth Group he assembled drew from multiple high schools -- and brought together individuals from all walks of life and interests.  Athletes, musicians, scholars, introverts, extroverts -- it didn't matter. Together, we were all just one big group.  It was hands down "the" thing to do in high school for hundreds of members.  All of these things are truly remarkable, given the diversity of interests, cliques, and everything else that often proves a challenge in the formidable years of teens growing up into young adults.  To achieve of all of these things could only be done with a combination of exceptional vision and passionate execution.  Mark brought both of those with zeal.

"What's equally amazing, is that Mark intertwined "faith" with "fun" in such a seamless and novel way, that we all were mentored and shaped, sometimes without even realizing it…  Mark made an impact on so many young lives, and not just a minor impact, but a major one.  To many, Mark is counted as one of the single most influential persons in their lives…  He built a lasting legacy with nearly everyone he touched through his missions and passions to serve youth.  Those friendships were built rock-solid on the bedrock of faith and fun… and they will last a lifetime for all of us.  Few people can count that type of impact in their life's legacy.  We all thank Mark for the gift of so many strong and loving relationships that his vision brought together.”

John’s wife, Sue Weller Kutcher, a 1985 graduate of John Carroll, reflected back:

" of the most influential people in my life"

“To me, Mark was larger than life. I came into his life as young teenager when I was introduced to the St. Margaret Youth Group. The youth group became such a huge, important part of my life, and Mark was our fearless leader. We all had such respect and admiration for him. He made being a part of our youth group the cool thing to do.  He did such an incredible job of bringing together kids from all walks of life: different schools, different interests, different home lives. Looking back, I cannot believe that he had the courage to take 30 kids out on a 100 mile, 3-day bike hike! And he did it with such ease-- year after year."

"Mark was, without a doubt, one of the most influential people in my life. I realized this fact long ago, on one of my drives home from college- I can actually remember the exact moment. I was feeling very proud about how I was doing and it occurred to me at that moment that Mark was such a big reason why.  Over the course of my years in the youth group Mark believed in me and trusted me to take on so many roles. By doing so, he taught me how to be a leader and instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish whatever I wanted to if I worked hard for it. And I know he did this for so many others as well.

"I am forever grateful that Mark was a part of my life. And for all of us that had the privilege of being part of the St. Margaret Youth Group during Mark’s years as our leader, we are forever bonded to each other.”


"I needed to tell someone what this man did for me"

A life-saving testimony from “Mags:”

“I can thanks Mark for setting me on the path out of the dark place I was in after my family moved out of Harford County. I was on the road to self-destruction and suicide, particularly after an assault, and he was one of the only people who was willing to sit and listen without judgment. He just wanted to make sure I was okay, whatever that took. Mark told me that meant I should focus on everything that could help me heal… 

"He helped me more than all the paid-for therapy I had over the years. I needed to tell someone what this man did for me… And I'm healthy and happy now.”


"I will search for you when you are not around"

Kelly McDonald:

Kelly, a 1983 graduate of John Carroll, has been a teacher at St. Margaret School for the past 27 years, but she traces her memories with Mark Pacione back to her teen years in 1979 when Mark, who had just been hired, spoke at Mass about  starting a youth group. Kelly became an active member “from the very first meeting… was on the first Board of the Youth Group under Mark’s ministry.”

She recalls:

“My best memory of Mark is not one of my proudest moments, although it is something that has been brought up again and again over the years!  It was 1981 when the Youth Group filled a bus to attend a Huey Lewis and the News concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion.  Somehow, my two friends and I managed to get lost and were unable to find the bus at the end of the concert.  The bus left, but Mark stayed behind to search for us.  With the help of the Howard County Police Department and several phone calls from us at a pay phone, we were “found.”  Mark bought all three of us hot fudge sundaes at the Double T Diner on Route 40 while we waited for my mother to come get us.”

Kelly attended the “SEARCH for Christian Maturity” Retreat in 1983 and shares the retreat letter she received from Mark dated May 15, 1983: (Read more about the SEARCH Retreat here.)

Dear Kelly,

Good morning, I hope that your Search weekend has been both an exciting and a learning experience.  I have prayed for you every hour throughout this weekend in hope that this would be a meaningful time for you…

…Although we joke about it now, I hope that the experience of me searching for you at the concert two summers ago becomes sort of symbolic for us.  I hope you realize that I don’t want you to be just another youth who hung around St. Margaret’s during her high school years.  I want you to be my friend and I will search for you when you are not around and celebrate with hot fudge sundaes when you return…

M​​uch love,


Kelly sums it up:

"Mark, I know that you are my angel now.  I know that you will continue your search for me and we will one day sit together, my friend, and enjoy a hot fudge sundae!!"


"... instrumental in encouraging me to become a CCD teacher."

Karen Smith Natkin:

Karen, another John Carroll graduate, recalls first meeting Mark Pacione in 1979 when he came to St. Margaret School:

“Mark was our religion teacher, youth group leader, mentor, and friend. He was instrumental in encouraging me to become a CCD teacher. And his love of music and the guitar helped me to appreciate my skills as a guitarist.

"Throughout the years, I would run into him and we would always catch up on Beth and Carol, and what was going on in the diocese.  Mark was a friend to all and will be missed.  Rest in peace, Mark!!”


Karen submitted two photos from her 1981 St. Margaret School graduation trip to Lancaster and from their graduation party where Mark was presented a gift on behalf of their class. We regret that these photos were not clear enough for publication.


"A 'Mark collage' in my heart..."

Eileen Fahres Raff:

Eileen too remembers Mark Pacione when he was her youth minister at St. Margaret Parish during her high school years, 1982-1985. She became involved and later helped with the Archdiocesan Youth Days as a young adult. 

Eileen shared:

“My mother has often said she should thank Mark for helping raise us. Mark entered my life at a time when I was struggling with adolescence and finding my way. His ministry at St. Margaret's Church reached me. The youth group he founded gave me a positive social group, a place where I always felt welcomed, accepted, and appreciated.

"There were so many wonderful things that I experienced through the youth group. I have so many friends that I never would have met if not for Mark and Carol. We share closer ties than just old high school friends, because we explored our faith deeply together. We are family.

 "Right now there's just this big jumbled-up sort of "Mark collage" in my heart, of his genuine concern for all of us, his humor, his musical and other creative talents, all the people whose lives he touched, all the great work he did… his hardworking, humble, gentle soul.

"Mark knew many, many people, and he and I would often go years without seeing each other. Each time we would finally cross paths again, Mark would give me his warm smile and seem so touched to see me again. I don't think I will ever know anyone like Mark again, but my life is forever changed for the better for having known him.”


Following in his footsteps:

"Surely you must know how proud I am of you." --Mark to Kristin Rupprecht, seen here during her high school days

Kristin Rupprecht, a 1988 John Carroll grad, has served as the Youth and Young Adult Minister at Saint Margaret Church since 2010. A former member of his youth group from her high school days, Kristin feels honored to follow in the footsteps of her own youth minister.

Kristin recalls:

“I first met Mark when I was in 5th grade. He was my religion teacher in middle school, my youth minister in high school, and I babysat his daughter. He was my boss for a while after college when I worked as his Special Projects Assistant in the Office of Youth Ministry, and my mentor as I transitioned into youth ministry. He and Carol were our sponsor couple when my husband and I prepared to get married. Mark sang at our wedding, and has been a friend and true role model.

"My best memories of Mark are from my Saint Margaret youth group days. Through that experience, we were all blessed to have an incredible man minister to us from his Christ-filled heart, and thus I learned how to minister to others. He lifted up every one of us, no matter our situation. He saw only the best in each of us, and ensured we knew what that was. He taught us life-lessons in love, in kindness, in laughter, in friendship.

"I am humbled and honored to be following in his footsteps at Saint Margaret. When I expressed this to him one time, his response was, "Surely you must know how proud I am of you."  I cannot describe the joy those words brought to me.

"May his ministry live on in those whose lives he touched, because as Mark said often, true ministry duplicates itself.”


Shadowing her role model:

“… he always radiated love and warmth”

Karen Fahres Walsh met Mark Pacione back in 1982 when she was 14 and he got her involved in the youth group at St. Margaret’s and regional youth events.

She remembers:

“I became very active in Youth Day, the NRACYAC Convention (Northeast Rural Area Catholic Youth Advisory Council) held at John Carroll every year, and in all of the youth group activities throughout my high school years.

“As is true of most people who met Mark, I have a million stories, and can name a million ways he touched my life.  I attended Mark and Carol's wedding and babysat for Beth from birth to age 6.  I attended and helped plan so many youth group events that I lost count.  I had numerous adventures with him on Bike Hikes, Canoe Trips and Codorus Camping trips.

"However, the one story that sticks out in my mind the most is from high school when, for a career day, I "shadowed" Mark at St. Margaret for a work day, to see what being a Youth Minister was really like.

“Mark was amused that I had chosen to follow him, since our teacher had told us we were allowed to pick anyone we wanted to shadow for a day.  He thought his job could be tedious and that I would get bored, but I loved what he did and wanted to spend the day with him. 

"Although his job was very busy and we had a lot to do all day, I was amazed by how everyone he came in contact with loved him as much as I did, and as much as all of my youth group friends did.  It wasn't just at the church or the school.  I accompanied him on errands he had to run and he also took me to lunch that day.  Everywhere we went, he made people smile and laugh, just by being himself.  It wasn't that he set out to charm people, it was just the way Mark carried himself, and the way he acted that drew everyone to him and made people happy. He always radiated love and warmth and his calm demeanor made people comfortable around him. 

"To me, Mark epitomized the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  He treated everyone equally and told me, that we are all God's children, He loves us all the same, so who are we to treat anyone poorly?  Mark was a wonderful, loving man who influenced my life in numerous ways.  I still remember the things he taught me and will miss him dearly.”


“As much as I love youth and young adult ministry, my real passion is to serve the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I grew up in this diocese. I rejoice in its successes and hurt when things are not so happy. I want to help.” –Mark Pacione

Our love and prayers:

Sending our love and deepest condolences to Carol, Beth and Ian, Mary Louise, and Mark’s entire family: Our hearts and tears are joined with yours. Be assured of our prayers as we honor Mark’s profound impact by the way we live our lives.



Read more here about Mark Pacione's "reMarkable" ministry:

1.Read Mark’s obituary by George P. Matysek, Jr. from The Catholic Review;

2.“The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry mourns the loss of a great friend, colleague, and servant of God.” Read the beautiful tribute from the NFCYM here;

3.From the Catholic Review: “Longtime youth director named to schools planning position:” Read this June 16, 2009 article here;

4.From the Baltimore Sun: ““St. Pius X parishioners recall role in 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II”

Read this April 23, 2014 article on Mark and Carol Pacione here;

Included are photos of the Paciones at the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden by Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun.

(Photo: Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun)

5.“The Fifth Mark of the Church" from June 12, 2009:

On Mark’s last day as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, D. Scott Miller, former Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry who took his place, recalls the annual Youth Pilgrimage (themed “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic:” the four marks of the Church) when Cardinal Keeler thanked Mark for his leadership that day, musing that perhaps “Mark Pacione is the fifth mark of the church.”

6.Obituary and book of condolences from McComas Funeral Home;

7.Read the “definition” of Mark Pacione from the Urban Dictionary.


Rest in peace, good and faithful servant.

January 02, 2015 01:10
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Looking back with gratitude and forward with hope: My top ten blogs for 2014 and a prayer for the new year 2015

Happy New Year!!

I might be a few hours early… but I wanted to pause and thank all my family, friends, and readers for their support and encouragement during the past year.

It has been a whirlwind of a year with some major transitions, as well as the ups and downs that come with the Circle of Life.

Some of our personal highlights were:

1.The birth of our beautiful granddaughter last New Year’s Eve....

2.George’s retirement in March with two great celebrations....

3.Our trip to Italy in April and seeing Pope Francis during Holy Week and Easter Sunday at the Vatican...

          I blogged each day of the first week of our tour of Italy:

          **Day 1 saw us travelling to Italy and visiting Milan and Verona;

          **Day 2 was a glorious visit to Venice;

          **Day 3 was spent in Florence;

          **Day 4 was unforgettable as we walked in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi--


          **Day 5 we visited Pompeii and the breathtaking Sorrento Coast;

          **Day 6 we visited the beautiful isle of Capri and then made our way to Rome;

          **Day 7 was our unforgettable first visit to the Vatican with a papal audience, and tours of St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums;

         **We extended for an five days in Rome and enjoyed the thrill of Easter Sunday at the Vatican with Pope Francis.


4.My retirement from fulltime ministry after 33 years at The John Carroll School,


5.Transitioning into retirement mode between our homes in Bel Air and on Singer Island in South Florida, while being able to spend more time on the beach.  


What to do, what to do? The blessing of the blog:

Retirees often say they don’t know how they managed to find the time to work since they are still very busy. That is definitely the case for me too.

Writing this blog for “The Catholic Review” for the past few years has been an incredible blessing. I am able to continue writing and sharing wherever I am… thanks to the advances of modern technology.


My top ten blogs for 2014:

1. My most-viewed blog of all times with over 23,000 views and hundreds of comments, as well as emails sharing of academic successes:

Saint Joseph of Cupertino: Patron saint of exam takers


2. Lose something? Call on St. Anthony: This blog has also been read over 10,000 times with many comments and emails, both looking for prayers, as well as sharing stories of answered prayers: "St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around..."

Praying to Saint Anthony: Patron saint of lost items


3. Did you watch "Called to the Collar" with CNN's Lisa Ling?

I previewed the show before it aired in November and shared "My Perspective."


4. My favorite quote comes from St. Catherine of Siena. The April blog I wrote on inspiring quotes from this amazing woman is a big hit, especially on Pinterest.

Setting the world on fire: Inspiring quotes from St. Catherine of Siena


5. Co-producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett brought us their latest film "Son of God" which opened last Good Friday. My preview with free ticket contest drew in a lot of readers.

Film “Son of God” opens on February 28: Reflections and free ticket giveaway


6. My students at John Carroll shared their creative ways of asking their dates to the prom, along with sharing special photos from their big night last April.

"Prom?" The promposal and creative ways to ask your date to the big night

Here's a look at Madysen and Devin:


7. Just before President Obama was scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on March 27, I came up with lots of fun facts about other meetings between popes and presidents.

Meetings of popes and presidents: Some fun facts before the visit of President Obama with Pope Francis


8. During Catholic Schools Week, I wrote about St. Thomas of Aquinas, the patron saint of Catholic Education:

Praying with Saint Thomas Aquinas: A patron saint for our Catholic schools


9. I spent a lot of time this summer watching the World Cup soccer games and cheering on Pope Francis' home team. I was interviewed on two radio stations after I called him their "good luck charm" and they went all to the way to the final championship game against Germany.

Argentina's good luck charm: What you should know about Pope Francis' love of soccer and the World Cup


10. During early November's Vocations Awareness Week, I took a closer look at the vocations of Fr. James Martin, SJ of "America" magazine, Deacon Martin Perry of St. Mark Church in Fallston, and Dominican Sister Philip Joseph Davis, formerly of Mount de Sales Academy.  

Vocation Awareness Week: Advice from Fr. James Martin, SJ, a Dominican sister, and a Baltimore deacon on hearing God's call  


Anticipating 2015:

What does the new year have in store for you?

We are looking forward to some great family events:

  • baby McKenna’s first birthday party this Saturday,
  • spending the winter in Florida,
  • celebrating grandson Tyler’s eighth birthday during a mini-vacation with us in February,
  • coming home to Bel Air for all the wonderful festivities before and during the April 25 wedding of daughter Katie and her fiance Karl,
  • and all that will follow… How can we even think beyond that wonderful wedding ?

God is good.... All the time!!

Warmest wishes:

Wishing you and your family a new year filled with wonder, joy and rich blessings.

Here's a great prayer to start out 2015:  


Prayer for the new year

Loving God, thank You for this new year.

May everyone in our family be willing to begin anew with a clean slate.

We know that You are always ready to forgive us. Help us to be willing to forgive ourselves and to forgive one another.

 As we begin a new year, remind us of our truest values and our deepest desires. Help us to live in the goodness that comes from doing what You want us to do. Help us to put aside anxiety about the future and the past, so that we might live in peace with You now, one day at a time.


December 30, 2014 02:59
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Honored to share his legacy: John Carroll grad plays his grandfather in Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken”


“I think Jolie chose me because of the fact I am related to the character and it made things that much more personal… My grandfather flew in the B-24 bomber plane alongside Louis Zamperini. It was surreal being able to act out exactly what my grandfather experienced so many years ago.”  --Stephen Douglas to the John Carroll Patriot

Stephen J. Douglas of the John Carroll Class of 2006 portrays his grandfather in “Unbroken,” due to be released on Christmas Day. Formerly of Jarrettsville and now living in Brooklyn, New York, Stephen is a 2010 graduate of the Pratt Institute with a BFA in film. He has worked as a production assistant on several shows, including “Survivor” and “The X Factor.”

(New York Post Photo: Tamara Beckwith)

Christmas Day film release:

The family of Stephen J. Douglas of the John Carroll Class of 2006 is looking forward to Christmas Day. The holiday stockings and gifts are secondary this year, as their main focus will be on the national release of “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie. Stephen was cast to portray his paternal grandfather in the film.

Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 best-selling biography of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini, the film tells the story of the World War II hero, who survived bombing missions, a plane crash, and weeks stranded on a small raft adrift at sea, only to be captured by the Japanese navy and tortured repeatedly in a POW camp.

Stephen Douglas’s grandfather, flight engineer Clarence (“C.K.”) Douglas (1920-1993), was actually part of Zamperini’s crew on the B-24 bomber named Super Man, which was attacked by Japanese Zero fighter planes over the island of Nauru in the South Pacific. This March 25, 1943 bombing mission is among the opening scenes in “Unbroken.”

Historic photo: Seven of these "Superman" crew members were wounded in March 1943.

C.K. Douglas is at right on the bottom row next to Louis Zamperini who is beside him in the middle. (Source: Douglas Family)


Historic photo: Clarence "C.K." Douglas manning one of the side guns in the B-24 Superman (Photo: Douglas Family)


In an article published on December 20, 2014 by the New York Post, “Meet the barback who plays his own grandfather in ‘Unbroken’ ”, author Gregory E. Miller notes:

“For 26-year-old Stephen J. Douglas, appearing in a small role in the movie “Unbroken” was personal. With just a few minutes of screen time, he brings to life the moment that made his Purple Heart-adorned grandfather a World War II hero.”

Stephen told Miller: “They crash landed, but my grandfather’s big claim to fame was that he stuck to his gun even though he got shrapnel in his shoulder and his leg… He stayed at his gun and took down the last Japanese fighter plane that was coming for them.”

Read the rest of the New York Post article which includes how the sharing by Tom Douglas of his father's wartime photos with the book publisher ultimately led to his grandson Stephen being offered the role of Clarence Douglas in the film version.

From the John Carroll stage to the Big Screen:

Stephen came to John Carroll in the Fall of 2002 having just graduated from St. Margaret School in Bel Air. He got involved in the theatre program, memorably portraying the title role in his junior year in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” with the solo number “That’s my Plan.”  

Laura Lang, longtime former JC Director of Development, who directed the annual musical productions every March from 1991-2014, knew Stephen well: "He participated in the JC musicals all four years, and we all watched him grow into an incredible performer and person.  He always worked hard, was prepared, and furthermore, ALWAYS kept us laughing!"

Director of Guidance Larry Hensley has worked with John Carroll theatre productions for the past twenty years. He told me, "I had the pleasure of working closely with Stephen for four years, directing and choreographing him in JC productions. Stephen is a positive soul, unconditionally kind, and worked at ease with all of his peers and teachers. He never conformed to society standards. He was confident and proud of his talents and uniqueness. He was always smiling, upbeat and eager to make the people around him laugh. 

"One of my favorite  memories of working with Stephen was in "The Music Man." We laughed and had a blast staging his big comic number with Chris Susio. I also have fond memories of Stephen eating lunch in my office sitting on top of my file cabinet sporting his Marilyn Monroe tie and rock-star hair."

Voted by his graduating classmates “Dares to be Different” in their yearbook senior superlatives, Stephan also shared his musical talents through his band “Go Ask Alice,” which performed at school and community events, including John Carroll’s Hurricane Katrina Relief Show.

A passion for creativity discovered in TV Production class:

Stephen’s interest in film, though, became his greater passion through his TV Production class with instructor Bob Schick.

In a December 8 telephone interview with Hanna LeBuhn, Class of 2015, Print Chief for “The Patriot,”  Stephen noted that “Schick was the most influential person during his high school career and allowed him to be creative and independent. He (Schick) even let Douglas take an independent TV Production class where he was able to ‘run free with the camera.’

This enthusiasm led to a full scholarship to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

I spoke to Bob Schick yesterday and he was delighted to have been instrumental in Stephen Douglas’ pursuit of film studies. He reflected: 

“We teachers are fortunate to chance upon exceptional kids every so often, and it’s always a joy to work with these ‘diamonds in the rough.’ But it is a rare event to encounter a true artist, which is how I would describe Stephen. In our Television Production class, Stephen didn’t just do assignments, or complete projects. He found full expression in the medium of video. He didn’t merely grab a camera and shoot, he composed for the screen.

His love of cinematography continued after he completed our course. I remember Stephen spending hours in the TV Studio, editing a piece he was doing for his Social Justice class. He labored over a shot of an abandoned swingset – placing the camera down low, giving it a slight Dutch angle, over-saturating the colors, experimenting with various video effects – until he was satisfied that the shot conveyed the sense of loneliness and alienation he was trying to express. There’s talent, and there’s enthusiasm, and there’s perfectionism, and there’s creativity, but when they all come together – that’s true artistry.”



Stephen Douglas (center) with two of the stars of the movie, "Unbroken"

Jack O'Connell (as Louis Zamperini) on the left and Finn Wittrock (as Mac McNamara) on the right. (Photo: Douglas Family)


“As soon as I got the phone call, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. A few weeks later, I was on a fifteen hour flight to Australia.” --Stephen Douglas

The road to “Unbroken:”

In the article “Alum breaks into the big screen” from the JC Patriot, Hanna LeBuhn explored the journey that led to Stephen Douglas being cast as his grandfather.:

According to Douglas, “Jolie was pushed to cast big-name actors, but instead she wanted to bring in a lot of no-names and get real, raw people.

Douglas had never been featured in a film before, but when he received the phone call confirming that he had landed the role of his grandfather, Clarence Douglas, he knew it was going to be special. Although Douglas’s role was not a leading one in the movie, he was able to learn about his family history and “more about his grandfather than he ever thought possible.” 

“It’s pretty crazy how I got the part. My dad helped me get my name out to the casting director, and when Angelina Jolie heard I was the grandson of Clarence Douglas, she was 100% set that I would play the part,” Douglas said.


Stephen Douglas poses with “Unbroken” director Angelina Jolie during a private film screening and luncheon held earlier this month in New York City. (Photo: Douglas Family)

 Calling Jolie “the smartest, wittiest, and funniest person” he has ever met, Stephen Douglas shared with the JC Patriot: “She only works on things she cares about, and when she does care, she works as hard as humanly possible.”

~ ~
Stephen told the New York Post that after filming wrapped, Jolie sent him a Tiffany’s Swiss Army knife engraved with Clarence’s name and a handwritten note that reads, “You are wonderful in the film. You make your grandfather proud.”

(Photo: Douglas Family)

Stephen Douglas strongly recommends “Unbroken” to everyone:

"It’s truly an epic…. It’s a true story with so much heart that you just can’t get away from it.”


Stephen Douglas as WWII gunner Clarence Douglas, seen with Browning M2 machine gun. (Photo: "Unbroken")

Look for Stephen in the "Unbroken" trailers: 

Trailer One: Stephen is the left gunner, just after the pilot says, "Inbound"

Trailer Two: Stephen is looking out the window for Japanese planes, immediately after the pilot says "A lot of ocean"

Read more about this remarkable story:

1.Check out Steve Oney’s November 12, 2010 article for the Wall Street Journal “The Defiant Ones” on the "Unbroken" book where he explains how the debilitating illness that Laura Hillenbrand--also known for her bestseller “Sea Biscuit” --endures daily gave her a special bond with Louis Zamperini. Read about her research and see historic photos from the life of Zamperini.

2.Enjoy this December 9, 2014 article “Lewes family has unique "Unbroken" connection”

Focusing on the Douglas Family, including Stephen’s parents, Tom and Gloria, who now live in Lewes, Delaware.

Learn more about the life and military service of C.K. Douglas, how Tom’s family was unaware of his father’s heroism until they read Hillenbrand’s book, and how his father C.K. never knew what happened to Zamperini since he became injured and was hospitalized for months.

Learn from Tom Douglas how Stephen was hired to portray his grandfather without an audition and spent most of last January in Australia. Learn about the film’s production process from preparation to filming in Australia to last week’s American premier in Los Angeles.

Music video by Coldplay:

The band Coldplay wrote “Miracles” to celebrate Zamperini's inspiring story of hope, perseverance, and forgiveness:


Greetings from home:

"Stephen was always committed to his plans and goals for the future. So proud of him! He continues to stay in touch with me to this day. That defines Stephen!"

--Larry Hensley, John Carroll Director of Guidance and longtime choreographer and director of JC theatre productions 


"I'm so proud  of Stephen and his accomplishments so far!"

--Laura Lang, former JC Director of Development  and the Spring musical productions 


"I know Stephen has enjoyed attending the premiere and hobnobbing with the stars, along with the other perks that this incredible opportunity has brought him. But I hope the actual filming of Unbroken is the memory that stays with him long after the red carpet is rolled up, when he was able to contribute in a small but crucial way to his grandfather’s amazing story."

--Bob Schick, John Carroll TV Production instructor

December 23, 2014 03:19
By Patti Murphy Dohn

The sad impact of suicide: Honoring the memories of those we lost too soon

Part 3 of my series on grief and mourning:

"Suicide does not take away the pain; it passes it on to the person's friends and family."

-Rachel of the John Carroll Class of 2015

Remembering a JC patriot on December 11:

One year ago today is a day that I'll never forget. I learned that one of my junior girls had taken her life and, as John Carroll Campus Minister, I had the difficult task of putting together the response plan for notifying our students and school community, preparing prayers for this beautiful girl and her family, and assisting in any way that I was able to facilitate our students who would attend and participate in her funeral service.

The loss of this sweet girl was devastating in so many ways for so many people. The youngest of six children, she came from a multi-generational John Carroll family. I knew all her alum-siblings from their JC days, and I grew up with her Dad since we were nine years old, as we were both students at St. Margaret School.

Her school friends were just devastated. There were just no words to ease the pain.

This past November 22, on National Survivors of Suicide Day here in US--always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving--one of her friends wrote:

"Suicide does not take away the pain; it passes it on to the person's friends and family."

Though now retired from my ministry at John Carroll, I'm wearing green today in solidarity with her classmates, the Class of 2015. And I've united my prayers for her friends and family as we grieve together a life ended much too soon.

"Once a patriot, always a patriot."

Justin's story:

"I know that Justin is in heaven, and he is safe and happy. 

I know I will see him again one day when it is my time to leave this earth."

-- Kimberly Bennett

Kimberly Bennett of Forest Hill has also been a dear friend since our early years at St. Margaret School. Kim too knows the excruciating pain and anguish that a parent experiences when they lose a child to suicide.

Kim's 27-year old son Justin took his life twenty months ago and the heartache that followed has known no end. Kim shares his story with our "God is in the Clouds" readers both to honor his memory and to give hope to those who experience the same sorrow.

Kim shares the heartbreaking story:

Justin, his girlfriend, and their six-month old daughter were living at his parents' home at the time in order to save money for a home of their own. He had recently started medication for depression, which coupled one evening with alcohol and an argument with the girlfriend, led to Kim hearing what she thought was his bedroom door slamming. Instead, it was the gunshot that led to his final hours.

Justin with two-month old baby Michelle  (Photos: the Bennett Family)

Kim's husband broke down the bedroom door where they found their son with the self-inflicted gunshot wound. Paramedics confirmed a pulse, transporting Justin to Shock Trauma by helicopter, but ensuing tests found no brain activity.

Kim shares, "This is the hardest thing my family and I have ever been through.  If it wasn't for our strong, close-knit family and my Catholic faith, I would not be able to even get out of bed in the morning."

Praying Justin into Heaven:

Kim's family was particularly comforted by the Catholic chaplain at University of Maryland's Shock Trauma unit who prayed the litany of saints as each family member placed their hands on Justin. The litany response to each saint's name was "raise him up." As Kim, Don, their older son Rob, and daughter Sarah prayed together, they were comforted by these prayers and the inclusion of St. Justin in the litany.

Kim shares that the chaplain, Fr. Bill Spacek, "was so caring and kind." He held Kim's hand and reassured her fears and worries about her son's death.

What has been helpful?

Kim responded from the heart: "What helps me is talking about what happened. My daughter and I went to counseling for eight weeks."

As we know, people grieve in different ways; Kim's husband and older son were not as comfortable talking about Justin's death.

Kim and Sarah have become involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

"My daughter ran last year's Baltimore Marathon, raising $5,000. in Justin's memory. This year Sarah and I did the Out of the Darkness Walk in Baltimore, raising more money for the cause."

"Suicide claimed 39,518 lives in 2011 in the United States alone, with someone dying by suicide every 13.3 minutes. A suicide attempt is made every minute of every day, resulting in nearly one million attempts made annually.

When you walk in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walks, you join efforts with thousands of people nationwide to raise money for AFSP’s vital research and education programs to prevent suicide and save lives. The walks raise awareness about depression and suicide, and provide comfort and assistance to those who have lost someone to suicide.


--American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Getting through holidays and birthdays:

Kim told me, "I was really worried about going through the holidays last year, as well as Justin's birthday in January.  For Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, we lit a candle in honor of Justin and read a special prayer before we ate.

"For his birthday, we all went out to eat steamed crabs (his favorite). And then we went to Justin's grave and wrote messages on eco-friendly helium balloons. 'We let our messages float up to heaven' is how we explained it to Rob's sons, our 6-year old and 2-year old grandsons."

What else has been helpful?

Kim recalls, "What was most helpful at the time was the hundreds of friends who came to the viewing and funeral. Afterwards, friends would just stop in to sit with us. We loved hearing stories from Justin's friends."

Was anything not helpful?

Kim shared, "What bothered me after the first few weeks was that people seemed to walk on eggshell around us.  I was so happy when we were able to go to our boat at River Watch in Middle River where everyone finally treated us as 'normal.' 

"Also, I got really tired of hearing how strong I was. I might have appeared "strong," but I was a mess when I was home.  I found that I could not be alone on a Wednesday (the day it happened) at 5:40pm (the time on the police report).  My daughter and I would go out to dinner. My husband found that working long hours was more helpful to his grieving."

Justin with six-month old baby Michelle on Easter Sunday 2013, just three days before his death (Photos: the Bennett Family)


"I have so many wonderful people in my family and my life who depend on me and love me.  I carry on for them and I know that is what Justin would want me to do." --Kim Bennett

Some good that has come about through the sorrow:

Kim shares, "Since our son's passing, I have become so empathetic when a person dies.  I even stood up and spoke at a funeral service for a young man that passed away two months after Justin. I told that young man's mother that my close family and my faith are what allowed me to continue."

Kim and Don are now little Michelle's full-time guardians, raising their precious granddaughter in their son's memory. Kim reflects, "It is bittersweet. Sometimes I hug her so tight. Michelle has her Daddy's eyes and inquisitive nature. I know Justin would want us to take care of her. I ask him for guidance and help all the time."


Read more from my series on grief and mourning:

Part 1: Grief and mourning: Words of comfort and advice: Part 1

Part 2: Remembering Hannah Kriss, John Carroll Class of 2012:

Grieving the loss of a young person: Words of comfort and advice from her Mom

December 11, 2014 05:11
By Patti Murphy Dohn

A treasury of prayers and blessings for your Thanksgiving dinner

O Lord that lends me life,

Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

—William Shakespeare

Last year I featured a "Countdown to Thanksgiving" with prayers, meditations, and music for this season of gratitude.

Today I am sharing the best of that series with a selection of special prayers for you to use when choosing the perfect blessing for your family's Thanksgiving dinner.

Blessing 1:

Loving God,

We gather in prayer on this Thanksgiving Day to acknowledge with grateful hearts our many gifts and blessings.

Thank You for the overflowing goodness of Your love for us as seen both on and around this table.

Bless all who made it possible for us to share this meal, especially those who cooked and baked and all those who work the land, farmers and harvesters of this bounty.

Bless us as we share from their labors.

Bless each of us gathered at this table. Help us to grow in love for one another.

Bless all those who are in need and help us care for them as generously as You care for us.

As we gather we remember too those who have gone before us who rejoice in Your glorious presence with the angels and the saints.

May we always remember them and honor their memories with love.

With gratitude in our hearts for all blessings big and small, we pray in Jesus’ name.



Blessing 2 from the Sisters of Saint Francis:

Thanksgiving Day Dinner Blessing:

Bless this food we have before us, O God.

Let it provide the nourishment we need.

Bless this family and our friends gathered around this table.

Let us be nourished by our love and care for one another.

Bless those who have less than we have.

Let our eyes be open to their needs.

Bless us as we bless your holy name on this day of thanksgiving.

Let us praise and thank you always in Jesus’ name.



Blessing 3: For families with young children and persons with disabilities:

This litany also comes from the Sisters of Saint Francis who have wonderful prayer resources on their website. The repetition of the words “We thank you” is easy for children. Additional mention of gifts and blessings can be added after the ones suggested here. 

Litany of Thanksgiving:

For the gift of life: We thank you.    

For the gift of family: We thank you.

For the gift of this food: We thank you.

For our friends: We thank you.

For laughter: We thank you.

For our safety: We thank you.

For our shelter: We thank you.

For the gift of love: We thank you.

For the abundance of your love, O God: We thank you.



Luann comic by Greg Evans


Blessing 4: For families who mourn and grieve the loss of a loved one this Thanksgiving:

Light a candle at your table as you offer up this prayer-poem:

A Thanksgiving Prayer for Grieving Families:

Dear Heavenly Father, 

Please join our family on this Thanksgiving day,

And bless each one as we sit down to pray.

As we remember those who have joined You above

So dearly missed and deeply loved.

Please provide us strength on this Thanksgiving Day:

Bless us with memories of those faraway.

Please grant patience to family and friends as we grieve

And help us reach out to others who are bereaved.  

We give thanks to You on this Thanksgiving day:

For Your presence in our lives each and every day,

For Your comfort, guidance, and never-ending love,

And for taking care of our loved ones in Heaven above.  

As we light this candle on this Thanksgiving day,

And it glows in memory of those in Heaven today:

May their lights always shine down on us and give us light,

And may we feel their presence along with Yours tonight.  

May the peace and tranquility of this Thanksgiving day

Be an everlasting light within each of us along the way.

Let’s bow our heads and give our Thanks to God above

For our blessings, whether on earth or in Heaven above. 


Drawing by Allen Bryant

Read my reflections on the difficulties presented by the holidays for families who are struggling with grief, serious illness, family disharmony, or loneliness in “God is in the clouds at Thanksgiving.”


Blessing 5:

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer: 

Lord, so often times, as any other day,

When we sit down to our meal and pray,

We hurry along and make fast the blessing

Thanks, Amen. Now please pass the dressing.

We’re slaves to the olfactory overload.

We must rush our prayer before the food gets cold.

But Lord, I’d like to take a few minute more

To really give thanks to what I’m thankful for:

For my family, my health, a nice soft bed,

My friends, my freedom, a roof over my head.

I’m thankful right now to be surrounded by those

Whose lives touch me more than they’ll ever possibly know.

Thankful Lord, that You’ve blessed me beyond measure.

Thankful that in my heart lives life’s greatest treasure.

That You, dear Jesus, reside in that place

And I’m ever so grateful for Your unending grace.

So please, heavenly Father, bless this food You’ve provided

And bless each and every person invited.


By: Scott Wesemann

Thanksgiving by Joe Heller


Blessing 6:

Lord, we thank you

for the goodness of our people

and for the spirit of justice

that fills this nation.

We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the

land and the challenge of the cities.

We thank you for our work and our rest,

for one another, and for our homes.

We thank you, Lord:

accept our thanksgiving on this day.

We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.


--Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers


Blessing 7:

Help Me Thanksgiving Day Prayer

O God, when I have food,

help me to remember the hungry;

When I have work,

help me to remember the jobless;

When I have a home,

help me to remember those who have no home at all;

When I am without pain,

help me to remember those who suffer,

And remembering,

help me to destroy my complacency;

bestir my compassion,

and be concerned enough to help;

By word and deed,

those who cry out for what we take for granted.


--Samuel F. Pugh


Thanksgiving Prayer for Travelers:

Prayer For Safe Travel:

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation,

and whose presence we find wherever we go:

Preserve those who travel;

surround them with your loving care;

protect them from every danger;

and bring them in safety to their journey's end;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


God's richest blessings to you and your family!!

November 25, 2014 11:15
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Stranded 24 hours on a bus in a snowstorm: Prayers for the Niagara University women's basketball team

Texted to us from their coach bus on I-90: (From left)
Niagara team members Tiffany Corselli and Gabby Baldasare, with staff member Chelsea Andorka (on right).
UPDATE: The team was rescued by plows and state troopers after 30 hours.

It's been a long day... 

Updates on the women's basketball team of Niagara University have been the topic of many news reports on Monday. Players and staff have been trapped on their chartered bus in the lake-effect winter storm that dumped more than four feet of snow in the Great Lakes region near Buffalo.

Departing around 10 pm for their Lewiston, New York campus immediately after Monday night's game in Pittsburgh, the bus got caught in the winter storm around 1 am and became stuck in the rising snow within the next hour. Their bus is now on the side of the New York State Thruway I-90 near West Seneca. Hundreds of other vehicles are also stranded in the region due to the heavy snowfall.

I spoke to Niagara's Athletic Communications Assistant, Chelsea Andorka, and several of the players this evening. Among those stranded on the coach bus are fifteen team members, along with staff, and Head Coach Kendra Faustin's two young children.

No food or water:

Thankfully, the bus is still running, with heat, outlets for phone charging, and a functioning restroom. But the biggest concern at this point is that food and water supplies have run out, and young children are among those without these essential supplies.

Andorka, who is on her first road trip with the team, indicated that all team members have been in contact with their families. "We are very calm and remain in contact regularly with our families who are comforted that we are all together." 

To keep their spirits up, the women are watching movies, using social media, and helping keep the Faustin children occupied. "They are trying to be positive and staying together. The main focus is on keeping our heads up. We are thankful that no one is in serious trouble and no one is hurt," said Andorka.

When I spoke to her earlier tonight, Andorka indicated that "we have heard absolutely nothing in the past seven or eight hours since police stopped by on snowmobiles this afternoon to check on us."

Senior forward Gabby Baldasare of Pittsburgh told me that the team departed for Niagara immediately after their 70-54 loss in her hometown. Several hours later they approached the Erie region and the lake-effect storm hit them with very heavy snowfall. Within an hour the bus came to a stand-still. 

Patient and helpful:

The coach's driver is credited for his support and helpfulness in this extended crisis. Bill Howie of Bedore Tours has "been a real trooper," according to Baldasare, who emphasized, "I don't think we could have been more blessed than we are with this particular driver. Bill has been with us since we left campus on Friday and has taken care of every need that has come up." 

These needs have included changing buses on Sunday morning after a break down, and, during the snowstorm, keeping the bus running and warm throughout Monday, retrieving medications and supplies from the baggage compartment below in the heavy snow, and being "patient and helpful."

Gabby told me that the snow level was about fifty inches deep and came up to the driver's waist. Howie was also instrumental in getting the driver of the car stranded behind them on board the bus earlier this evening. This man is now safe and warm.

The power of prayer:

Tiffany Corselli, sophomore guard from Yonkers, shared with me that the team has been praying every hour. "I'm a strong believer and the first thing I did when we became stranded was to pray.... Faith keeps me positive. I know our families and churches are also praying for us."

Niagara is a Catholic university in the Vincentian tradition, run by the inspiring men of the Congregation of the Mission. 

Tiffany assured me that the team's spirits were holding up due to the support of each team member, the coaches, family members, friends, and God. And she herself has actually been leading the team in prayer at the top of every hour. "It was something that I felt I should do... I started with the protection of the 91st psalm, then continued each hour by praying for our driver, our families, to keep us strong, and give us peace of mind... God won't leave us in this situation."

Acts of kindness:

When I asked about good deeds, Corselli cited acts of kindness, including bringing the driver of the car behind them onto the bus to keep warm, the sharing of food and water when it was available earlier in the day, and the prayers and warm wishes sent to them from all over the country. Social media communications has been a mainstay for these women in getting out word about their situation to family, friends, and seeking aid from those who are in a position to help. The biggest concern of the team was spending a second night on the bus.

Gabby Baldasare spoke of Coach Faustin's one- and three-year old children: "We love them. Right now, the older child is in front of me watching a movie with some of my team mates, while the younger one is up front playing... They are keeping us light-hearted and relaxed...  They bring fun to the table for us."

At that point it was the top of the hour and the Niagara women were huddling together yet again to offer up their prayers... Gabby told me that they have been "giving thanks for all their blessings. Faith is what's keeping us together and giving us strength to get through this situation."

The team and coaches are hopeful that food, water, and blankets would be delivered to the bus at some point. "We are in good hands, and all of us are together in this. The prayers and support of our families and friends are getting us through this," concluded Gabby Baldasare before she left me to join her teammates in prayer.

Putting things in perspective:

Coach Kendra Faustin tweeted at 10:30:
"Spoke with state police. They are pulling people out of cars unconscious. We are so blessed to be warm and together.  #NUWBBstrandedonbus"


Our hearts and prayers are with all those who are stranded in this devastating storm.
May relief find all travelers healthy at the time of rescue.

November 19, 2014 12:09
By Patti Murphy Dohn

« Older Entries