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IronMan runs world-epic for kids’ mental wellness

Seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Jonathan Terrell believes he is up to the challenge.

Mid-lifer takes on world in a week

“People have done it before, so I know it’s not impossible,” said Terrell, 55, a charter member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C. Chapter.

This coming January, Terrell will be competing in the World Marathon Challenge. In one week, participants run seven marathons on all seven continents, beginning at Novo Base in Antarctica, located in the Antarctic Circle.

Assuming there are no injuries or setbacks during training or the actual competition, Terrell will then run a combined 157.2 miles over six days in South Africa, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Colombia and Miami. Terrell’s week will consist of running and catching chartered flights.

“When he told me, I was like, ‘Are you crazy? That doesn’t even make sense,’” said Christine Terrell, Jonathan’s wife.

Parallels of endurance, spiritual strength

From late September to early December, Jonathan will run a marathon every week to prepare himself.

“I’ve put this out there, so it would be too embarrassing not to finish,” he said. “Even if I have to crawl the last one, I’ll finish it.”

Terrell is running in the World Marathon Challenge to raise awareness and funds for children’s mental health services at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., a cause dear to his heart. Terrell said he figured he could generate more media attention than running a simple 5K or regular marathon.

“There is still a tremendous prejudice and discomfort in society about talking about mental health issues,” Terrell said. “As a result, even though 1 in 5 children will have some kind of mental illness, they don’t get treated until many years after the symptoms start manifesting themselves.”

As a devout Catholic, Terrell also sees strong parallels between endurance running and the spiritual life. He quotes St. Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians how athletes train and deny themselves. Terrell also notes how the Apostle encouraged the faithful to run in such a way as to win the prize of eternal life.

“This kind of endurance activity is very much a metaphor for the spiritual life,” Terrell said.

“As we know it, in the spiritual life we constantly fall down, we set ourselves up to fail, but we get back up and we go to confession, we go to Mass, and we keep at it.”

Those spiritual insights have come as Terrell, who grew up in England in the Anglican Church, has matured in the faith he embraced when he entered the Catholic Church 20 years ago. The depth of his spirituality has developed through lessons he learned from attaining the disciplines needed to finish long-distance races.

“Just as the spiritual life is a process and a daily practice, not a one-time event, so it is with endurance sports,” he said. “It’s daily training, preparing for the races. There is a lot of discipline and delayed gratification, but also tremendous rewards that come from all that.”

The first time he ran a marathon, Terrell recounted the deep satisfaction he felt when he neared the finish line to applause, uplifting music, a cheering crowd and the announcer calling out his name.

“I had this flash like, ‘Is this what’s it’s like when you get to Heaven?’ From there, I was hooked.”

Day of awakening reprioritized everything

Terrell began running almost seven years ago. He remembered waking up one morning in January 2011 and finding himself to be in the worst shape of his life. As happens with many adults, the daily demands of being a married father with two young sons and running a consulting firm over time led Terrell to stop taking care of himself.

And he noticed that not tending to his physical health affected other areas of his life, even his spirituality and his mental state.

“I was the fattest I’ve ever been. I felt disgusting, and I felt miserable,” said Terrell, who around that time had read in his diocesan newspaper about an upcoming marathon for vocations and to support seminarians.

He decided to run in a half-marathon and trained for five months. He didn’t tell anyone until right before the race. He then signed up for his first marathon as a member of the diocesan vocations team and trained for another five months.

“I enjoyed being part of that team,” Terrell said. “I enjoyed going to Mass with them and running the race in that way.” The next day, he signed up for the London Marathon as a member of a Catholic Charities team.

“So very early on, this is connected to my faith,” he said. “I started using marathon running as a spiritual exercise.”

At his fifth or sixth marathon, Terrell dedicated the whole race to his pastor, who was ill at the time. Throughout all 26.2 miles, he said the rosary and prayed to a particular saint at every mile marker.

“I offered the whole thing up, that I might through my suffering, for at least a few hours, take away my pastors’ suffering,” Terrell said.

“Jonathan’s faith is very important to him,” his wife, Christine, said. “He lives his life and runs his firm based on his faith and the beliefs that come from our Catholic faith. He derives a lot of strength from his spirituality.”

Taking Catholic leap for life

Terrell decided to become Catholic when he was still a practicing Episcopalian in New York City. Also a talented musician, he sang in the choir at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and described being moved by the homilies given by Cardinal John O’Connor, the late archbishop of New York who was staunchly pro-life.

Since he was a child, and even during his teen and young adult years when he considered himself an atheist, Terrell believed deeply in the pro-life movement. He could never understand the arguments against the unborn child’s humanity. And when he learned that his Episcopal Church had a pro-choice position on the issue, Terrell said he could no longer in good conscience continue on in that church.

His dedication to the pro-life movement is an asset to Live Action, a pro-life organization where Terrell serves on the governing board. Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action, said Terrell inspires her.

“I think Jonathan brings an intense focus on the things that matter most,” Rose said. “He often asks me, ‘Lila, what’s the next big thing? What’s the number-one thing we need to accomplish?’ That very intense focus is something he brings to Live Action, to his business and to his incredible workout routine.

“I like to say I’ve learned a lot of business tips from Jonathan. I can’t say I’ve picked up his workout routine,” Rose said. “I’m embarrassed when I can tell him I ran a couple of miles and he just ran 20 that morning.”

IronMan for God

To date, Terrell has run in 19 marathons, multiple triathlons and two full IronMan competitions, where participants run a full marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and a 112-mile bicycle ride.

“It’s something to run a marathon, but imagine running a marathon after doing all that?” said Christine, who added that she and the couple’s sons, ages 12 and 14, have planned family vacations around marathons and have accompanied Jonathan to races in Paris, Rome and England.

Terrell, who trains between 20 to 25 hours a week, said he tries to involve his family as much as possible, adding that the support system is vitally important. Running may seem like a solitary sport, but he said it takes a team to be successful. “I feel physically healthy which makes me feel more spiritual healthy, and as I’ve become more spiritually healthy, I feel even more physically healthy,” Terrell said. “It’s all kind of a virtuous cycle.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN Chairman & CEO- Washington, D.C. Chapter

Under Michael Warsaw’s leadership, the Eternal Word Television Network that the late Mother Angelica founded in a monastery garage in 1981 has become the world’s largest religious media network. Today, EWTN’s global reach includes 11 television networks, as well as shortwave, satellite and AM/FM radio, online and digital media services, news and publishing. On April 12, Warsaw — a founding member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C. chapter and EWTN’s chairman and chief executive officer — was named by the Holy See, along with 12 other individuals, as a consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication. Warsaw recently spoke with Legatus Magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

Michael Warsaw

How did you come to work at EWTN?

In the late 1980s, I was the communications director at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. As part of my role there, I came to Alabama and met with Mother Angelica to talk about the possibility of televising events from the Basilica on EWTN. Over the following years, I would travel to Irondale frequently to meet with people at the network. In 1990, I had the pleasure of hosting Mother Angelica for a visit to Washington, D.C. During that visit, she at one point asked if I would come work for her. Six months later, my wife Jacqueline and I relocated from D.C., and have been here ever since.

Is Mother Angelica’s legacy still felt at EWTN?

Mother remains a strong part of the network and what the network is. As our foundress, we certainly look to her for inspiration and for guidance as we go forward. While she had been removed from active work with the network for so many years because of her stroke, she was still here with us, praying for us and we really felt that presence. Now that she’s gone home to her eternal reward, I think we also feel that presence still, and we know she’s there as a powerful intercessor for the work of the network.

EWTN has built up its news operation in recent years. Why is that?

Our commitment to presenting news from a Catholic perspective is certainly something that’s very important to us. It’s a very Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN Chairman & CEO WASHINGTON, D.C. CHAPTER strategic goal, one that we’re going to continue to develop over the coming years. Today, EWTN has the largest media group accredited to the Holy See, larger than any secular network in the world. There is much more that can be done in that area. We see it as a way of reaching people who may not be traditional viewers of our television channels or consumers of our news content and other platforms.

What were your thoughts on Pope Francis naming you as a consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication?

I was certainly very honored by the appointment from the Holy Father. I certainly see that as a really strong recognition of the role that EWTN plays today in the life of the Church. I’m happy to assist the Holy Father and the Holy See in its reorganization plan and working on its communications strategy moving forward.

As a charter member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C. Chapter, what are your thoughts on Legatus’ role in the life of the Church?

Legatus is a wonderful organization that brings together such great people who are doing important work for the Church, bringing faith and the life of the Church into their business endeavors, and into the wider culture.

Do you have time for any hobbies?

When I’m not traveling for business, one of my great joys is being able to travel with my family and to spend time with my family. We recently did a trip following the old Route 66 out to the West, which was a great experience. We also like to seek out new, interesting and unusual places along these country roads. That’s kind of a happy diversion from the day-to-day challenges.


A Father for Good

The impact of a strong dad or model business patriarch is often under-recognized today.  But a ‘Father for good’ has an undeniable legacy.

Gerard E. Mitchell is one of the nation’s best lawyers who earned a reputation as one of the most effective medical malpractive attorney’s in Washington, D.C.

Just don’t expect him to tell you that.

“Those things don’t mean too much objectively,” Mitchell, 72, says of the many awards and accolades he has earned throughout his long and distinguished legal carreer. Washingtonian Magazine has listed him amont the District of Columbia’s Best Lawyers and he is consistenly listed in the Best Lawyers of America’s Review.

“It’s nice to be mentioned in the book, but I don’t take that stuff too seriously,” said Mitchell, a charter member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C. Chapter.

That sort of modestly does not surprise people who know him, including Robert B. Desimone, Executive Director of the Youth Leadership Foundation, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that helps inner-city youth and for which Mitchell serves as the Board of Directors’ President.

Desimone recalled an important meeting with a potential grant funder who asked Mitchell what he did for work. Desimone said Mitchell simply replied, “I’m a lawyer.”

Ahem…But There’s More…

“I had to chime in,” DeSimone said. “I said, ‘He’s not just a lawyer. He’s won all these accolades and is one of the country’s best attorneys.’

“He’s not in it for the accolades,” DeSimone added. “He’s really in it for the people he’s trying to serve. That’s how he lives out his profession. He does it with a spirit of service. I think that’s where the humility comes from.”

Mitchell, a Washington, D.C. native, stays grounded with his deep Catholic faith that he says has played an important role in his life since he attended Catholic schools in his youth. Mitchell, a graduate of Georgetown University, met his wife, Germana, through pro-life work.

“We’ve always been serious right-to-lifers,” Mitchell said.

Son of a Catholic convert who Prioritized Prayer, Spirituality

His late father, Howard Mitchell, a former longtime music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was a convert to Catholicism who said the rosary every day.

Along with his father’s example, Mitchell draws inspiration from St. Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei. Mitchell, a 40-year member of Opus Dei, credits the saint’s writings and insights with imparting important life lessons such as the necessity of prayer and the need to prioritize spiritual exercises in one’s daily plan of life.

Mitchell’s discipline in the spiritual life is borne out in that he sees his primary vocation as being a faithful husband to Germana, his wife of 35 years, and as a father to his nine children, one of whom was recently ordained a Catholic priest, son John Paul.

“Your primary vocation is to the Lord,” Mitchell said. “The best thing you can do for your wife is to be faithful to the Lord, and the best thing you can do for your kids is to be faithful to your wife.”

DeSimone said many people look to Mitchell for advice about family life.

“They see his family, his wife, their nine kids, and they see a lot of happiness and virtue, and that’s attractive,” DeSimone said. “They ask him how they can get their own families to be virtuous and happy.”

Secret to Life-Balance-Keeping God First

Asked how he balances family life with professional responsibilities, Mitchell shared an insight from St. Josemaria Escriva: make time for the the important priorities first, and be unbending in keeping those commitments.

“It’s about using your time intelligently and not wasting it,” said Mitchell, who recalls as a younger man seeing the late Edward Bennett Williams at Mass every morning. Williams was a prominent Washington, D.C. trial lawyer who had ownership stakes in the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles.

“Who am I to say I’m too busy if Edward Bennett Williams has time to go to Mass every day,” said Mitchell, who emphasized that kind of time management does not require any genius on his or anyone’s part.

“It just requires will power and a certain amount of trust,” Mitchell said. “If you do what you’re supposed to do, the Lord will take care of everything else.”

In addition to his duties as a longtime partner at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP, Mitchell volunteers his time on several boards of directors for local nonprofits, including the Youth Leadership Foundation, which seeks to help inner-city youth develop positive habits related to character and hone leadership skills.

Faith Isn’t Without Works

“It helps them to acquire the sense of the importance of doing things right, of doing things in line with good character and good virtue,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell also serves on the board at the Catholic Information Center, an initiative that offers spiritual, intellectual and professional programs to help lead an integrated life. Mitchell is also on the board of directors for the Religious Freedom Institute, an organization that highlights the importance of religious liberty as a fundamental human right. Mitchell said those organizations all do a lot of good and important work.

“It’s a chance to make a contribution you couldn’t make single-handedly,” he said. “There is strength in numbers.”

Thomas Farr, a Georgetown professor who serves as president of the Religious Freedom Institute, said Mitchell is “indispensable” to the nonprofit’s board of directors.

“Not only because of his legal expertise as an attorney, but even more importantly, his savvy as a down-to-earth, getit-done kind of guy,” said Farr, who met Mitchell several years ago through various events at Georgetown. Farr said he was pleased when Mitchell accepted his invitation to serve on the RFI’s board.

Knowing His Place

“He’s extremely humble and he’s a wonderful Catholic man who believes deeply in the teachings of the Church,” Farr said. “I think his humility carries over into his legal work. However, I think it’s a big mistake to mistake his humility for an absence of precision and effectiveness as a courtroom attorney. I think he’s terrific in that capacity.”

Mitchell said he never thought of becoming anything other than an attorney. He recalls his mother telling him when he was around 5 years old that he would be a lawyer one day.

“I think it’s because I always had some kind of answer,” Mitchell said with a wry sense of humor. Despite his numerous awards, he describes himself as more of a journeyman whose results are more the the product “of perspiration than brilliance.”

“I’m not a guy that can read executive memos. Nobody’s going to confuse me with a whiz kid,” Mitchell said.

Those who know Mitchell would disagree with that self-assessment, but would agree that he has an unparalleled work ethic, which goes in line with the spirituality rooted in the everyday workplace and home that Opus Dei espouses. Mitchell said several of St. Josemaria Escriva’s writings anticipate what Legatus members do in terms of harmonizing and integrating their faith into business life.

“St. Josemaria understands the modern secular world and how it’s possible to function in that in a really normal way and still live your life to the fullest,” said Mitchell, who added that Legatus has also provided an invaluable forum for he and Germana to make friendships and deepen their faith.

“Legatus is helpful to me,” he said. “It’s a fun date night for us and we’ve made some friendships through Legatus that have been wonderful to have. I’m sure there’s more to come.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.