Tag Archives: service

Dove in the sky … after the storm of a lifetime

Fort Lauderdale Legates extend much-needed help to the Bahamas

Hundreds of people are still living in temporary homeless shelters, more than four months after Hurricane Dorian swept through the Bahamas. The Catholic schools on the two hardest-hit islands, Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, were nearly destroyed, as were entire homes and neighborhoods by the hurricane’s 185 mph winds and powerful storm surge.

Total Wipeout

“Abaco in particular, had just about everything wiped out,” said Jim Cavnar, the founder and president of Cross Catholic Outreach, a Florida-based relief and development ministry that provides supplies and emergency relief to the poor worldwide.

Cavnar, a member of Legatus’ Fort Lauderdale Chapter, and David Adams, the vice president of missions for Cross Catholic Outreach, traveled to the Bahamas in late November to meet with Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, whose territory includes Great Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Adams, who is also a member of Legatus’ Fort Lauderdale Chapter, said he and Cavnar went for an “intense” one-day trip where they met with the archbishop and his staff to discuss the ongoing relief efforts and the islands’ long-term recovery needs, which include resettling about 450 people still displaced and living in a sports arena that has been transformed into a temporary shelter.

“At one point, there were over 2,000 internally displaced people,” said Adams, adding that many were housed in large tent shelters adjacent to the Nassau arena. Those who have left the shelters have moved in with relatives in the United States and elsewhere, or dispersed into the neighborhoods around the arena.

The vast majority of the internally displaced people were Haitians who had migrated to the Bahamas after fleeing the crippling poverty and political instability in their country. Many of them were living in rickety “shantytowns” made of scrap wood and tin.

“It’s not unusual to find that those who are the most impacted by natural disasters are people who are the poorest, and they have the least capacity to recover,” said Cavnar, who founded Cross Catholic Outreach in 2001.

“Like a bomb went off”

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the northwest Bahamas on Sept. 1, and lingered for several days. At its most powerful, Dorian was listed as a Category 5 major hurricane, peaking with one-minute sustained winds of 185 mph and generating destructive gusts over 220 mph, along with a storm surge possibly as high as 23 feet.

Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas and destroyed as many as 13,000 homes, wiping out entire neighborhoods. The storm demolished utilities, airport landing strips, schools, hospitals, churches, pharmacies, and grocery stores, among other structures.

“It’s like a bomb went off there,” Adams said.

The hurricane displaced about 14,000 people, 10,000 of them being school-age children. At least 69 people were killed, though the actual death toll may be significantly higher. In total, the hurricane wreaked $7.5 billion worth of damage.

“They had to evacuate everybody on Abaco, and a lot of people in Grand Bahama, because there was no electricity. The water system went offline and there were no stores open where you could buy food or anything,” said Cavnar, adding that the government evacuated residents to the Nassau shelters.

Sent supplies within days

“We are not set up as an organization to be first responders,” Cavnar said. “We don’t send teams of people into disaster areas to respond. Instead, I would describe us as the first suppliers of the first responders.”

True to its mission, Cross Catholic Outreach has sent hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies to the Bahamas to help the local Church and first responders with the overwhelming relief work, as well as basic food and hygiene goods to help displaced people get by.

Within days of the disaster, Cross Catholic Outreach sent $5,000 worth of hygiene kits to the worst-hit areas. In late September, the relief ministry sent more hygiene kits – more than 6,800 total – as well as dozens of pallets containing 544,320 Vitafood meals.

Cross Catholic Outreach also collaborated with the United Way of Broward County to send an additional 40-foot container of Vitafood to Nassau, and shipped three more containers in early October. Two large containers of food, medicine, and other assorted items were also sent in November.

“The archbishop couldn’t say thank you enough. He told us how some of the customs agents who had to inspect and clear the 40-foot containers told him they couldn’t believe how high a quality some of those goods were,” said Adams, a retired senior foreign service worker who joined Cross Catholic Outreach as its first vice president for missions.

Cavnar said his ministry has also secured a 40-foot container filled with roofing material. The container is in Miami, and will be shipped to the Bahamas when local officials give Cross Catholic Outreach the go-ahead.

Help rebuilding Catholic schools

In addition to teaming with the Archdiocese of Nassau, Cross Catholic Outreach is partnering with Catholic Charities of Miami to aid storm survivors. Cavnar said his ministry has provided a $5,000 grant to Catholic Charities of Miami to support its hurricane response efforts, and has donated space in its Florida warehouse for Catholic Charities’ relief supplies.

Cavnar also hand-delivered a $5,000 grant check to Archbishop Pinder for the Archdiocese of Nassau’s recovery efforts. In speaking with the archbishop and his staff, Cavnar and Adams said the local Church has placed rebuilding Catholic schools as a pressing need.

“The archbishop said education is his key priority,” Adams said. “He said parents have been telling him that they won’t go back to Abaco until the schools are reopened.”

Adams and Cavnar expected to make another trip to the Bahamas by late December, this time to tour the devastated areas on Great Abaco and Grand Bahama. Since the islands are filled with debris and many roads are impassable, they were expected to fly over the islands in a helicopter or plane.

Adams said Cross Catholic Outreach may also be looking to build some affordable housing units for the internally displaced people, especially as it’s unlikely that the government in the Bahamas will allow residents to rebuild the flimsy tin and plywood shelters that were destroyed in Hurricane Dorian.

Cross Catholic Outreach has experience building shelters in other countries in Latin America, East Africa, and Asia. The ministry has also collaborated with other aid partners to provide medical care, clean water, care for orphans, and self-help programs around the world.

“We’ve also done cash grants in other countries that help families to finance their school expenses,” Adams said. “The grants help families to pay fees for school, for uniforms, and books. They also go toward scholarships.”

Cavnar said his ministry might allocate some money to help families in the Bahamas to send their children to Catholic schools. He and Adams expect to continue having conversations with Church leaders there about the ongoing needs in the Bahamas.

“Everything we do is to empower the local Church, whether it’s recovery from natural disasters or responding to poverty,” Cavnar said. “In some ways, the serious poverty we have all over the world is like a daily disaster for those who live in it. So our whole philosophy is to empower the local Church to respond to that disaster in an ongoing and effective way. That’s what our ministry is all about.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Hearts aflame with selfless service

“God loves a cheerful giver,” writes St. Paul, and so “you will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor 9:8, 11).

Legates often are known for their generous spirits, expressing gratitude for God’s providence through philanthropy and volunteer service. The two Legate families profiled here certainly exemplify this virtue.

The O’Reillys: Lessons from Father

Frank O’Reilly is a builder – one might say a builder of big things. Through his commercial and residential construction firm, the Northern Virginia Legate has built magnificent churches and other Catholic structures throughout the Shenandoah Valley. With his wife of 35 years, Angélique, Frank has built an impressive family of 14 children. And through his spirit of generosity, he has built a striking reputation for philanthropic service to the Catholic Church.

One of seven children, Frank learned the virtue of generosity – and a whole lot more — from his father and mother, Sean and Anne O’Reilly, who emigrated from Ireland in the 1950s.

“My father really was the most profound influence on my life and in most ways is my touchstone for an authentic Christian life,” Frank said. “He taught me that my first vocation is to holiness; secondly, that I have a vocation to a state in life, to marriage, priesthood, religious life or the single life; and finally, that I have an ‘avocation,’ a way to make a living. That order is pretty important, and it puts my business at the service of the other two.”

Frank said he strives to maintain those priorities even though work demands sometimes invert the order.

His father, a medical doctor who did neurological research, “taught us the importance of giving,” he added. His philosophy was inspired by the Parable of the Widow’s Mite: To give from your surplus is justice, but to give from your own need is charity. “My mother says he often borrowed money in order to give it away,” said Frank.

Sean O’Reilly also was a co-founder of Christendom College in Front Royal, VA, and it was as a student there that Frank met Angélique, a fellow history major. After graduation, they married and settled near the college in a house that Frank, who was already dabbling in building homes, owned. Building and real estate was his avocation, he decided, and despite early struggles they persevered.

Children began arriving, and over the years Angélique homeschooled each of them. Among their eight sons and six daughters are eight college graduates, scholar athletes, Irish dance competitors at the national and world levels, and a cancer survivor. Five are Christendom graduates; three study there now. Four are wed, and a seventh grandchild is on the way.

‘Builders of Christendom’

Several Catholic structures O’Reilly built are in Front Royal. They include the headquarters of Human Life International and Seton Home School as well as his own parish church, St. John the Baptist. “Every Mass currently said inside the [Warren] county limits is in a building my company built,” he said.

Then there’s Christendom College, where O’Reilly’s firm, Petrine Construction, has headed building projects for 32 years.

“I began doing Christendom’s buildings in 1987 and have done all major construction projects on a ‘design build team approach’ since then,” Frank said.

Although he is “immensely proud” of his work for Christendom, Frank said he derives the most satisfaction from his many years of unpaid labor in planning the new chapel of Christ the King – which, ironically, will replace the chapel Petrine built for the campus in 1995. “The nave with its Gothic arch bay spacing, length, and wide side aisles has echoes of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney,” where his father was baptized in Ireland, he said.

Beyond building, the O’Reillys participated in Operation Rescue in the 1980s and co-founded the Front Royal Pregnancy Center, where each has served as board chair. “My company donated the original offices,” he recalled. “We would frequently stop to pray if we heard someone was coming in for counseling.”

The O’Reillys were honored when Dr. Warren Carroll, Christendom’s key founder, published his book The Building of Christendom and presented them a copy inscribed “To Frank and Angelique, the real builders of Christendom.”

“It was humbling, a very sweet play on words,” said Frank, “but over the years it really has become clear that is exactly what we are all called to be!”

The Murphys: Our Son, the Missionary

When their son Thomas announced that after graduating college he would commit to a couple years of volunteer campus ministry with Saint Paul’s Outreach, Jupiter (FL) Legates Terry and Mary Murphy were caught a little off guard.

“We were both surprised and a bit conflicted as to whether or not he should have sought his graduate degree first, but it’s hard to argue with someone who wants to spend their time saving souls,” said Mary. “And certainly, there is no shortage of college students who are in need of a supportive community that meets their spiritual needs and provides ample social fellowship.”

In fact, she added, it was their son’s own involvement with the Catholic Student Union at Florida State University that “really put him on the right track.”

Thomas readily admits that despite his solid Catholic upbringing he “left my faith back at home” when he entered FSU. He stopped going to Mass and indulged in drinking, playing video games, and binge-watching Netflix. “Toward the end of my freshman year, I wasn’t in a great place mentally, physically or spiritually, and I wasn’t happy,” he said. Wanting to make some changes, he joined FSU’s Catholic Student Union, a chapter of Saint Paul’s Outreach.

“Over time, this community absolutely changed my life,” Thomas said. “For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who strove to live lives of holiness, all while balancing the normal life and schedule of a college student. Throughout the process, my faith was reinvigorated.”

Deciding to give back, he took on leadership roles in the community that eventually led to his discernment to become a missionary with Saint Paul’s Outreach in order to help students on other campuses renew their own Catholic faith.

Raised to share blessings

In retrospect, the Murphys must take satisfaction in seeing the seeds they had planted bearing fruit.

“Through much hard work and many, many blessings we were fortunate to build a successful business,” said Terry Murphy, who along with Mary runs three companies they established in the marketing and communications arena, “and we wanted to make sure that our children developed a spirit of helping those less fortunate, knowing that hard work and earning money makes it possible to help other people in a significant way.”

They saw this message take root early when their young daughter, Kathryn, asked her friends for donations to a local animal rescue organization in lieu of birthday gifts, which started a recurring tradition of both children turning their annual parties into fundraisers. In eighth grade, Thomas took it upon himself to raise money for a scholarship to honor a beloved history teacher who had died unexpectedly; later, as one who played several instruments, he secured donated music books and partnered with a local nonprofit organization to offer free music lessons to children of families in crisis.

Thomas began his service with St. Paul’s Outreach this fall at Rutgers University, living in a household with another missionary and six male students. “My role in the house is simply to live a life of holiness, to foster a unified sense of brotherhood, and promote the students’ formation to Christian maturity,” he explained He also interacts with other men on campus, forming friendships that may lead them to increase in faith. “The individual men I meet and invest in motivate me to get out of bed in the morning,” Thomas said. “Their souls are worth fighting for!”

Thomas sees himself remaining a missionary “for a while,” but if he discerns a call away from this work he would likely return to school to pursue a graduate degree and a career in his major field of sports management. The Murphys support both his present mission and his future options.

“It has been both interesting and fulfilling to witness Thomas’ evolution into adulthood,” his father said. “We do hope that he returns to school to earn his MBA at some point within the next few years, but for now it is reassuring to know that he is living the Gospel as he prays about his future.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Honor, duty and service

Born to refugee parents who had fled their native Hungary, Robert Ivany hardly seemed destined for a stellar military career that included service as an aide to an American president.

cover-july-aug-16After beginning his life in a hospital outside a displaced-persons camp in Austria, Ivany immigrated to the U.S. with his parents, settling in Cleveland’s Hungarian community and becoming a naturalized citizen at age 10. As he grew up and considered his future, he was attracted to the Army and applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“It seemed like a very noble calling and, as I tried to figure out what to do, the mission and values that West Point portrayed drew me in,” said Ivany, a member of Legatus’ Houston Chapter and one of many Legates who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Dedicated Service

Tom Wessels, past president of Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter, retired in 2003 as a major general in the U.S. Army after six years of active duty and 31 years in the reserves. The son of a World War II veteran, Wessels knew as a high school student that he would go into the service. He began officer training after completing graduate school.


Robert Ivany

Jerry Schoenle of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, who served as a U.S. naval officer from 1984 to 1989, also heard a call to military life in high school and joined the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps unit at the University of Michigan. He was commissioned as an ensign the same day he received his bachelor’s degree in engineering.

For Ivany, now the president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, West Point turned out to be the beginning of a 34-year Army career during which he served in Vietnam, Germany, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.

As a platoon leader in Vietnam with five tanks under his command, he was injured when a rocket fragment exploded, striking him in the back. He returned to combat within a few weeks and later received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. His last military position was commandant of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

One of Ivany’s most challenging and enjoyable assignments was serving two years as a military aide to President Ronald Reagan. The position required him to be on duty every fourth or fifth day and to accompany the president outside the White House.

Robert Ivany

Robert Ivany

“If he went anywhere, the aide was in the car behind him, along with a doctor. If he was in California, one of us was with him up at the ranch. If he went horseback riding, we went horseback riding.”

Ivany said his up-close-and-personal view of Reagan was no different than the one the public saw. “I think all the aides would agree he was every bit as gentlemanly and sincere in private as he was in public. He was as gracious to the gardener in the Rose Garden as he was to the Queen of England when she walked into his office.”

What made Reagan so memorable, Ivany explained, was that he would make an extra effort to get to know people and establish a personal connection. Ivany believes this is one reason Reagan was able to achieve breakthroughs with the former Soviet Union — including the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Faith Foundation

Reagan’s diplomacy allowed Ivany to visit the land of his parents’ birth in 1990 as an adviser on the democratization of the Hungarian defense establishment. Even though had relatives in Hungary and spoke Hungarian at home, it was almost unfathomable that years later he would go as an American Army colonel to the country his parents had fled as the Soviet army approached.

During the last week of his month-long stay, he was able to have his father, mother, sister and wife Marianne join him. It was the first time in 45 years that his parents had seen their homeland.

Tom Wessels

Tom Wessels

Throughout his 34 years in the Army, Ivany said he never looked upon his service as a job, but rather a calling. The military, he said, taught him to determine and do the right thing.

“In order to do that, you have to have a spiritual foundation to your life,” he explained. “It’s more than material things in the world that truly make a life. I think that spiritual foundation has helped me a great deal and taught me perseverance.”

Ivany also credits his Catholic faith and his family for instilling in him the desire to do the right thing and to improve other people’s lives. West Point, where he later taught history and coached football, reinforced this — as did the Catholic chaplains he encountered and the intercession of those who prayed for him, he said.

Similarly, Wessels’ Catholic faith was a constant presence in his military life, which included service in Italy and Saudi Arabia. During his time as a commander, for example, his units always had chaplains, but not Catholic ones. He would attend the worship service and then seek out a Catholic Mass on his own.

“When I was a commander, they knew I was Catholic,” he said. “That’s what a Legate is. You live your faith, you talk your faith.”

Jerry Schoenle

Jerry Schoenle

Schoenle, who spent much of his career on nuclear Navy ships, said he has always had a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence and would ask the Spirit to protect him, his fellow crew members and their vessel. Serving as a Eucharistic minister on board also helped him stay closer to his faith while away from home.

He experienced what may have been his greatest need for the Spirit’s protection in 1989 off the coast of Libya when two Libyan fighter jets went after two Navy F-14s during a training exercise over the Mediterranean. Schoenle’s cruiser, which was paired with the USS John F. Kennedy and armed with air-to-air missiles, was prepared to fire if necessary.

“We help protect the carrier by being able to shoot missiles at planes or other missiles,” Schoenle explained. “I was in charge of the main damage-control unit, standing by if there was any damage to the ship or casualties.”

After attempting to avoid the Libyans, U.S. pilots shot down the two MiG-23 fighter jets. Schoenle said the incident occurred near the end of a decade of tension between the U.S. and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Supporting Veterans

Jerry Schoenle

Jerry Schoenle

In part because of his own military experience, Schoenle — a member of Legatus’ board of governors and director of global trade services for Ford Motor Co. — knows the importance of praying for those in service. He urges Legates and others to intercede for them.

“They’re obviously in difficult situations combat-wise, but they’re under attack spiritually, too, because they’re often away from a support structure or parish.” Schoenle said Legates who are business owners can also help veterans or reservists by hiring them.

In addition, said Wessels, a Merrill Lynch wealth-management adviser, employers of reservists need to be aware of military requirements for weekend training and periodic deployments. He has worked on this issue through Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, which promotes cooperation and understanding between military reservists and their civilian employers. Wessels also helps the military as chairman of United Service Organization (USO) Georgia.

Ivany said Legates can assist active military by reaching out to those who live on bases and inviting those who qualify to join Legatus. He also urges Legates and others to write to active military personnel to thank them for their service.

“Those little things mean a lot,” he said, “by really being cognizant of the sacrifices they make.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The war on truth, the desire for peace

In so many of its forms, peace seems to be more elusive than ever in our fast-paced world. For many of us, our hectic lives hinder our efforts to seek peace, cultivate peace and ultimately achieve an interior peace of heart.

John Hunt

John Hunt

Jesus tells us in John’s gospel: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You have heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”

Our secular culture is at war with Truth, and so it’s at war with the Catholic Church. As such, the culture is at war with us — you and me. It would be simple to conclude that living an authentic Christian life is an impossibility, but such is not the case because we are believers. We accept the fact that it falls to those who know Jesus Christ to be his ambassadors, to be other Christs, to be Christ himself.

The peace we seek, the peace that exceeds all other, is a product of living a faithful life — a life of prayer and mortification, temperance and perseverance, trust and fidelity. Because, you see, the anger and strife, the sinfulness and greed, appear to be winning in the marketplace, in the media and in the political arena. This apparent success could cause us to accept the triumph of evil. But be reminded that St. Augustine preached “the tranquility of order,” that peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity.

As Legatus members, we understand our obligation to serve the Church, our families, our employees and the community. But this gift of service can be tenuous if we believe it to be of our own design, of our own diligence. The longer we live and the more we insert ourselves into the culture, we come to appreciate the fact that it’s all a gift — a gift of the Holy Spirit.

May we be comforted by Our Lord’s words through St. John: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” His truly is an interior peace beyond all understanding.

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Separating the sheep from the goats

There’s an old adage: If you’re not moving forward, you’re going backwards. This is certainly true in business, but it’s also true in other aspects of our lives.


Patrick Novecosky

Business people know this saying all too well. Growth is essential to the bottom line. Legatus itself strives to grow in order to bring the Gospel to as many souls as possible — but also because if our growth were stagnant, we’d still lose members through death, illness, and dozens of other reasons.

Similarly, we strive to grow in our relationships. My wife is my best friend. We’ve known each other for 15 years, but we’re still getting to know each other — and growing in our understanding and appreciation for each other. My children are complex beings whom I strive to know better as they age and mature.

Why should our relationship with Jesus — God himself who is infinite — be any different? At Mass a couple of days ago I heard Matthew’s gospel in a completely new way. Jesus was talking about his return in glory when he separates the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:31-46). The sheep will go to heaven and the goats to hell.

Jesus doesn’t have it in for the goats. The goats willingly chose hell because they opted not to listen to the Master’s voice — they chose themselves before others. Surprisingly, they were shocked when Jesus said he didn’t know them.

The sheep were also puzzled when Jesus assures them they had, indeed, done his will: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?” Jesus replied: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

That got me thinking: Am I a goat? Am I going the extra mile to care for the sick and imprisoned, the thirsty and hungry? After Mass, I returned to work and started editing the Faith Matters column. Bam! It was like being hit across the head with a 2×4 — a rough awakening to know that my eternal salvation hangs on making this gospel passage part of my life.

It’s clear that my primary focus is to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of my wife and children. That’s first. But God is also calling me — and all of us — in this Year of Mercy to ask: “What more can I do? How can I serve Jesus in the poor and needy?” And grow we must. Our eternal destiny depends on it!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.