Summary of today’s show: Just when you might have given up on the next generation of young Catholics, we meet Kathleen Grey and Catherine Ashur, two young women graduating from Ursuline Academy in Dedham, who sit down with Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor to talk about their strong Catholic faith, which was handed on by their families and strengthened in their parishes and school, and how they hope to grow and to serve God in their bright futures.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Kathleen Grey and Catherine Ashur
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: Conversation with young Catholic women
1st segment: Scot and Fr. Chris caught up on their Memorial Day weekends. Fr. Chris was out at Castle Island in South Boston. He said it was a great day honoring our veterans. Fr. Chris was also out at Scot’s parish, St. Agnes in Arlington, over the weekend, visiting with the priests there. Scot said his kids look up to Fr. Flatley and Fr. Graham as good role models. Fr. Chris lived at St. Agnes for a brief time after he was first ordained.
They also discussed the graduation for the Master of Arts in Ministry program at St. John Seminary last weekend. Bishop Arthur Kennedy, the outgoing rector, gave the homily at the Mass and Cardinal Seán presided over the ceremonies. Fr. Chris said the participants in the program are laypeople who make sacrifices several nights every week in addition to their family and job obligations.
This Friday, they are having a completion Mass for those who took part in the Catechetical Certificate program. About 150 people have been participating one Saturday per month since October to learn more about their faith.
Scot notes that Bishop Richard Malone, who was an auxiliary bishop in Boston and most recently Bishop of Portland, Maine, has been named bishop of Buffalo, New York. Scot said Bishop Malone is a big supporter of Catholic radio, which is good for the Station of the Cross network. Fr. Chris said Bishop Malone used to be secretary for education in the Archdiocese of Boston and is scheduled to speak at the priests’ convocation in Boston on June 7.
2nd segment: Scot welcomed Kathleen Grey and Catherine Ashur to the show. He asked Kathleen about her background. She as born in Boston and they lived in Norwood and then later moved to Canton. They remained parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood. She attended St. Catherine in Siena school. She’s been an altar server and now trains younger kids as servers. The former pastor Msgr. Connie McCrae asked her to become the trainer for altar servers.
When she started in 5th grade as an altar server, she didn’t know what her faith meant to her. She had learned the facts, but was interested in learning what it meant for her life. By the time she transferred to Ursuline, she realized she wasn’t going to let it go. She wanted to be involved in helping others in their faith and has since become a religious education teacher as well.
Scot said teaching ninth grade catechism for anybody would be difficult, never mind a high school senior. He asked how it helped her grow? Kathleen said it’s not easy because they want to be independent and speak for themselves. They are trying to find their own voices. She told them as someone who’s seventeen teaching those who are 14 and 15, she doesn’t have a lot more knowledge than them, but that they would take the journey together.
Catherine said she’s lived in Milton with her family. She attended Glover Elementary School and was involved in a French immersion program. She went to a public middle school for one year before deciding to attend Ursuline. She was a member of Girl Scouts for 10 years and has also played viola. She’s been involved in a number of extra curricular activities, including choral group, which is the liturgical choir. She also sings in the church choir at St. Elizabeth’s. Singing in the choir has been a turning point for her faith and was a way to bond with her family. Her father is musical director at the parish and her mom and three sisters also sing in the choir. Catherine said her extended family is also musical. At holidays, the whole family will sing together. For example at Christmas, they will sing carols as their dad plays the piano.
Catherine said her favorite hymn is “Lead me, Lord” because it’s uplifting. It’s been anthem for her life because it’s so difficult to lead a good Catholic life. Scot asked her what led her to play the viola. She said at Christmas and Easter in the parish, they pull out all the stops and she plays the viola during Mass. Her older sister had switched from violin to viola and when she entered Ursuline, she decided to switch as well. She said it allowed her to excel in her instrument. Violin is so competitive in the musical world because there are so many violinists. As a violist she’s been able to be a leader in symphonies she’s involved in.
Kathleen said her favorite hymn is “Open my Eyes, Lord”. She learned it while preparing for First Communion and the teacher taught them how to Sign it.
Scot asked Kathleen why she picked Ursuline Academy. She said in sixth grade she was struggling in her academics and her parents looked at other options to help her focus her academics. The only school she looked at was Ursuline. She remembers at the open house meeting the teachers and how everyone was very welcoming. It made her want to be part of that small community. She also was glad to not have the distractions of boys and not have to worry about her appearance every day. She saw it as a way to express her faith and be proud of it.
Kathleen said there are about 400 students and there are 73 seniors graduating. Fr. Chris asked about St. Angela Merici. Catherine said St. Angela lived in Italy in the 16th century. She had a vision on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She founded a community of women to educate young women. The Ursuline Order has schools all over the world. Ursuline Academy is specifically a college preparatory school that pushes you to excel academically but also in your person, to be a right-thinking and right-acting person.
Catherine said her two elder sisters went to different Catholic girls schools. Her parents strong believers in Catholic single-sex education for the education of the whole person. She decided to go to Ursuline because her third sister went there. At the time, Catherine the decision to leave her old school and go to Ursuline was difficult, but she became very comfortable at Ursuline very quickly.
Scot said there are fewer single-sex schools. What does Kathleen think is the strongest reason to go to Ursuline? She said it helps you become who you are meant to be. You don’t care what other people think. There are fewer distractions. It’s a great opportunity to develop a close group of friends and to develop her faith. It’s also a great education.
Fr. Chris asked what traditions Ursuline has. Kathleen said one is Mission Day, a day for girls to shop, but all the money goes to various charities. It brings community, alumnae, and families altogether. Catherine said it’s a far in the school where each homeroom becomes a store. One room is a country store. Another room is the jail where you can pay to send someone to “jail” and the person can either pay to make bail or just serve time there. Kathleen emphasized the day begins with Mass.
Catherine said Serviam “I will Serve” is an integral part of the school. Everyone is required to serve a certain number of service hours each year. Catherine served at Beth Israel Deaconness Lab in Milton. Kathleen served her time in the Catholic Media Secretariat at the Pastoral Center. Kathleen said she wanted to do something connected to her faith and she’s had an interest in communications and journalism. She spent a whole month in the Pastoral Center, working with Rick Heil on The Good Catholic Life and writing a couple of articles for The Pilot.
Scot asked what it’s like at the Pastoral Center. She was apprehensive at being the youngest. She made it a goal to start every day with Mass. She’d never had a job like this and so she learned a lot, whether sitting at her desk or sitting in on the show. She’s learned a lot hearing God’s message.
Catherine said her classmates are working in hospitals, volunteering in local elementary schools, working with Friends of the Unborn in Quincy, volunteering with cancer patients, at the Mass. Hospital School helping children with developmental disabilities in horseback riding. Scot said what he liked about the program was that it says that their education is not complete until they’ve lived this service.
Kathleen said she believes God has a plan for everything. Everything they’ve learned is not wasted and they will take it with them for their whole lives.
Kathleen will be attending Emmanuel College in Boston. Her mom attend the college and she loved it. Her parents were married in the chapel there as well and they’ve stayed connected over the years.
Catherine will be attending Fordham University in the Bronx. She won’t be wearing a Yankees hat on campus. She’s deferring for a year in order to study in France next year with Rotary International. She’ll be a high school student for another year in southern Normandy and living with French families. She has a desire to immerse herself in another culture and try to understand another culture. There are so many different perspectives in the world and she hopes this year will give her a better understanding of people who live in a different environment. She hopes it expands her thinking and her view of the world.
Kathleen plans to study communications and journalism, with a minor in theology. Catherine plans to to double major in French and biology.
3rd segment: Scot asked Kathleen and Catherine what they would say about their peers not practicing their faith with passion. Kathleen said teens who practice their faith are a minority. It is very difficult for them to express their faith confidently and to know there is truth in it. Scot asked why they think it’s been sparked in them and how parents could help their own kids. Catherine said a great blessing for her has been adults who have led by example, including her parents and her priests. They are firm in their beliefs. She credits family dinners every night in which they discuss challenges they face every day. They talk about why the Church believes what she does, ethical issues, and how Catholics should respond. She added that adults who want their children to be active shouldn’t stop encouraging them and show them why it’s important to you that they have this faith. Encourage them to be involved in their parish in any way they can.
Fr. Chris asked what excites them the most about their faith. Kathleen said the Church is constant. There are so many parts of our lives that change, but the Church always believes what she believes. Having that strong voice is important to teens. Catherine said the loving nature of the Church, no matter who you are or whatever stage, you are loved. Catherine recommended “JesusDaily” on Facebook as a daily inspiration. Kathleen admits to being new on social media and she often encourages others to move away from checking Facebook all the time because of the ways it can be negative for their lives.
Scot asked what questions about their faith they’ve had. Kathleen said the question of abortion and physician-assisted suicide and generally making decisions to drink do drugs and bullying are important among her peer group. Catherine said human sexuality is a big question for teens. She had a friend who asked why the Church thinks sex is bad. She explained what the Church teaches and realized her friend had a set idea of what the Church teaches and wasn’t open to hearing anything else.
Scot noted how much racier television has become in the past 25 years. Fr. Chris said compared it to visiting Rome where everyone smokes. When you get home, everything in your suitcase smells like it. In our culture we are bombarded with these messages constantly and don’t realize how much of it we’re soaking up. He said the Church has a consistent message and if only we open our eyes and ears, how blessed we will be by it.
Kathleen said she hopes in college that she stays close to her faith because it keeps her joyful, and that she stays prayerful. Catherine hopes that God will lead her where He needs her to be and that she will be an instrument of His will. Scot asked Catherine why Fordham and not Holy Cross, like her parents. She said she wanted to branch out on her own a little with a little distance from her family.