55 years of priesthood filled with friendships, a view of history


Msgr. Owen Campion, left, greeted Bishop J. Mark Spalding in the kitchen of the rectory at the Cathedral of the Incarnation on the morning of his announcement as the Bishop of Nashville. Brian Cooper, Chancellor and Chief Operations Officer of the diocese, looks on. Msgr. Campion, a former editor of the Tennessee Register, celebrated the 55th anniversary of his ordination as a priest on Friday, May 21. Tennessee Register file photo by Rick Musacchio

For much of the 55 years Msgr. Owen Campion has been a priest, he’s had a front row seat to history – and in some cases a seat at the dinner table with a pope.

As the Master of Ceremonies for Bishop Joseph Durick and editor of the Tennessee Register, he chronicled the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the monumental changes in the Catholic Church that followed the Second Vatican Council.

As a representative of the Vatican, he helped the Church in former Soviet-bloc countries rebuild their mass communications and reported on the Church in Latin America as it charted its future.

And at every step along the way, he met people who became lifelong friends.

“I’ve made some wonderful friends wherever I’ve been,” said Msgr. Campion who marked the 55th anniversary of his ordination on Friday, May 21.

A native of Nashville, Msgr. Campion grew up as a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Incarnation and graduated from Overbrook School and Father Ryan High School.

“I would not be a priest today if I hadn’t gone to Father Ryan,” where he met and was inspired by the priests on the faculty, he said.

His first brush with history was as a freshman at Father Ryan, when the school integrated just months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

“People today would not realize how traumatic that was. A total culture change,” Msgr. Campion said. “The Nashville Catholic Community was very upset about desegregated schools.” But in the end, they went along with the bishop’s decision, Msgr. Campion recalled.

After graduating from Father Ryan, he attended St. Bernard College in Cullman, Alabama. He finished his seminary formation at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. “I loved my days there,” Msgr. Campion said. “I go back and it’s still home.”

He returned to Baltimore and St. Mary’s for a small celebration of his ordination anniversary with old friends, including Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, the former Archbishop of Baltimore whom he first met through their involvement with the Catholic Press Association nearly four decades ago, Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Adam Parker, and Fathers Phillip Brown, P.S.S., and Thomas Hurst, P.S.S., the current and former rector of St. Mary’s, respectively.

After celebrating Mass to mark the anniversary, Msgr. Campion said, “We had a very nice leisurely Italian lunch, and I came home.”

Msgr. Campion was ordained in 1966 by Bishop Durick, who was then serving as the apostolic administrator of the diocese, at his home parish of the Cathedral.

His first assignments were at St. Jude Church and Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga and then at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville.

The funeral for a young priest, Father William C. Sherman, while Msgr. Campion was serving in Chattanooga, was the first time in the diocese that the new rite for a funeral Mass, unveiled following Vatican II, was used for a priest, he recalled. Joe Sweat, then the editor of the Tennessee Register, asked Msgr. Campion to write an article about the new funeral rite.

“So, I wrote the story. Joe published it, and Joe liked it,” Msgr. Campion said. “He started calling on me to write stories.” He became a regular contributor to the Register.

In 1971, Msgr. Campion was at the Chancery Building in Nashville when Bishop Durick joined him on the elevator. “He said, ‘Well Joe Sweat has taken a new job. Do you want to be editor of the Register?’ And that was that for the next 17 years.”

Witness to history

As Register editor, Msgr. Campion worked closely with Bishop Durick, who was very active in implementing the changes spurred by the Second Vatican Council and in the Civil Rights Movement, two topics that received a lot of attention in the diocesan newspaper.

He also became involved in the Catholic Press Association, ultimately serving as its president. It was that experience that brought him new friends among editors of Catholic publications across the nation and other priests who would go on to have important positions in the hierarchy.

Among them were Cardinal O’Brien, who was the Communications Director for the Archdiocese of New York and trying to start an archdiocesan newspaper when he befriended Msgr. Campion, and the late Cardinal John Foley, who was the editor of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s newspaper, the Catholic Standard & Times, and later served in the Vatican as President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

He left the Register to join Our Sunday Visitor, and was tapped by the Vatican to serve as an Ecclesiastical Assistant to help establish relationships between the Holy See and Catholic publishers around the world.

“They would call me and say we would like you to attend a meeting in Sao Paolo or Hong Kong,” sometimes with only a few days notice, Msgr. Campion said. “I did that for nine years.”

He is grateful to Our Sunday Visitor for supporting him in that role, allowing him to travel the world on behalf of the Church and paying for every expense.

One area of the world that he visited often was the former Soviet-bloc countries of Eastern Europe. “One year, I was in Poland seven times.”

As the Soviet Union was breaking up, nations like Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were coming out from under repressive governments for the first time in generations. It was the same for the Church in those nations, which were trying to rebuild their communications infrastructure, such as diocesan newspapers and radio stations. Msgr. Campion was one of the people the Church called on to provide technical assistance and advice.

“Eastern Europe for a period of several years very much dominated my interest,” Msgr. Campion said. “It also put me in contact with people around the world.”

One of those people was St. John Paul II, who was interested in the situation in Eastern Europe and how communications efforts could help the Church there, Msgr. Campion said. He was invited to dinner with the pope several times to discuss the topic.

During one lunch, the pope, realizing Msgr. Campion was from Nashville, mimed strumming a guitar and asked, “Do you play the guitar?”

“I said, ‘No, Holy Father, I only listen.’”

He also spent time in Latin America working with dioceses there. St. John Paul II appointed him to the Synod of Bishops to discuss the Church in the 21st Century, one of only 13 priests from around the world appointed.

Msgr. Campion has also covered the elections of three popes: John Paul I, Benedict XVI and Francis.

Witness to change

During his priesthood, Msgr. Campion has seen a change in the relationship between the Church and the people.

“When I was ordained, the Church as an institution was still very important to people,” he said. “There were institutional representatives of the Church almost everywhere you went. You could live your life and every major human event would have occurred not only within the Church or under the umbrella of the Church but with an ordained or vowed person of the Church involved.”

Throughout his education as child and a seminarian, all of his teachers were either priests or religious sisters. The Church and religious orders established hospitals and universities to serve Catholics who many times didn’t have access to secular institutions, Msgr. Campion said.

Not only were Catholics educated by the Church and taken care of by the Church when they were ill, but they were baptized in the Church, married in the Church and buried by the Church. “The identity of the Church was reinforced at every important event in life.”

“There was a bond that was established between the Church and the people,” he added.

But that bond has loosened over time for a number of reasons, Msgr. Campion said. One is the declining number of priests and religious sisters has meant they are no longer as present in institutions like schools and hospitals, he said.

Also, as social attitudes toward Catholics have changed over the last century, Catholics no longer have to rely on the Church for access to things like health care and higher education, Msgr. Campion said.

“That’s the biggest change I’ve seen,” he said.

But the many friendships he has made remain. “The thing that has sustained me,” Msgr. Campion said, “is the wonderful people I’ve known.”

Support for Seminarian Education Event helps ensure vibrant future

Father Austin Gilstrap and Father Luke Wilgenbusch, the director and associate director of vocations for the Diocese of Nashville, respectively, recorded their talks that were shown during the virtual Seminarian Education Event and Auction on Tuesday, May 25. Jayce Boynton, videographer for the diocese and owner of Capture Scratch Productions, records Father Gilstrap’s talk as Bill Staley, director of new media evangelization, and Father Wilgenbusch watch. Photo by Andy Telli

Bishop J. Mark Spalding opened the virtual 2021 Seminarian Education Event and Auction by thanking the event’s sponsors and donors for helping to ensure a vibrant future for the Diocese of Nashville.

“Without your support we would not be able to educate and form these young men to serve our Church,” Bishop Spalding said in his videotaped message for the event. “Your support helps our future priests and parishes. Give generously to help ensure that your children and grandchildren have a thriving Church and a place to call home.”

The online event was held Tuesday, May 25, to raise funds to help pay the cost of educating the diocese’s 20 seminarians, which costs about $75,000 a year for each seminarian.

The goal for this year’s event, the second year in a row it was held virtually in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, was $225,000.

“It was a good night,” said diocesan Director of Development Ashley Linville. “Donations are still coming in.”

People can still make a donation to support seminarian education, Linville said. They can make a donation online at the website dioceseofnashville.com/SEDA or by mailing a check to Linville at the Catholic Pastoral Center, 2800 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN 37214, Linville said.

They can also still watch the video of the event by visiting the website, he added.

“The auction went well,” Linville said, bringing in just over $20,000.

The item that brought in the highest bid of $7,500 was a painting by renowned painter and portrait artist Igor Babailov. Other auction items that brought in at least $1,000 included: dinner with Bishop Spalding; a Brazilian dinner prepared by Father Gervan Menezes, chaplain of University Catholic; a tour of historic Catholic churches in Nashville led by Father Ed Steiner, pastor of St. Philip Church in Franklin; a bourbon tasting hosted by Father John Hammond and Father Andrew Forsythe; a dinner and Mass celebrated by Father Patrick Kibby, senior priest at St. Henry Church, at the grotto at the home of Chris and Tricia Casa Santa.

A limited number of tickets are still available for a dinner with the diocese’s seminarians at the Nolensville site of the diocese’s planned school, St. Michael Academy, and parish, Mother Teresa Church. The dinner will be held 6-8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, and tickets are $100 each.

The event featured talks by the bishop, Director of Vocations Father Austin Gilstrap, and Associate Director of Vocations Father Luke Wilgenbusch. The seminarians made videos about their lives at the seminary where they are living and studying.

“It was really neat to see each of the personalities of our seminarians” through the videos, Linville said.

“After viewing tonight’s program, I hope you have a better understanding of our seminarians and the seminaries they attend,” Father Gilstrap said in his videotaped talk.

“The need for priests has never been more important than it is today,” he said. Donors’ gifts “will allow these young men the opportunity to continue their formation and help us to provide the same opportunity to those who will follow them.”

“Over the past 184 years, our diocese has grown and has been able to meet the spiritual needs of the people of Middle Tennessee because of the great priests who faithfully served our Church of Middle Tennessee,” Bishop Spalding said in his remarks recorded on the site of the diocese’s first cathedral on what is now Capitol Hill.

“Our purpose is to help prepare our future generation of priests that will continue the good work that was started here in the Diocese of Nashville many years ago,” he added.

Father Wilgenbusch talked about the diocese’s seminarians in his introduction of their videos.

“We’re blessed to have 20 seminarians this year across the eight years of formation,” he said. “Even in the midst of COVID, we were able to welcome nine new seminarians to the diocese this past fall. God never fails to provide for us in our needs.”

The seminarians reflect the “rich diversity of the flock” in the diocese, Father Wilgenbusch said. “Our men come from five different countries and speak six different languages, but each one calls Nashville his home,” he said. “It’s a reminder to me of the unity that God fosters in the midst of his people. In Jesus Christ we are one.”

Besides cultural diversity, the seminarians represent a diversity of experience, Father Wilgenbusch said, with some going to the seminary straight from high school and others after several years of work experience.

Among them are a former truck driver, social worker, missionary, award-winning theater lighting technician and a teacher, Father Wilgenbusch said.

“They all have one important thing in common,” he added. “Each one is where he is today because he believes that God is calling him to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Nashville, to be that spiritual father that our community so desperately needs.”

“To become a priest a man must be drawn out of himself to be conformed to Christ,” Father Wilgenbusch said. “At each of the seminaries, our men are learning to mold their lives in the image of the Good Shepherd.”

This year’s event was again sponsored by the Serra Clubs of Williamson County and Nashville and the Tennessee Knights of Columbus.

Other sponsors included: Maria Manor East Apartments; Villa Maria Manor; Lloyd and Elizabeth Crockett; Mary, Queen of Angels Assisted Living Community; Catholic Community Investment and Loan Inc.; St. Henry Property Development; Wood Personnel Services; Athens Distributing Co.; Taylor, Pigue, Marchetti, Blair PLLC; Steier Group; Carter Group LLC; Miracle Ford; Miracle Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram; Father Ryan High School; Knights of Columbus Insurance; and Prenger Solutions Group.

For more information about supporting the diocese’s seminarians or to make a donation, contact ashley.linville@dioceseofnashville.com or 615-645-9768.

Forensics Hall of Fame announces first inductees

For 30 years, the Nashville Catholic Middle School Forensics League has been helping young students build a self-confidence that can carry them throughout their life.

The league’s success in that mission is on display with the selection of the first 12 inductees of the new Forensics Hall of Fame, including six alumni of the program, three coaches and three Friends of Forensics.

“This program is important because at the middle school level you can teach a child courage and confidence that there is nothing that child can’t accomplish,” said Joe Zanger, league president and the coach at St. Joseph School. “That’s been shown over and over and over again.

“The biggest fear in the world is (public) speaking. Once a child gets over that they become a better student, they become a better friend,” Zanger said.

“They didn’t have to be stars” to benefit from the program, he added. “Just getting up there and performing and being part of that process makes them confident and courageous people. That’s why I think every Catholic school should have a forensics program.

“It’s hard to get that courage in high school, it’s hard to get that in college, it’s hard to get that when they’re out in the world,” Zanger said. “But once you get there, it stays part of you for the rest of your life.”

The idea of a Forensics Hall of Fame grew out of comments Zanger and league founder Carolyn Baker heard from former students about how forensics benefitted them.

Rob Hancock is one of the alumni being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He participated in forensics as a student at Overbrook School when Baker was the coach there and is now a professional actor.

“While there were trophies and accolades involved, just as there are financial rewards in my career as an actor today, those were never really the ultimate prize,” Hancock said of his experience with forensics. “The prize was finding that amazing feeling of artistic inspiration and using it to spread joy, laughter, beauty, and truth to others. What a gift to discover that at a young age and to have an avenue to pursue it! Forensics helped me start my wonderful journey as an artist and I will always cherish it.”

“Those are the types of things that mean a lot to me and Joe as coaches,” said Baker, another member of the inaugural class of the Hall of Fame.

“I’m really proud of our league,” she said. “Every coach can tell you stories of the impact it’s had.”

In establishing the Hall of Fame, organizers settled on the three categories. “We wanted to consider everybody, not just the students or the coaches,” Zanger said. “Friends of Forensics popped up.”

“We reached out to people involved in the league” to form a selection committee for each category, he said, and then put out a request for nominations, he said. “We had a lot of nominations.”

The inaugural class of inductees includes:

  • Alumni Hancock, Abbie Loftus DeBlasis and Heather Yopp Honeycut, all of Overbrook school; Angelenna Berberic-Erebout of St. Joseph School; Nina Marie Fredericks of Christ the King School; and Liz Haynes of Holy Rosary Academy.
  • Friends of Forensics Pam Beaver, Father Joseph Breen and Angela Siefker.
  • Coaches Baker of Overbrook; Larry Langley of Christ the King; and Rita LaRue of St. Ann School.

This year’s inductees and future inductees will be honored in a display that will be erected at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville.

“It’s going to be a nice wall that every year we hope to add to,” Baker said.

An induction ceremony and reception at the Catholic Pastoral Center will be scheduled for a date this fall, Baker said.

“We’re hoping all our inductees will come back,” Zanger said. “They’ll be coming from all over the map, and I hope they will be able to make it back.”

League officials have raised funds to pay for the Hall of Fame display and will continue to raise money to pay for future additions and induction ceremonies, Zanger said.

The display will include a plaque that honors donors, Baker said.

Those interested in supporting the Hall of Fame can turn in their donation to their parish or school, Zanger said.


Forensics Hall of Fame 2021 inductees

Alumni

  • Angelenna Berberic-Erebout, St. Joseph School, 2004-08. A 2007 Diocesan Spirit of Forensics winner, Berberic-Erebout excelled in forensics at St. Cecilia Academy. She graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and will graduate from the University of Washington School of Law in June.
  • Abbie Loftus DeBlasis, Overbrook School. She participated in forensics from fifth grade through eighth grade. As a Wake Forest University law student, DeBlasis participated in trial competitions and was editor-in-chief of the law review. After a career as an attorney and law professor, she now is a teacher and the forensics coach at Holy Trinity Montessori School in Nashville.
  • Nina Marie Fredericks, Christ the King School, 2004-06. After graduating from Father Ryan High School, Fredericks earned an undergraduate degree in studio art with a double minor in art history and biology from Creighton University. She went on to Creighton’s medical school and is in her final year of residency.
  • Rob Hancock, Overbrook School, 1986-92. Hancock is a professional actor with credits on the stage and television, including a starring role in the world premiere of the hit musical “Daddy Long Legs.” He performed in that play at London’s St. James Theater and has the lead role in the television series “Greenport.”
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Haynes, Holy Rosary Academy, for four years. Haynes earned bachelor of arts degrees in Production Studies in Performing Arts and in Modern Languages from Clemson University and a master of fine arts degree in Theater Technical Direction from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She has won several theater awards and was named Outstanding Graduate for the UNLV MFA program.
  • Heather Yopp Honeycut, Overbrook School, 1994-98. Honeycut continued participating in forensics at St. Cecilia Academy, where she received the school’s top honor of “St. Cecilia Girl.” A parishioner at St. Matthew Church in Franklin, Honeycut served as Director of Student Activities at St. Cecilia and currently works for Ramsey Solutions overseeing the strategic planning process for the Live Events Team.

Coaches

  • Carolyn Baker, Overbrook School, 1990-2011. Baker was the driving force behind the founding of the Nashville Catholic Middle School Forensics League in 1990. The same year she established Overbrook’s program, which grew to more than 100 students. She organized the first National Junior Forensics Tournament in 2000 at Father Ryan, which drew students from 185 schools.
  • Larry Langley, Christ the King School, 1990-2007. Langley helped launch the league in 1990 as Christ the King’s coach and led the team to several league championships. He also served as a tournament volunteer and judge and president of the league.
  • Rita LaRue, St. Ann School. LaRue also helped launch the league as the first coach for St. Ann School. “Her dedication and humor inspired students,” according to her nomination.

Friends of Forensics

  • Pam Beaver. She began working with the Nashville Catholic Middle School Forensic Program when her son was in school at Overbrook School, about 25 years ago and continues to support the program. Beaver has served as a judge for many years and has helped league officials organize tournaments.
  • Father Joseph Patrick Breen, retired pastor of St. Edward Church. Father Breen hosted the league’s first mock tournament at St. Edward and has been a consistent supporter and booster of the forensics program ever since.
  • Angela Siefker, Overbrook School. She has been involved in the forensics program since the league’s inception, often working behind the scenes to make sure tournaments run smoothly and making the program available to students throughout the diocese. She is a past recipient of the league’s Adult/Volunteer Spirit of Forensics Award.

St. Henry teacher honored as Tennessee Lottery Educator of the Month

St. Henry School kindergarten teacher Bridget Vaillancourt has wanted to teach ever since she was a little girl.

Vaillancourt

“When I was about 5 years old, my peers were dreaming of becoming musicians and astronauts,” she said. “But I always knew deep down that I wanted to be a teacher. I felt like that was my special calling in life.”

Now, after having taught for 24 years overall and 11 years at St. Henry, she has been named the Tennessee Lottery Educator of the Month for May.

“In April, some parents from St. Henry had nominated me for News Channel 2’s Teacher of the Week award,” she said. “They sent a camera crew here to get some footage of me and my students in the classroom and included quotes from the parents who nominated me when they put out the news story.

“Then, other local news stations from across the state sent in their Teacher of the Week nominees for the (Tennessee Lottery) Teacher of the Month award,” she added. “Out of all those names, mine was selected.”

When it was announced she had won, the entire community at St. Henry was excited.

“I’ve received so many congratulatory phone calls and notes from parents, and other faculty and staff members stopping me in the hallway to share their well wishes,” Vaillancourt said. “But the best reactions have been from my students. Seeing their joy really was the icing on the cake. I’m very thankful for all of it.”

Before she landed her job at St. Henry, Vaillancourt taught at West Meade Elementary School and the Gordon Jewish Community Center in Nashville. But she became interested in potentially teaching at St. Henry when her children became students there.

“My husband and kids and I have been longtime parishioners at the church, and we ended up sending our two boys to school there,” she said. “Whenever I would go to an open house event or a parent-teacher meeting, I was struck by the sense of community and the joyful environment, and I wanted to teach here someday if it was possible. In 2010, an opening became available when the kindergarten teacher stepped down to retire. I applied and the rest is history.”

For her, the most rewarding part of being a teacher is watching kids grow through their early formative years.

“There’s so much that I love about teaching,” she said. “I love helping my students become the people that God has created them to be. I love getting to know them and their families. I love watching them mature emotionally, socially, and spiritually. I love seeing how much they change over the course of a school year. I just love getting to share this part of their lives with them.”

Vaillancourt feels blessed to share her faith with her students at a Catholic school.

“My faith has always been a big influence in how I live my life, at the very least with regards to how I treat other people,” she said. “With West Meade being a public school, all I could do there is let my faith be reflected in how I interacted with my students and the other people around me.

“When I moved on to Gordon, I like to think of that time in my life as my Old Testament teaching years. It was no longer taboo to talk about God, and I could talk to my students about our shared Judeo-Christian background. But I still wasn’t able to fully express my beliefs as a Catholic,” she added.

 “Now, at St. Henry, I am able to live out my faith and impart it to my students,” Vaillancourt said. “Everything we do here is through the lens of faith, whether it’s teaching a science class or resolving a conflict with a student. I’m so blessed to get to wake up and do that every day here.”

She is grateful to have been named Teacher of the Month. “I’m really thankful for the award and the huge outpouring of support from the St. Henry community,” she said. “In that moment, I felt like I was not only representing myself as a teacher, but the school as a whole. I’m just glad I was able to do that well.”

Editorial: The fight to preserve and protect life from birth to natural death continues with several recent developments.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. CNS photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters

The fight to preserve and protect life from birth to natural death continues with several recent developments.

First, the acting head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that the agency will not enforce a requirement that the abortion drug mifepristone, sold as Mifeprex and also known as RU-486, must be prescribed after an in-person meeting between a woman and a health care professional. As long as the federal declaration of a public health emergency for COVID-19 remains in place, women will be able to purchase the drug online.

As pro-life advocates have noted, that might be good for the abortion industry but is dangerous for women. “An in-person visit is medically necessary and sound medical practice because it ensures that every woman receives a full evaluation for any contraindications to a medication abortion,” Dr. Christina Francis, chair of the American Association of Pro-Life OB/GYNs, said in a statement after the FDA’s decision was announced. 

Women have died from complications after taking the abortion drug even with an in-person visit. The likelihood is that more deaths, including those of the unborn, will follow the FDA’s decision.

It is not unreasonable or an assault on women’s rights to require that every step to protect their health be followed. To do otherwise is an assault on human life and as such does a disservice to the country as a whole and to women in particular.

On another front, the U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will hear arguments on the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Many pro-life advocates are hopeful the Supreme Court will use the case to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion on demand.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, noting that 70 percent of Americans believe abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, said in a statement, “States should be allowed to craft laws that are in line with both public opinion on this issue as well as basic human compassion, instead of the extreme policy that Roe imposed.”

When Mississippi first passed the law, the state’s Catholic bishops applauded the decision. “(We) wish to reaffirm the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death,” they said in a statement at the time. “With Pope St. John Paul II, we recognize abortion as ‘a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders.’”

In 2020, the Jackson and Biloxi dioceses filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s petition to the Supreme Court asking it to review the 5th Circuit’s ruling prohibiting the state from enforcing the law. The high court should clarify current law on abortion “in light of a state’s interests in protecting the sanctity of life,” the dioceses’ brief said.

The Catholic Church has long opposed abortion as an attack on the dignity of human life, an attack that degrades the value our society places on not only the lives of those still developing in their mother’s womb, but all lives no matter their condition or station. God instills an inherent value in the life of every person, the poor, the ill, the elderly, the vulnerable, the marginalized, even the repugnant.

And the Church recognizes that in defending the life of the unborn, we cannot abandon the mother. That is why, through agencies like Catholic Charities and other ministries, we try to help women in the midst of a crisis pregnancy find the support they need that will allow them to affirm the value of their life and the life of their child.

Society does not have to settle for an either/or choice between serving the mother or the child. In fact, that kind of thinking is the exact wrong approach to the challenges facing our nation. We must accompany mother AND child.

In a recent letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president concerning a proposal for the U.S. bishops to develop a national policy regarding giving the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, warned that it would be “misleading” to present abortion and euthanasia as “the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics.”

The Church and her teachings have much to offer the faithful and the broader society as it decerns the morality of a whole host of issues. The thread that weaves through them all is the sanctity of life that comes from God, our creator.

We pray that humanity will recognize all life as a gift from God and treat it with the reverence it deserves.

Strobel family honors mother’s commitment to Christ the King with Legacy Grant

Pat Holzapfel Strobel was connected to Christ the King Church and School for her entire life. Her legacy will continue through a new grant at the school to honor families, like hers, who have made a long and deep commitment to the school and parish.

Strobel

The Pat Holzapfel Strobel Legacy Grant, nicknamed “Pat’s Payoff,” will reimburse the last month’s tuition payment for a family whose last child is graduating from Christ the King School.

“We all face changes and we all face struggles, and often times there’s an easier path,” said Martin Strobel, one of Pat Strobel’s six children, who all graduated from Christ the King like she did. “But Catholic schools work because families give above and beyond what’s asked of them. We wanted to honor those families that really make a parish tick, make a parish go.”

The first grant was awarded Wednesday, May 26, to the Kim and Randy Hulse Family during the school’s Graduation Ceremony. To be eligible, a family would have their last child graduating from Christ the King; the parents/student should be involved members of the parish; and a family would have paid tuition to Christ the King for a decade or more.

Mrs. Strobel, who died in April, grew up in Christ the King parish. She was one of 15 Holzapfel children who grew up on Brightwood Avenue, a block from the church. She was baptized there in 1942, made her First Communion there in 1949, graduated from the school in 1956, married Jerry Strobel there in 1965, and sent all six of their children to the school.

“The school was founded in 1937, and a sister, brother, child, grandchild, or cousin of Pat’s has been enrolled nearly every year since,” said her daughter, Merrill Strobel Bohren, a member of the Christ the King School Board. “Even today, there are half a dozen students related to Pat at CKS. From her first days at Christ the King throughout her life, she was a passionate supporter of this school.”

“Our mom applauded more performances, celebrated more milestones, bought more Girl Scout cookies, coupon books, carnival tickets, and auction items and cheered more Raiders than just about anyone,” Martin Strobel said. “She understood and made the sacrifices to send her children to Christ the King. And she wanted to celebrate the same sacrifices made by another family; to pay forward the many blessings she received from the school, church, and our community.”

The seed for the grant was planted at last year’s Graduation Ceremony, Strobel said. At the ceremony each year, families’ whose last child is graduating from Christ the King are presented a blanket, he explained. When the Ruth and Philip Wehby Family received their blanket, “there was a long and extended applause for them,” he said.

The crowd was showing their appreciation for the Wehbys who “had volunteered for everything,” Strobel said. “They have five children. Everyone in the audience recognized the sacrifices they made to send all five children to Catholic school.

“That resonated with our family,” Strobel said.

They were able to talk to their mother about the idea of the grant before she died, Strobel said. “She loved the idea” but didn’t want it to take away from the tuition assistance fund her parents, Helen and Everett Holzapfel, one of the parish’s founding families, had established at the school, he added.

“She was full of life. She really loved everybody around her,” Strobel said of his mother.

The grant was established with a gift from Mrs. Strobel’s family, including her husband Jerry and their six children, Martin Strobel, Merrill Bohren, Amelia Strobel, Daniel Strobel, Margaret Strobel Pyburn and Morgan Strobel, a teacher at the school.

Christ the King Principal Sherry Woodman expressed her gratitude for the grant.

“I have had the pleasure of teaching Pat Holzapfel Strobel’s grandchildren and working with her children, and that meant I got to know Mrs. Strobel,” she said. “She was a source of inspiration, advice, joy, and enthusiasm that reflected her deep love for her family and this school. I am humbled by this generous expression of that love and her family’s gift. I know that it will provide a vivid and valuable reminder of Mrs. Strobel’s dedication to and lifetime support of Christ the King and Catholic education.”

Memorial contributions in Mrs. Strobel’s honor may be made to The Pat Holzapfel Strobel Legacy Grant at Christ the King School. For more information about the school, visit www.cksraiders.org.