Patti Murphy Dohn retired in 2014 after 33 years of service as Campus Minister and Religion teacher at The John Carroll School in Bel Air, MD. Committed to making a difference in the lives of our youth and their families, she has served the school community since 1981. Presently, she is working on archiving the school's history and doing bereavement outreach.  

Patti was awarded the Medal of Honor in Youth and Young Adult Ministry by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2012. She continues her service to the Archdiocese on the Screening Board for the Office of Vocations. She was previously a board member for the Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, MD. and St. Margaret School in Bel Air.

Along with writing for "The Catholic Review," Patti is a member of the Catholic Press Association, as well as the Catholic Writers Guild and the Associated Church Press. She is available for speaking engagements, consulting, and retreat work.

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


Twitter: @JCSMinistry

Facebook: Patti Murphy Dohn

God is good!! All the time!!



November 2015
October 2015

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Leo was a good friend of mine and this piece brought back wonderful memories of him. Thank you for writing this and sharing his important legacy.


Dear St. Anthony, please help my dear friend Kathy to find her engagement ring and earrings given to her by a very special aunt who has passed on. I will keep me faith n you and continue prayers. Thank you so much...

God is in the clouds

Counting our blessings: Prayers to enhance your family’s Thanksgiving feast

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."  
~Meister Eckhart

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is that special time for counting our blessings and having an attitude of gratitude!

Each year, I like to share some prayers for enhancing your family’s celebration
Perhaps one of these blessings will be the right one for your family feast.

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.


Light a Candle as You Offer Up This Prayer:

Dear Father who art in Heaven,
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 everyday,
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.


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.


Prayers Before Travel:

Lord Jesus Christ my God, be my Companion, guide and protector during my journey. Keep me from all danger, misfortune and temptation. By Your divine power grant me a peaceful and successful journey and safe arrival. In You I place my hope and trust and You I praise, honor and glorify, together with Your Father and Holy Spirit now and forever and ever.



Loving and Compassionate One, 
We gather on this Thanksgiving Day to share our love and friendship and the overflowing goodness of your love seen on and around this table. 
Bless those whose livelihood comes from toiling the earth: the farmers, growers, and pickers of this bounty. Bless us as we share from their labors. 
Bless all who have less than we have and help us to care for them as generously as you care for us. 
Bless each of us gathered at this table. 
Help us to grow in love for one another. 
As we gather we remember those who have gone before us gathered in your loving embrace. 
May we always remember them in love. 
We ask this in Jesus’ name. 


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.


Litany-prayer or families with young children and persons with disabilities:

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.


Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino! 

~Hilaire Belloc

Wishing you and your families a blessed Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2015 12:02
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Praying for Paris: Our pilgrimage to the City of Light

The glow of sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower (Photos: Patti Murphy Dohn)

After facing some medical challenges this past summer, my husband and I decided that we should cross one of the items off our bucket list. The time was right for a much-anticipated trip to Paris.

Having been there twice before, George was excited to show me the beauty of the City of Light, along with its cathedrals, museums, food, and unparalleled ambience. We enjoyed a wonderful week soaking up the Parisian culture. It was magical. 

The news of Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris hit us hard. Like the rest of the world, we were in shock. Good heavens, we were just there! Lord, have mercy! 

We had been near some of the sites that were hit... 
But last month, by contrast, it was peaceful.

"Mona Lisa" at the Louvre (Photos: Patti Murphy Dohn)

It was a city of charm and grace, a thriving metropolis filled with culture and purpose. 

We saw the signs advertising soccer games at the stadium, as well as Fashion Week events down the street. 
We watched the sites pass as we cruised down the river. 
We gazed at the paintings in the Louvre.
We prayed and lit candles at Notre Dame Cathedral. 
We sipped champagne as the sun set over the City of Light from the top of the Eiffel Tower. 
We ate at their sidewalk cafes and bistros. 
We went to Sunday Mass at Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre.  

The Eiffel Tower from the river cruise on the Seine (Photos: Patti Murphy Dohn)

This past Friday, all that we experienced was shattered for the people of Paris as terror darkened the City of Light. 

As George and I watched the events unfold on all the news channels, we were overcome with worry for the good people of Paris who open their hearts and their city each day, year in and year out, for millions of tourists like us...Those who smiled as we fumbled with French expressions and those who were proud to share their heritage with us and with thousands of tourists from around the world each day.

The beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral (Photos: Patti Murphy Dohn)

Prayers for Paris:

Our prayers have been united since Friday with the local Parisians who worship each week at all the churches we visited... Including Notre Dame Cathedral, the neighborhood church of St. Thomas Aquinas near our hotel, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Sainte-Chappelle, and the Church of Saint-Sulpice.

After Sunday Mass at the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre

Proclaiming the Light of the World:

Perhaps the most profound of our experiences was at the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre ("the mountain of martyrs"), the highest point of the City of Paris. The name Montmartre is derived from the martyrdom of the patron saint of France, St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris, who was beheaded on this hill around the year AD 250. 

It was truly a pilgrimage to the holy land of the City of Light. The Basilica of Sacré-Cœur (the Sacred Heart) has held uninterrupted, perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament since the year 1885. The Holy Eucharist is exposed in a huge monstrance high above the main altar. The imposing mosaic of Christ in Majesty rises above the monstrance, one of the largest mosaics in the world. 

The mosaic of Christ in Majesty towering over the Blessed Sacrament at the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur 
(Photos: Patti Murphy Dohn)

Where there is darkness, light: 

According to the biography (written in AD 475) of St. Geneviève, the protectress of Paris, we learn that she persuaded local Catholics to build a chapel on the site of Denis' martyrdom. 

There today, under the watchful eye of the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre who lead the throngs of pilgrims with their sung prayers and liturgical hymns, the spiritual life of the basilica and its surrounding City of Light goes on day in and day out. 
This massive white basilica set high on the hill, a place of prayer, renewal, and peace, sends a message to all who witness its light: 
Jesus, the Light of the World, has come to turn the darkness into light. 
Good will conquer evil. 
And that for which the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi implores, "where there is darkness, light."

God bless the City of Paris as they strive to break the bonds of fear and turn their faces back toward the Light.

November 17, 2015 09:51
By Patti Murphy Dohn

And justice prevails: Remembering Leo Bretholz

“To know Leo was to love him and respect him, and our work to ensure justice for him and the thousands of other SNCF victims will continue in his memory.” —Statement issued on Bretholz' death from the Ad Hoc Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice.

Leo Bretholz seen here with seniors from the John Carroll Class of 2013
(Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)

Remembering two Leos:

As the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Leo the Great today, I had to smile when a photo of my dear Jewish friend Leo Bretholz popped up on my Facebook feed this morning... My elder brother in faith, as Pope St. John Paul II would say.

You see, Leo inspired my John Carroll students with his words of wisdom and passion each year as he recounted the atrocities that he and countless others endured at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. He died peacefully in his sleep in March of 2014, just two days after his 93rd birthday.

Though Leo spent countless hours educating about the horrors of the Holocaust, he put even more of his heart and soul into leading the way through activism and advocacy, in calling for reparations to be made by all who aided the Nazis, from governments down to corporations. 

In his obituary from The Washington Times, Emily Langer noted: 

“While acknowledging the extraordinary suffering of the victims of Nazi persecution, opponents of reparations note that many companies and individuals were coerced into cooperating with the Nazi regime; those people, too, faced threats of deportation or death. Critics also note the essential impossibility of undoing the damage of the past.

Mr. Bretholz was insistent.

'The train to Auschwitz was owned and operated by SNCF,' he said before the House committee. 'They were paid by the Nazis per head and per kilometer to transport innocent victims across France and ultimately to the death camps.'

He handed committee members a copy of an invoice.
'SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais, the French railway system that transported 76,000 people to death camps) pursued payment on this bill after the liberation of Paris,” he said, “after the Nazis were gone."

Two days before his testimony:

Leo died in 2014 just two days before he was scheduled to testify before the Maryland House of Delegate’s Ways and Means Committee regarding legislation to prevent companies from being awarded railroad projects unless they paid reparations to those who were forced onto cattle cars toward almost certain death at concentration camps.

Leo Bretholz testified with other Holocaust survivors before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on November 16, 2011, calling on Congress to allow them to sue France's state-owned SNCF railway to make reparation for its role in deportations to Nazi death camps. (Photo credit: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)


Twenty months after Leo’s death, Holocaust survivors who were deported by train from France and their heirs are now able to apply for this reparation. In an agreement finalized last December between the United States and French officials, the State Department will oversee the distribution of $60 million paid by the French government.

“He deserves an enormous amount of credit. He pursued this doggedly. . . . His family will have some comfort and will be able to get quite a substantial amount. It’s delayed justice, but it’s justice nonetheless for Leo Bretholz and thousands of others in this situation."
Stuart Eizenstat, the State Department’s special assistant on Holocaust issues, speaking on Leo Bretholz’s leadership in getting accountability and justice for the those transported to death camps on their cattle cars.

Leo was indeed loved and admired by many. He had the conviction to tell his story so that we would "never forget." 

And now, thanks to his advocacy, many families whose loved ones suffered the atrocities of the Nazi regime will see justice served.

Rest in peace, Leo Bretholz. See you soon again, my friend.

Learn more about Leo Bretholz:

2. VIDEO: "See You Soon Again
Directors: Lukas Stepanik, Bernadette Wegenstein
Writer: Bernadette Wegenstein

2. Leap into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe, Leo's memoir which was co-authored by Michael Olesker, and published in 1998 by Random House.

3. Leo Bretholz's oral history was recorded and preserved in 1989 for future generations by the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. 

November 10, 2015 04:31
By Patti Murphy Dohn

This week in Church History: Marking the 226th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore

Today is the 226th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore:

Baltimore was named the first diocese in the United States by Pope Pius VI on November 6, 1789 by the papal brief “Ex hac apostolicae.” The Holy Father also approved the election of John Carroll, SJ as the first bishop. In an unusual twist of circumstances, the local priests voted for their bishop with Carroll getting 24 of the 26 votes. This first American diocese was comprised of the 13 original states and the territories. 

Baltimore was elevated to the status of an Archdiocese on April 8, 1808 with the establishment of the Dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown (Kentucky).

Today, the Archdiocese has 145 parishes covering a territory of nine Maryland counties (Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, and Washington), as well as Baltimore City.

Anniversary Mass:

The Archdiocese culminated its 225th anniversary last year with a Mass of Thanksgiving on November 2 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Principal celebrant Archbishop William Lori was joined by Archbishop-Emeritus Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, former bishops of Baltimore and bishops from neighboring dioceses.

Read more about that festive celebration:

2,000 pack cathedral to celebrate archdiocese’s 225th jubilee” by Catholic Review editor Christopher Gunty.

Enjoy more memories from the 225th anniversary:

“Former Catholic Review photographer Tom McCarthy Jr. spent the course of 40 hours, from sunrise Oct. 1 until after sunset Oct. 2, chronicling these daily happenings as he traveled 530 miles.” 

Click on this link to read more about the making of this 5-minute video-documentary:




Special thanks to the Baltimore Sun for providing special coverage of this historic event:

Read more in "Baltimore Catholics celebrate 225th anniversary of nation's oldest archdiocese."  

November 06, 2015 04:09
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Remembering our beloved dead on the waterways of South Florida: Answers about Catholic burial at sea  

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them."
~Wisdom 3:1 

Yesterday was All Souls Day, otherwise known liturgically as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. It is a day of prayer and remembrance for all those who have gone before us. And a special day to remember those loved ones who live on in our hearts. 

Remembering on the waterway:

My husband and I have been at our home on Singer Island in South Florida for the past month. We took our boat out yesterday for a ride along the Intracoastal Waterway and through some of the neighboring canal communities. 

As we made our way along the Intracoastal, I found myself entering into the spirit of prayer for the deceased. Calling to mind by name the beloved members of my family, friends, and students who have passed on to death before me, I found a sense of peace thanks in great part to being surrounded by the beauty of God's creation. My cherished loved ones have gone Home and are now in the embrace of our Lord. 

As I looked around us at the passing salty waters, with the sights and sounds that accompany a warm, sunny day in South Florida, I remembered in a special way those families who have committed the remains of their loved ones to the sea. It gave me pause to think about the sacredness of this space. 

The Intracoastal Waterway off Singer Island, Palm Beach, Florida (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn) 

The question of burial at sea:

Burial at sea got a lot of press in the national news back in 1999 when the ashes of John F. Kennedy Jr., and his wife and sister-in-law, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and Lauren Bessette, all Catholics, were put to rest off the destroyer USS Briscoe off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. They all perished on July 16, 1999 during the crash of the small plane Kennedy was piloting. 

Fr. Kenneth Doyle, a columnist for the Catholic News Service, recently answered the question:  "Can cremated remains be buried at sea?"

"The Catholic Church, while it prefers a traditional burial or entombment, permits cremation. The cremated remains are to be treated with the same respect as the body of the deceased, which means that they are to be placed in a worthy vessel and buried or entombed in consecrated ground (not kept on a mantelpiece or scattered over a mountaintop). 

The church allows burial at sea, provided that the body or the cremated remains are buried in a dignified and heavy container.” 

Requests for burial at sea: 

Living in a waterfront community in Palm Beach County, I wondered if requests for burial at sea were common. So I inquired at two of the nearby parishes to see how often they had such a request. Both administrative assistants had not had any such queries in all their years working at the churches.
So I decided to go straight to the Diocese of Palm Beach. Fr. Brian King, priest-secretary to Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, told me that he has presided over three such burials in his fifteen years in the priesthood.

“They were all people who loved the beach and the ocean, and found a lot of peace there during their lifetimes.”

Each occasion, after the traditional Catholic funeral liturgies, Fr. Brian accompanied each family with their loved one's urn on boats out of the Sailfish Club on Palm Beach Island. 

He too affirmed that the Church does not allow the scattering of the ashes on the water, but rather the cremains must be intact in a special urn that would rest on the bottom of the ocean.

Fr. Brian acknowledged that such a burial is not as peaceful and easy as many might think.

“Each time, the waves were so choppy that the people in attendance were holding on for dear life. It was not exactly the peaceful moment that they had envisioned for burial.”

Prayer used during the Catholic ritual of burial at sea:

“Lord God, by the power of your word you stilled the chaos of the primeval seas, you made the raging waters of the flood subside, and calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee. As we commit the body (earthly remains) of our brother (sister) N. to the deep, grant him/her peace and tranquility until that day when he/she and all who believe in you will be raised to the glory of new life promised in the waters of baptism.”
~The Order for Christian Funerals, No. 406, Section 4

November 03, 2015 02:14
By Patti Murphy Dohn

This Week in Church History: The 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate and much more

Last week, I started a new feature in "God is in the Clouds":  “This Week in Church History.” 

Here is a look at events which occurred this upcoming week in years past, as well as a glimpse at next week’s highlights:

Historic events that took place over dates in the upcoming week:

October 26, 2011:

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut (the current Archbishop of Baltimore) called for the defense of “the American legacy of religious liberty” during a hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. The bishop was addressing Congress in his new role as head of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

Read an account of Bishop Lori’s day before Congress from the U.S. Bishops’ website:

The transcript of Bishop Lori’s full testimony before Congress can be read here.


October 28 has great significance:

October 28, 1510:

The birth of St. Francis Borgia, SJ (1510-1572): 
Francis Borgia was the fourth Duke of Gandía (Spain), a Spanish Jesuit priest, and the third Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He expanded the Jesuit order into the Americas and Asia.

Borgia was canonized on June 20, 1670 by Pope Clement X and his feast is celebrated on October 10.
He is the patron saint of Portugal, as well for protection against earthquakes. 


October 28, 1958: The election of Pope John XXIII:

On this date, Cardinal Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli (1881-1963), the Patriarch of Venice, was elected the 261st pope on the eleventh ballot of the 1958 conclave. The conclave that elected him took place from October 25 to 28, 1958, following the October 9 death of Pope Pius XII whose papacy lasted from 1939 to 1958.

On why he choose the name John:

"We choose John...a name sweet to Us because it is the name of Our father, dear to Us because it is the name of the humble parish church where We were baptized, the solemn name of numberless cathedrals scattered throughout the world, including Our own basilica...We love the name of John because it reminds Us of John the Baptist, precursor of our Lord...and the other John, the disciple and evangelist...Perhaps We can, taking the name of this first series of holy Popes, have something of his sanctity and strength of spirit, even—if God wills it—to the spilling of blood.”

--Excerpt from: Religion: “I Choose John…” from Time Magazine, November 10, 1958 edition.

Newly-elected Pope John XXIII extending his first papal blessing:
(Getty Image: Ullstein Bild)


October 28, 1965:

2015 is the Golden Anniversary of "Nostra Aetate" (Latin for “In our time”):
This Vatican 2 document was promulgated on this date in 1965 by Pope Paul VI.
The document’s formal name is "DECLARATION ON THE RELATION OF THE CHURCH TO NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS." It was passed by a vote of of 2,221 to 88 by the assembled bishops at the Second Vatican Council and was one of the most influential documents issued by the Council Fathers, paving the way for much-improved relations between Jews and Catholics.

50th Anniversary:

The Council of Centers for Jewish-Christian Relations has published “Resources for the 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate.” 

(Photo: Courtesy of American Jewish Committee)
March 31, 1963: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (Polish-born American rabbi (1907-1972) meeting in New York with Cardinal Augustin Bea, SJ (1881-1968), who shepherded the process of Catholic reflection that led to Nostra Aetate. A leading biblical scholar and ecumenist, Cardinal Bea was the first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity from 1960 until his death in 1972. 


October 29, 1950:

65 years ago: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Johannes Baptist Neuhäusler (1888-1973), the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. 


November 1:


November 1, 1946: 

Pope St. John Paul II was ordained to the priesthood by by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, the Archbishop of Kraków, just 12 days after becoming a deacon. 


Looking ahead:


November 6, 1789:

Baltimore was made the first diocese in the United States on this date in 1789 with Fr. John Carroll, SJ as the first bishop.


Do you have a special date that you would like me to include?

Be sure to email me:

God is good! All the time!

October 25, 2015 10:52
By Patti Murphy Dohn

New God is in the Clouds feature: This week in Church History

I have been a Church History buff since I was a teenager. Popes, saints, feast days, bishops, canonizations, and so much more, I was ready to see how all the pieces fit into the "Big Picture" of our universal Church.

Starting this week, I will take a look at historic names, dates, and events each week, along with photos and links to more information.

Looking back on some of the historic events that took place over the past week:

October 15: 

This date marks the annual celebration of Founders Day for the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. 


October 16: 

37 years ago on this date, Pope John Paul II was elected the 264th leader of the Catholic Church. 

Check out 10 interesting facts about the conclave and his election in last week's tribute in God is in the Clouds: 

(CNS File Photo)


October 17:

October 17 was the 103rd anniversary of the 1912 birth of Albino Luciani in Belluno, Venuto, Italy. He became Pope John Paul I during the first conclave of 1978.


October 19:

Pope Paul VI was beatified last year on this date. He served the Church as Holy Father from 1963 until his death in 1978.

Enjoy my 2014 photoblog which includes interesting stories on this first Holy Father to ride on an airplane, as well as his near-assassination in the Philippines in 1970:

Photo: Arturo Mari


October 19: 

On this date in 2003, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

CNS Photo

For further info, Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center in California has much more about the process of beatification and canonization, about miracles and her September 5 feast day, and the two prayers for Blessed Mother Teresa's intercession on their website

October 20: 

On this date in 1946, Pope John Paul II was ordained a deacon by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, Archbishop of Kraków. 
His ordination to the priesthood would take place just 12 days later on the Solemnity of All Saints, 1946. 

Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, former Archbishop of Kraków


Looking ahead:

October 22:

The annual feast day of Pope St. John Paul II

October 23:

Do you remember that Pope John Paul II was supposed to visit Baltimore on this date in 1994?

That papal trip to the United States was cancelled due a fall taken by the Holy Father the previous April which resulted in a broken leg near his hip. The trip was later rescheduled for October 8, 1995.

For a look at the 1995 historic visit and some great photos, enjoy "Catholic Throwback Thursday: The 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II to Baltimore."

Do you have a special date that you would like me to include?

Email me:

October 20, 2015 02:48
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Catholic Flashback: Remembering the 1978 election of Pope St. John Paul II

October 16, 1978:
The first balcony appearance of newly-elected Pope John Paul II (CNS File Photo)

Where were you on October 16, 1978?

I was between classes at college in Philadelphia when word came through the hallways that white smoke had been seen coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

After three days of waiting, we finally had a new pope! I rushed to turn on my tiny black and white TV, and watched as the crowds grew in St. Peter’s Square while commentators speculated as to which Italian cardinal might become the 264th leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

I will never forget the announcement in Latin that Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyla (1920-2005), at age 58, had been elected as the 263rd successor of St. Peter the Apostle. The news commentators were struggling to figure out who he was, from which country he came, and how to pronounce his name. 

You see, Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Those reporting on the conclave from both the Catholic and secular press were all  assuming that this new pontiff would also be Italian. Instead, the College of Cardinals elected the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, who had served in that position since 1963 and who was named a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1967.

Ten interesting facts about the election of Pope John Paul II:

1. The Year of Three Popes:

This was the second time in less than eight weeks that Catholics from around the world gathered in front of our televisions to learn the outcome of a papal election. Called the “Year of Three Popes,” 1978 included the death of Blessed Pope Paul VI on August 6, the election of Patriarch of Venice Albino Luciani as Pope John Paul I on August 26, followed by his sudden death 33 days later on September 28. His pontificate is the shortest in our modern era. The Church and the world were stunned by the death of this new pontiff, as the College of Cardinals were called back to Rome for yet another conclave.

2. Who were the electors?

The conclave to elect Pope St. John Paul II began on October 14, 1978. Attending as electors were the 111 members of the College of Cardinals who had not yet reached age 80. 
The geographic breakdown includes: 25 cardinals from Italy, 30 more from other European nations, 12 Africa, 9 from Asia, and 4 from Oceania, 19 from South America, and 12 from North America.

3. The accommodations:

Garry O’Connor described the sparse living conditions of the cardinal-electors in his 2005 book, Universal Father: A Life of Pope John Paul II

“They expected it might take a long time to elect the next pope, while accommodation or cells were cast for by lot--some in poky little offices with unplugged and dead telephones, others in forty-foot high Renaissance reception salons They slept on 'a simple infirmary bed borrowed from the College of Propaganda Fidei; with a red-shaded lamp by the bed which was too faint to read by; a wash basin, soap (made by Donge of Paris) and Kleenex; a bucket for slops; a writing-table with note-paper and an ashtray, a prie-dieu'. Cardinal Siri of Genoa, a leading conservative, said 'It is like being buried alive', but the cautious, gentle Cardinal Hume of Westminster commented, 'Many people criticize the way a conclave is arranged, but it came to me that all these arrangements were symbolic--there was nothing between the cardinals and God. That seemed to me to be right.”

4. The voting:

As accounts of the three days of secret proceedings trickled out over the months and years that followed the conclave, we learned that two Italian cardinals, Archbishop of Genoa Giuseppe Siri and Archbishop of Florence Giovanni Benelli were in the forefront in the ballots, but neither was able to go ahead and reach the required two-thirds plus one majority vote (equalling 75 or more necessary for election).

On the second day of voting, Cardinal Wojtyla was suggested as a compromise candidate by Cardinal Franz König (1905-2004), then-Archbishop of Vienna. With a number of supporters from the camps of Cardinals Siri and Benelli, along with most of the American cardinals (led by Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia), Wojtyla was elected on the eighth ballot with 99 of the 111 votes. 

“With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept.”
—Cardinal Wojtyla upon learning that he had been elected in the 1978 conclave 

5. The new papal name:

Cardinal Wojtyla honored the brief legacy of his predecessor by adopting his name and becoming Pope John Paul II. 
Pope John Paul I had been the first pope to take two names upon his election. He adopted the pontifical names of his two predecessors who led the Church through the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965): Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) and Pope Paul VI (1963-1978).

6. The announcement:

Cardinal Pericle Felici (1911-1982) was the senior Cardinal-Deacon in 1978, and thus had the rare honor of making two papal introductions with the “Habemus papam” announcements for both Popes John Paul I and John Paul II. In the same capacity, Cardinal Felici had the privilege of bestowing to each of them the pallium at their papal inaugurations.

Cardinal Felici made the historic announcement for Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978 at 7:15 pm from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square:

“Anuntio vobis gaudium magnum:
Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum Carolum Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem Wojtyla
Qui sibi nomen imposuit Ioannis Pauli.”

(“I announce to you a great joy:
We have a Pope!
The Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lord,
Lord Karol Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Wojtyla
Who took himself to the name John Paul.”

Watch the announcement for Pope John Paul I here and Pope John Paul II here.

7. Reflections from Cardinal Wojtyla’s priest-secretary:

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz (born 1939) of Krakow, who had been serving as the priest-secretary of Cardinal Wojtyla since 1966, was with the growing crowds below in St. Peter’s Square awaiting the announcement. 

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, he recalled that many of the pilgrims who surrounded him thought the announced name sounded African. He noted that “protocol requires that before speaking, the new Pontiff should bestow a blessing in Latin, but the Polish Pope chose to speak first in Italian with a greeting that was historic: ‘I have been called from a faraway land…If I make a mistake, please correct me.”

Cardinal Dziwisz spoke of his close relationship with Wojtyla since he became his priest-secretary in twelve years prior: “That day (in 1966) I learned to be close to him. I did so for 39 years, first in Krakow and later in Rome. My clothes were soiled with his blood on May 13, 1981.  And I have again recalled the words he wrote for St. Stanislaw, the patron of Poland: ‘If the word does not convert, blood will.’  I was always close to Karol Wojtyla. Me, a priest caressed by a gift and a mystery.” 

8. The first words and blessing of Pope John Paul II:

After the announcement, the newly-elected Holy Father appeared on the balcony and spoke briefly in Italian, instead of the immediately delivering his first Urbi et Orbi blessing:

“Praised be Jesus Christ! Dear brothers and sisters, we are still all very saddened by the death of the very dear Pope John Paul I. And now the most eminent cardinals have called a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a far-away country...far, but always near in the communion of faith and the Christian tradition. I was afraid in receiving this nomination, but I did it in the spirit of obedience to Our Lord and with total trust in his Mother, the Most Holy Madonna. I don't know if I can express myself well in your – in our – Italian language. But if I make a mistake, you will correct me. And so I introduce myself to you all, to confess our common faith, our hope, our trust in the Mother of Christ and of the Church, and also to begin again on this path of history and of the Church with the help of God and with that of men.” 

9. Be Not Afraid!

Later that night, Pope John Paul II ate dinner with the cardinals before retiring to handwrite the homily with his famous words, “Be not afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ.” 

10. Memories from one of the cardinal-electors:

In a 2011 interview with Richard Allen Greene of CNN given the year before his death, 89-year old Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez (1922-2012), one of only five cardinal-electors from the 1978 conclave who was still alive, shared his memories of the election.

The Archbishop-Emeritus of San Juan, Puerto Rico recalled Wojtyla’s election as the most emotional moment of his life:

"We came to congratulate him, but when (Polish) Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski came to pay his respects, the pope stood up and went to him and embraced him. That for us was a terrific moment. We all cried.”

On electing a Polish pope, Cardinal Aponte noted:

"The electors were taking a chance, but they made a wonderful choice. He had suffered a good deal, he had been a prisoner of the Communists.” Aponte added that it helped his cause "that he came from a suffering country."

Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez congratulates Pope John Paul II after his election on October 16, 1978
(Photo: Cardinal Aponte Collection)


Enjoy this 24:50 minute video from CBS News:  “Pope John Paul II: The Surprising Election

October 15, 2015 02:18
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Countdown to the visit of Pope Francis: Part 4: Hearing the Holy Father’s message

Artwork by Joe Heller for The Compass, the Catholic newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay

I wanted to spend some time in this series talking about how we can best prepare to hear the message of the Holy Father. 

I attended a webinar last week for journalists in the Catholic Press Association with Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, the English language Media Attaché for the Holy See Press Office, as well as CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Television Network. The purpose of the webinar was to provide CPA members with a preview to the papal visit, answer questions, and provide suggestions on how best to prepare for coverage.

As I listened to Fr. Rosica and asked a few questions of my own, I realized how important it is for American Catholics to prepare themselves to hear the Holy Father’s message both through a prayerful opening of our hearts and minds, as well as background reading of the Holy Father’s writings.

Father shared a lot of background context, especially in preparation for the these first four days in Cuba, as well as “the bookends” of the upcoming World Synod of Bishops on the Family (October 4-25) and the upcoming Jubilee Year/Holy Year of Mercy against the backdrop of the papal visit. He urged all of us to let the bigger message speak… the message of Gospel. Pope Francis’ masterful use of scripture and its application to our everyday life are immense helps to all of us in living the Gospel message.

With all of this in mind, I wanted to share resources that my readers could use to prepare to listen to the message of the Holy Father this week. And then… I discovered that my friends at the U.S. Catholics Bishops Office had done just that. Great minds think alike!

No need to reinvent the wheel, as they say. I would like to share with you "Ten ways to participate in Pope Francis’ U.S. visit" from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, whether in person or from your homes on TV or online coverage. 

1. Take part in a "Virtual Pilgrimage" with these prayers as the Holy Father makes his way to more than a dozen different locations in Washington, DC, New York City, and Philadelphia.

2. Learn more about the places Pope Francis will visit by following his journey on this interactive map.

3. Become "Pope Francis-literate” by reading his two encyclical letters: Lumen Fidei and Laudato Si.

Read the rest of this insightful list of suggestions here.


Do you have other ideas on how to best participate in this week’s papal visit?

Please share your thoughts with me:
Twitter: @JCSMinistry

Read more from my series on the visit of Pope Francis to the United States:

Part 1 includes all the basics that you should know: 

Part 2 includes lots of memories from those who attended or participated in past papal visits to our country:

Part 3 is all about papal memorabilia, including where to purchase keepsakes from authorized distributors, as well as a look at part of my collection from past papal visits to the United States: 

September 20, 2015 03:05
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Countdown to the visit of Pope Francis: Part 3: Papal visit merchandise, memorabilia, souvenirs, and keepsakes

Counting down:

 Just six days until Pope Francis arrives in the USA! 

Papal memorabilia galore:

If you are traveling in the vicinity of the cities that Pope Francis will visit next week, you will likely see lots of displays of souvenirs related to this first apostolic visit to the United States.

Memorabilia vendors are as varied as their offerings. There are official vendors authorized by the various dioceses and the 2015 World Meeting of Families. There are also unofficial outlets, many of which offer cheap trinkets at a low cost to make a fast buck. 
Pope Francis bobble heads, anyone?  

Serious collectors and those who wish to purchase gifts for lasting memories should look toward the official merchandise for sale on the official papal visit websites. These authorized vendors have a vast array of items, including rosaries, medallions, prayer cards, books, artwork, mugs, and apparel with official logos. 

Shop in person:

If you want to take a road trip to Philly in the next week or if you plan to attend either if the papal gatherings on September 26-27, you can shop in person. 

Aramark is the official vendor for the World Meeting of Families and the visit of the Holy Father to Philadelphia. They had a grand opening last Wednesday for their official World Meeting of Families merchandise shop in the Aramark Tower at 1101 Market Street in downtown Philly. 

According to their website, other locations will be open next week during the Congress and papal visit at the convention center, on Independence Mall on September 26, and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26-27. 

Official vendors will also be on-sight at locations near the papal events in New York City and Washington, D.C. 

Online purchases: 

For online purchases, the official catalog with over 200 commemorative items is available here

Proceeds will benefit the World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015 and the visit of Pope Francis. 

For info on the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, visit their website here


My collection of papal visit memorabilia:

Being an aficionado of anything related to Church history and the papacy, I have huge collection of papal memorabilia. I am also a Vatican philatelist with an enormous collection of stamp albums, first day covers, postcards, and Vatican yearbooks. 

So it shouldn't surprise you that I have lots of mementos from past papal visits to the United States. I gathered as many items from my collection as I could in 15 minutes and took photos to share. 

Above: From 1965:
Pope Paul VI was the first pontiff to visit our country. Though I didn't participate in this 14-hour visit, I have two books with lots of photographs and excellent coverage.


Above: Pope St. John Paul II made seven trips to the United States during his 27-year pontificate.
Here are some of the many books that recap his visits.


Above: 1979: 
The first time I saw Pope John Paul II was in Philadelphia during his very first visit to the USA. The Mass he celebrated on there Wednesday, October 3 was held in the same location where Pope Francis will say Mass on September 27. 

The third trip of his papacy (the first was to the Dominican Republic and Mexico; and the second was to his native Poland), it occurred exactly one year after the conclave which elected this pope who would become a saint.

Though I have a number of keepsakes from that historic week, including items from my volunteer work that week at the on-site Catholic Press office, I have only included three items here:
Souvenir edition of Newsweek magazine, the famous Pope John Paul II collectors edition comic book, and a signed copy of Pope John Paul II: A Festive Profile written by my college professor, Rev. Ludvik Nemec, who was an old friend of the Holy Father. 


Above: World Youth Day 1993 in Denver was the occasion of another visit of Pope John Paul II. Though I did not attend since I had three young children, one of my John Carroll students, Kristy Manning, JC Class of 1996, won a contest and represented our school. Kristy was especially excited since she was not Catholic and loved our Holy Father. She had a wonderful experience with the youth celebration from St. Margaret Church in Bel Air, and brought me a gift to show her gratitude for my support in encouraging her to apply for the contest. The framed First Day covers, which were hand-stamped daily from August 12-15, were proudly displayed in my classroom and in my Campus Ministry office until I retired from John Carroll last year. When I see them, I think of Kristy and her experiences at World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II!


Above: The 1995 visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Baltimore was one of the highlights of my life.
And my collection of mementos show it... 
A Religion teacher at John Carroll at that time, I was part of the committee that coordinated the service of our youth as city ambassadors and parade honor guard. 
My service allowed me to participate in the youth concert at Pier Six the night before the papal visit. Performers included Boyz II Men, Michael W. Smith, and Kathy Troccoli. 
The highlight, the Holy Father speaking live to the youth via satellite on the big screen from NYC,
"But the loudest cheer of the evening was reserved for a 75-year-old from Rome who wasn't even there, a transplanted Pole who closed the concert not with a song, but simply by telling the crowd by satellite that he was looking forward to his visit to Baltimore."

Seen from left: The official commentaries book from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, along with the video and the bumper sticker, the next week's edition of The Catholic Review with special section of papal coverage, the Gospel of John which was distributed to those who attended the Mass at Camden Yards, the Mass program and booklet "A Faith-filled Celebration," and the 1996 commemorative calendar.


Above: Here's the colorful hat that my then-11 year old daughter Meighan got at the youth concert,
along with our Mass tickets, my staff badge, and the tickets, parking pass, and program
for the Departure Ceremony that my then-9 year old son Joseph and I attended at BWI airport
before the Holy Father departed for his return trip to Rome. 
Memories to last a lifetime!


Above: 2008:
I was proud to lead four buses from our Archdiocese with the Harford County pilgrims who attended the Mass of Pope Benedict XVI at Yankee Stadium on April 15, 2008. The congregation of almost 60,000 people from every state in our country gathered to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of "the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville from the mother See of Baltimore."

Everyone who attended received a packet of materials which included the Gospel of Luke, the Catholic Digest, and a water bottle.


Above: I collect Mass programs from historic occasions too:
Here's the Mass program from Holy Father Emeritus' Mass at Yankee Stadium and my family's tickets. 


Above: People give me stuff... 

Over the years I have received a number of gifts of papal and church-related memorabilia from families who just don't know what to do with it anymore and don't want to discard it.

Here's an example of a framed certificate of authenticity from the Archdiocese of New York with a small section of carpet from formed a 1000-foot gold cross on the stage at the October 7, 1995 Mass of Pope John Paul on the Great Lawn of Central Park.

"A procession of 1600 church dignitaries filed over this monumental cross to offer communion to the more than 200,000 faithful who celebrated the historic Mass, the highlight of the Holy Father's 1995 World Tour."

Yes, I have this in my home office.
By all means, send your Church-related collectors' items my way!


Do you have any interesting papal memorabilia?

I want to hear about it: 
Send me an email to:


Read more from my series on the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the United States:

Part 1 includes all the basics that you should know: 

Part 2 includes lots of memories from those who attended or participated in past papal visits to our country:

September 16, 2015 12:32
By Patti Murphy Dohn

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