Tag Archives: Judy Barrett

Great books in the great outdoors

cover-sept15Wyoming Catholic College marks 10 years of forming extraordinary leaders

To say there’s something unique about Wyoming Catholic College may be a bit of an understatement.

Founded 10 years ago, this faithful Catholic college is turning hearts and minds to Lander, Wyo. — literally the middle of “God’s Country” — on the southeast edge of the majestic Wind River Mountain Range.

“There has been a lot of excitement about Wyoming Catholic College,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society. “It’s an absolutely wonderful institution which has focused on the classical approach to higher education.”

Learning leadership

Wyoming Catholic College’s objective is to offer a world-class, traditional liberal arts education in a holistic way: mind, body and spirit. The college’s approach is truly unique. All freshmen begin their studies by going on a three-week leadership camping trip.

Anthony Vercio

Anthony Vercio

“Learning leadership in the outdoors is ideal,” said Anthony Vercio, a WCC senior from Virginia. “In the back country, the consequences of your decisions can be seen so much more clearly. You really get to know yourself — your strengths and weaknesses.”

While some colleges offer voluntary three-to eight-day camping trips, no other U.S. college has a mandatory 21-day camping trip for freshmen, which incorporates leadership training as well as Catholic spirituality.

In August, the college welcomed its largest-ever freshman class of 58 students, bringing its student body to 150 students. Each of those freshmen will complete four camping trips in their first year. Upper-class students are required to go on at least two weeklong camping trips per year. The spiritual aspect of these trips sets WCC apart.

“We get to know ourselves as sons and daughters of God in relationship with other people,” Vercio explained. “It transformed the way I looked at the world.”

Every WCC freshman is also required to take a one-year course in horsemanship — learning to ride and care for horses.

Vercio said working with horses is a great lesson in humility. “It’s sometimes difficult to work with a horse,” he said. “You learn how to lead others to do what you would like. You have to learn to work with them with understanding.”

Unmistakably Catholic

Legate Kevin Roberts poses with his wife Michelle and their four children (Kristy Cardinal)

Legate Kevin Roberts poses with his wife Michelle and their four children (Kristy Cardinal)

WCC’s curriculum builds on itself over four years. The classes are chronologically organized as well as integrated among themselves. All students read the Great Books of Western Civilization. They take classes in history, imaginative literature, writing, reasoning, oratory, Latin, art history, music, mathematics, natural science, philosophy, theology, spirituality, outdoor leadership, and horsemanship.

“We integrate everything we do,” said Dr. Kevin Roberts, a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter who has served as WCC president since 2013. “Every student takes the same set of classes, so they can have the same foundation for great conversations. This is what we call the ‘cultivation of wonderment.’”

Judy Barrett, a WCC board member and a member of Legatus’ Napa Valley Chapter, sees real value in this kind of education.

“Many people don’t understand the value of a liberal arts program,” said Barrett. “Somewhere along the way we became results-oriented as a country. But many employers don’t want someone who comes from a specific background. They want someone who has the capacity to think. A liberal arts program prepares students for everything.”

wyomingcollege-featureReilly, from the Cardinal Newman Society, has been following WCC’s growth for years.

“The reality is that a student who gets a strong liberal arts degree tends to do better as their career progresses,” he said. “They have thinking and communication skills, which aren’t common. It usually pays off.”

WCC is unmistakably Catholic with a predominance of Benedictine and Carmelite spirituality. There are daily opportunities for Mass, Confession and Eucharistic adoration. Non-Catholic students are invited to take part in the spiritual formation available on campus.

“We take theology classes all four years here,” said Laura Kaiser, a senior from California. “So you see a development within yourself each year. Each year that passes, you move on to another level of the spiritual life.”

All WCC faculty make a public profession of the faith and oath of fidelity at the beginning of each academic year. Non-Catholic faculty make a pledge of respect to the Catholic Church and her teaching authority.

National reputation

Judy Barrett

Judy Barrett

Established in 2005, WCC opened its doors to 34 freshmen in 2007. The school is on a roll with its largest class ever this fall and, despite its relatively small size, WCC is drawing interest from across the country.

“One of the things that excites me is that WCC is developing a national reputation,” Barrett explained. “Students come from everywhere — and it has been this way since the beginning.”

The college’s graduates have taken diverse career paths. The most common has been teaching in Catholic or charter schools. Some have gone on to work in Catholic/Christian ministries, enrolled in graduate school or entered the religious life. Others have started businesses.

“We have one student who is getting a Masters in engineering,” said Roberts. “One is going to law school. One graduate is the press secretary for the lone member of Congress from Wyoming.”

WCC’s campus is in downtown Lander, a west-central Wyoming city of 7,500. Although its campus isn’t considered permanent, Roberts says the college will stay in Lander instead of moving (as originally planned) outside the city to Broken Anvil Ranch, a 600-acre property owned by the college.

Laura Keiser

Laura Keiser

The school is moving toward full accreditation. One year ago, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) granted WCC “candidacy” status, which means the college’s credits are now accepted at other colleges and graduate school programs.

Candidacy status also qualified WCC to receive federal grants and student loans. However, because of the political climate, WCC’s board decided unanimously to forego all federal funds.

“Even student loans carry some strings for participating colleges, and there is real concern that regulators have been trying to push policies regarding sexual activity and transgender students that conflict with Catholic teaching,” Reilly explained. “So if a Catholic college can do well without federal aid, it’s a great way to safeguard Catholic identity.”

Roberts said WCC will never compromise its Catholic identity.

“One thing is for sure, we will never sign anything that will cause us to go against our beliefs,” he said.

In its 10th year of operation, Wyoming Catholic College continues to form students as bold and joyful witnesses in the public square.

“If you’re looking to be pushed to grow in mind, body and spirit, this is the place to be,” Kaiser said. “WCC pushes you outside your comfort zone. You are allowed to grow more than you ever thought possible — and this growth is towards God.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

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Legatus comes to the wine country

Legatus members of the Napa Valley Chapter featured in Santa Rosa diocesan magazine . . .

North Coast Catholic
May 2011

One of the biggest challenges facing Catholic business leaders is finding moral and ethical support in the corporate world. It can be “lonely at the top” and CEOs and business owners often encounter a sense of isolation.

Legatus, Latin for “Ambassador,” is a faith-based national organization for business owners, and corporate executives. Founded in 1987 ….. fame, Legatus brings together Catholic leaders and spouses in a monthly forum to foster spiritual growth and integration of the Gospel in family, business and community life. The Napa Valley, which is home to many entrepreneurs, professionals and executives, also became home to a new chapter of Legatus, formally chartered late last year.

Members delighted and relieved to find a sense of community with like-minded people who can say, “You are not alone; we share your struggles; together we can make great things happen.”

Eager to learn more about this group, the North Coast Catholic recently spoke with several couples who are charter members of the Napa chapter about their personal journeys, their families and how they seek to live their faith within the challenges of daily life.

Chaplain Fr. Gordon Kalil greets Jim & Theresa Heim

Chapter President Jim Heim and his wife Theresa moved to Napa in 2004, when Jim became president of the Pet Division of Central Garden and Pet, the world’s largest pet supply and manufacturing company, based in Walnut Creek. The Heims have two grown children and three grandsons. Jim grew up in Little Rock, Ark., played football for Southern Methodist University and received his MBA from the Cox School of Business at SMU. Theresa, a San Francisco native with more than 100 relatives in the Bay Area (her father and Bishop Daniel Walsh are first cousins), earned her marketing degree at San Francisco State. Both have extensive experience in sales and marketing. Jim’s senior management positions with several companies gave the family the opportunity to live in several southern states and Canada prior to settling in the Napa Valley.

The Heims see Legatus as “a safe haven to meet with peers in a local community setting to discuss business and social issues.” Jim adds that with several vintner members in the Napa chapter, “meetings provide us with the opportunity to hear excellent speakers, sample great wines from around the Valley and visit some of the most beautiful wineries and venues in Sonoma and Napa counties.”

When asked about difficulties facing Catholic business leaders today, Jim says: “Obviously we face issues of corporate ethics, social morals in the workplace, fairness and justice, social prejudice and, of course, the old adage that nothing is more important than the almighty dollar. For me, the challenge is blending the teachings of Christ into the way I manage my corporate responsibilities on an everyday basis.”

As part of their ongoing way of “paying it forward,” The Heims bring their business expertise to the St. John the Baptist Capital Campaign Executive Committee, and Jim also serves on the Justin-Siena High School Board of Trustees. For St. John’s St. Vincent de Paul ministry, Theresa and Jim serve once a month at The Table, a shelter that provides weekday meals for the needy and homeless in Napa.

Bob & Valerie Fish

Cal graduates Bob and Valerie Fish see moral relativism and the growing secularism that make it socially unacceptable to express or promote one’s own faith as key challenges to Catholic leaders who seek to integrate their faith with the realities of the business world. They say they joined Legatus because “it is the perfect way, at least once a month, for us to see Catholic friends, make new friends who share our beliefs, share a Mass, hear an engaging faith-based presentation and do it all close to home!”

Bob, who has a master’s in hospital administration, was a regional CEO for St. Joseph Health System. Currently he is chairman of REACH, the air ambulance company that provides emergency medical transport services throughout the North Coast, Oregon, Southern California and Texas. For the past decade, he has served as an independent director for a number of publicly traded health-care companies. Valerie, for years, presided over her own corporate event planning business. She now divides her time between managing Blossom Creek Farm, their equestrian facility near Calistoga, and her volunteer activities as the local director of Rachel’s Vineyard – a group that serves the Santa Rosa Diocese in collaboration with other Bay Area dioceses, offering healing retreats several times each year for women and men who have been involved in abortions. Rachel’s Vineyard is an international program that provides emotional and spiritual support for those suffering from past abortion decisions.

Bob is a member of the Diocesan Finance Council and serves on the Management Board for Beit Benedict, a peace initiative sponsored by the Benedictine Order located at Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem; he and Valerie are committed to fundraising efforts to build a peace academy there. Valerie was co-chair of the St. Helena parish capital campaign that funded the historic church’s earthquake retrofit and organized the restoration of the stone chapel at Holy Cross Cemetery in St. Helena.

When asked about their faith journey, Valerie, a cradle Catholic, and Bob, an adult convert who was raised in the Presbyterian church, say, “both of us were ‘brought back’ to our Catholic faith by struggling through some of life’s hardships. As is often said, ‘the easiest place to find God is on your knees.’” They attend daily Mass and share a nightly family rosary to keep grounded in their faith and with each other. Valerie adds, “We find that the people around us are influenced by simple actions on our part, such as always saying grace before meals, or offering to pray with a friend who is troubled.”



Bruce & Mary Miroglio


Bruce and Mary Miroglio are from multi-generational Napa Valley families with deep roots in the wine business. They first met as classmates at St. Apollinaris parochial school and Justin-Siena High School. Married in 1983, the year after Bruce began practicing law. He now has his own private practice in St. Helena. Mary was a microbiologist at Queen of the Valley Hospital for many years and now is the administrator of Nimbus Arts, which provides classes and training in visual and performance arts for children and adults.

With their strong Italian heritage and as parents of five children, Mary says that life in the Miroglio household centers around the dinner table. “We love to have our friends and particularly their families come together and share a meal as a group,” says Bruce, “There is no better way to know your children than to watch them interact with their friends. We designed our home around the idea that we want our children and their friends to feel welcome. As Italians, of course, that means well-fed!” Bruce hand built a wood-fired pizza oven that is often the gathering place for local teens.

Bruce is about to take on yet a new job, as he enters the final year of his candidacy training to be ordained a deacon in the Santa Rosa Diocese. Bruce sees the call to ordination as a way to fulfill an early interest in a priestly vocation with what he considers his primary calling as a husband and father. He says, “To be able, at this stage of my life, to answer God’s call and fulfill my own yearning, is truly humbling. Mary and I have gained so much from the experience of attending classes and interacting with the talented and diverse deacon candidates.”

In addition to practicing law, training for the diaconate and being a husband and father, Bruce was recently cast in the role of a deputy sheriff in the upcoming Francis Ford Coppola movie, Twixt Now and Sunrise, appearing in many scenes with veteran actors Val Kilmer and Bruce Dern.

With this diverse background, Bruce sums up his decision to join Legatus in this way: “I see Legatus as a lifeboat for business leaders who are drowning in a sea of conflicting messages about what is proper and ethical business behavior. At these times we need the simple but profound message that God-centered, ethical leadership can be the guiding path through any crisis.”

Legatus encourages its members to inspire others through practical idealism and, in that way, translate their values and beliefs into living their faith in the real world. Members are called to use their talents, skills and station in life in a pragmatic way to evangelize the culture where they are.

While members are actively engaged in many charitable endeavors and share information and experiences, there is no fundraising or projects. The monthly meetings begin with Mass, followed by a social hour, dinner and topnotch speakers from the realms of Church, business and government. Some of the speakers scheduled for 2011 include Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, Doug Sherman of Immaculate Heart Radio, author Peter Kreeft and broadcast journalist Teresa Tomeo.

For information about Legatus:

Visit the website or contact Western Regional Director Paul F. Blewett at (661) 822-8887.

Click to contact the Napa Valley Chapter’s Membership Chair Mary Cunningham Agee or contact local Administrative Coordinator Carole Gruss at (707) 246-5444.

There are now 74 Legatus chapters in the United States and five other countries, with approximately 4,000 members making a positive impact on secular society.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Diocese of Santa Rosa. It was originally published in the May 2011 issue of the North Coast Catholic magazine.

Fruits of the vine

Legates Jim and Judy Barrett use their gifts to bring Christ to a thirsting world . . .


Wine lovers around the world have been sipping, swirling, drinking and celebrating the production of California wine for more than 35 years — and none more than the jewel in her crown: the wines of Chateau Montelena.

It was this Napa Valley label that won the historic 1976 “Judgment of Paris.” Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay was in competition with nine other wines from France and California under blind tasting. All eleven judges awarded their top scores to either the chardonnays from Chateau Montelena or Chalone Winery, another California wine producer.

The decision sent shockwaves through the wine industry. Business Week wrote that the event “had a revolutionary impact on expanding the production and prestige of wine in the New World.” A bottle of the award-winning Chateau Montelena rests in the Smithsonian, and the event was the basis of the 2008 movie Bottle Shock.

Sharing the faith

The man behind Chateau Montelena — Jim Barrett — is a legend in the American wine industry. Perhaps less known is his profound Catholic faith and his extraordinary efforts to evangelize. Jim and his wife Judy Barrett, members of Legatus’ newly minted Napa Valley Chapter, came to the Catholic faith in radically different ways.

“My parents were born in Ireland, and both were committed Catholics who believed totally in Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary,” said Jim Barrett, an 84-year-old attorney-turned winemaker. “We had priests in our house for dinner all the time. In fact, we called them the ‘penguin colony.’ My brother eventually became a parish priest.”

That rock-solid faith helped guide him through college and law school. Barrett earned a Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in 1950. “I never doubted my faith for a minute,” he said.

Judy Barrett came from a Lutheran family and converted many years after marrying Jim. She always attended Mass with her husband, and developed a close relationship with his brother, the priest. They had many discussions about Catholicism, though she says, “he never pushed me.

“I had a really strong conversion experience — not like St. Paul, but it came to the point where I knew I had to be in the Church. It was necessary like air and water,” she said.

Jim’s lifelong love for the Catholic faith led him to write A Pilgrim’s Journey. It was published last fall.

“One of my great heroes is Blaise Pascal,” he explained. The 17th century philosopher and mathematician “wrote a series of Pensées for himself to analyze why he believed what he believed. I read these 25 years ago and decided to write my own Pensées. My book is about reason illuminated by faith,” he said.

As an attorney for 28 years before entering the winemaking business, Jim constantly looked at evidence, facts and reality. He used the same kind of observational skills to prove the reasonableness of faith in his book, which is available at Amazon.com. After jotting down ideas for 15 years, Jim realized he had accumulated a great deal of evidence to support Christianity.

winebottleMichael McLean, a member of Legatus’ Ventura/LA North Chapter and president of Thomas Aquinas College, is a fan of Barrett’s rational approach to explaining the faith. “This book will be an encouragement and inspiration to anyone who reads it,” he said.

“The book shows the breadth of Jim’s intellectual interests, his concern to share his faith,” McLean explained. “He believes, as I do, that it is intellectually defensible. He’s convinced that Catholicism is the truth and that it brings people, ultimately, to happiness and fulfillment.”

Also championing Barrett’s book is Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput. “Jim makes no claim that A Pilgrim’s Journey is a ‘grand’ book or that it answers every urgent question about God, faith and unbelief,” he told Legatus Magazine. “But he speaks about these things with the kind of intelligence, clarity, zeal and uncommon common sense that comes from great experience on the road of discipleship. Any believer looking for encouragement on his or her road to God should read it.”

Faithful service

Barrett’s passion for the faith extends beyond winemaking and writing. He and his wife are also involved in Catholic education and other forms of evangelization. Jim served on Thomas Aquinas College’s board of governors for 17 years, and Judy is on the board of Wyoming Catholic College.

The Barretts turned to TAC after Jim became disillusioned with his alma mater, Loyola Law School. After noting that there was little Catholic about the school, he and a few law school friends offered to establish and fund a St. Thomas More chair. The school refused.

“It was horrible, and then I heard about Thomas Aquinas College — which was founded by a group of guys who had been kicked out of the University of San Francisco for being too Catholic,” he said. “I realized that this school was for real. Thomas Dillon, their late president, was like a younger brother to me.”

Over the years, Jim and Judy have developed a shared philosophy for their charitable giving in three areas: seminarian education, developing young Catholic leaders, and aiding the poor.

The couple is passionate about dioceses where vocations are booming.

“Think how much good one priest can do,” Judy explained. “One priest can influence thousands of people. We are close to Archbishop Chaput and support the St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.”

The Barretts also work with programs that form young Catholic leaders. They support Catholic colleges that are faithful to their Catholic identity. That interest led them to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. Founded by Curtis Martin, a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter, FOCUS helps strengthen the faith of Catholic students on secular campuses.

Martin began FOCUS in Judy’s hometown of Greely, Colo. “I got acquainted with Curtis Martin, I met the staff, and I liked what I saw,” she said. “There are so many vocations coming out of FOCUS.”

The Barretts also live their faith by caring for poor children in Haiti and other poverty-stricken countries. For 35 years, Jim has been a special advisor and board member for Friends of the Orphans, a group of homes for orphaned and abandoned children in Latin American and the Caribbean.

The couple also has an interest in pro-life causes, Catholic media, and their local diocese. Judy served as the Santa Rosa diocese’s Respect Life coordinator for 17 years.

“I have always felt very strongly about abortion and all the life issues,” she said. “I got involved while I was doing RCIA. I had to choose an area of service and decided to work for the Respect Life Office. Eventually, they asked me to take over the program.”

Fruit of the vine

Bo & Jim Barrett

Bo & Jim Barrett

Above all, the Barretts say they are grateful for the blessing that Chateau Montelena has been to their family. To express that gratitude, they have their vines blessed by a priest every year. This tradition began under their first winemaker, Mike Grgich, a native Croatian who brought the European tradition with him.

“The blessing of the harvest of grapes and the people who work on the farm is very Old World,” said Bo Barrett, Jim’s son who took over running Chateau Montelena in 1982. “We hear this in the Mass: ‘fruit of the vine and work of human hands.’We’ve always had a priest, sometimes a Carmelite brother, come to do the blessing. Other vineyards have tried to outdo us by bringing in Buddhist monks and Muslim imams. But most of our Latino workers — about 89% — are Catholic.”

When Jim Barrett looks back at the success God has granted him through his vineyard, he notes the importance of wine in human history — as well as Catholicism.

“Wine has been a part of man’s history for 12,000 years. We go back to the Blessed Sacrament, the night before Jesus died. It’s a part of the solemnity of being with family. The Old and New Testaments are full of references to wine. It’s part of the goodness of being alive.”

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.