Tag Archives: South Bend-Elkhart

Indiana chaplain was ordained with his brother

Two men were ordained on June 11, 2011, as priests for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. They had known each other all their lives because they grew up in the same family. Father Terry Coonan, 31, and his older brother, Matthew Coonan, discerned that they both had the same vocation to the priesthood. They are now both busy parish priests, and Fr. Terry Coonan, pastor of St. John Baptist Church in South Bend has the added responsibility of being a high school chaplain. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

Fr. Terry Coonan

How did you discern your vocation?

It was a really long slow process — much different from my brother, who always said, “No, I’m not going to be a priest,” then all of a sudden changed very rapidly within a few months and confidently decided to become a priest. For me, it was always like, “This is a possibility in my life, but I don’t know if that’s really what God wants or what I want.” Going to seminary was the only way to start to answer that question.

What was it like being ordained with your brother?

Being able to make that journey together and receive the sacrament of Ordination together was a really beautiful blessing and a gift for me — just to know the priesthood really does bind us and unite us as brothers. We talk about our fraternity as priests in the diocese. It’s really special to have a brother-priest who’s literally a brother.

Do you and your brother ever collaborate?

We get see each other quite a bit. He’s a priest at a parish 30 minutes away, so we’re still close. We see each other in work-related ways, and of course at home. One of the fun things we get to do is a basketball game between the priests of the diocese against the seminarians. It’s fun to play basketball with my brother like I used to as a kid.

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

There was a Legatus member in my first parish assignment in Granger, Ind., but he had to drive to Grand Rapids every month for the meetings. It came to the point where he was talking to the bishop about bringing Legatus to our diocese. Then the bishop called me and asked me to be the chaplain. I like the fact that Legatus has a really simple format: Let’s bring people together who have this common ground in their work life and faith life. It’s beautiful to see how they do it — eat, pray, have the sacraments available and listen to a good speaker who encourages us in the faith.

How has Legatus impacted you as a priest?

Just getting to hear other chaplains’ ideas and their experiences has been beneficial. Over the past five years as a priest, I’ve constantly been growing and adapting the way I communicate the Gospel, particularly in my homilies. There are various things in Legatus that have helped me reflect on the way I prepare and deliver my homilies. The Legatus speakers have also contributed to the way I reflect on that.

Do you have any hobbies?

I am a guitar player. I often listen to Christian music and classical music. I’m trying to teach myself a little bit of piano now. Besides those things, it’s mostly sports. I like basketball. I played soccer when I was in college seminary and I still play soccer with the high school kids. I try to have my fun, get my exercise and stay sane that way.

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Legatus chapters make history

June 4, 2014: Two chapters charter on the same day, one with record membership . . .

Jamie and S. Craig Henry

Jamie and S. Craig Henry

More than 27 years after its founding, chapters in two states contributed to a record-breaking day in the history of Legatus.  For the first time, two chapters chartered on the same day, one  of them with a record number of member-couples.

Both the Lafayette-Acadiana (Louisiana) and South Bend-Elkhart (Indiana) chapters chartered on June 4. And Lafayette rallied to charter with 53 CEO members, besting the Orange Canyons Chapter’s 38 couples in November 2011. Both new chapters are dedicated to St. John Paul II.


Legatus’ fifth Louisiana chapter grew quickly after its first chapter event in February, when 13 prospective couples gathered and nine of them joined that night. Two months later, with about 16 couples already registered as members, the chapter hosted EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo as its speaker.

“Once they saw the format and the quality of speakers, it lit a fire under everybody,” said chapter president S. Craig Henry. “We’re fortunate because Lafayette has a very Catholic-rich culture.”

The area also has a booming energy sector and a large pool of young entrepreneurs, Henry said. The chapter’s average age is 50, and the youngest member is 30 years old.

Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrell celebrated the chartering Mass at St. Pius Catholic Church. He was joined by Legatus’ international chaplain Bishop Sam Jacobs, Lafayette vicar general Monsignor Curtis Mallet, Baton Rouge chaplain Monsignor Miles Walsh, Fr. Bryce Sibley and Fr. Louis Richard.

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan (center) with members of the Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan (center) with members of the Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter

The evening’s festivities continued at the City Club at River Ranch, where members were delighted to hear from Legatus founder Tom Monaghan in the form of a question-and-answer session led by their chapter president.

“People loved it,” Henry said. “Tom Monaghan was blown away by how many members we had. He challenged our chapter to be a Confession chapter because he really wants Legatus members to use the opportunity for Confession before their monthly Mass.”

Sheila Zepernick, whose husband Gus is the chapter’s vice president, said Legatus has been a great blessing to them.

“I’ve been inspired by all the young couples with busy families who want to be part of this and have a Catholic date night once a month,” she said. “It’s just beautiful. We don’t have date- night opportunity like this with any other organization.”

South Bend-Elkhart

A thousand miles north of Lafayette, Legates from Northern Indiana gathered for their chartering Mass with Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades at St. Patrick’s Parish in South Bend, Ind. He was joined by concelebrant Fr. Terry Coonan, the chapter’s founding chaplain.

The celebration continued at LaSalle Grill in downtown South Bend with remarks from Bishop Rhoades, Legatus executive director John Hunt, chapter president Kurt Meyer and others.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades (center) with members of the South Bend-Elkhart Chapter

Bishop Kevin Rhoades (center) with members of the South Bend-Elkhart Chapter

Meyer said he and his wife first heard about Legatus shortly after Christmas, just in time for the chapter’s first meeting in February with Legatus founder Tom Monaghan.

“I started researching Legatus and I said, ‘Julie this is for me. It’s the right time, right place. I think this is what God’s telling me to do: to blend my Catholic faith and my business leadership skills,’” he said. “Being able to blend your business skills with your faith is very hard in today’s world, but it’s more important than ever.”

Father Coonan agreed. “Legatus brings these important Catholics together to talk about things and learn how to survive the struggles of business life with your faith intact.”

Mike Witous, who joined the Grand Rapids Chapter last year, transferred to South Bend when it was launched earlier this year.

“When Tom Monaghan spoke to our meeting a few months ago, he said one of the reasons he started Legatus is because he wanted to give people a better chance of going to heaven,” he explained. “I wanted to help build this chapter for similar reasons.

“As Catholics it’s nice to be able to share your faith publicly and comfortably,” Witous explained. “Unfortunately, too often we are apologetic for being Christian these days.”

Bishop Rhoades, who presided over the Fort Wayne Chapter’s chartering last December, said he was delighted and surprised at how quickly two chapters developed in his diocese.

“Legatus has given a new impulse of faith, and I feel it tonight,” he said. “These people have busy lives and they see a lot. But this is impacting them in a way that other organizations don’t because it’s dealing with their spiritual life, their relationship with the Lord, with the Church.

“I think Legatus is going to bear a lot of good fruit in our diocese beyond this immediate circle. I expect we’ll see growth in numbers, but even more importantly a growth in virtue that can happen through membership in Legatus.”

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