Father Tom grew up in the Marquette Park area on Chicago’s South Side, a graduate of St. Rita of Cascia High School. Ordained in the Augustinian Order, he returned to St. Rita, where he worked first as school chaplain, then as president, president/principal and finally as chairman of the board. “I couldn’t imagine 21 happier years,” he says.
After St. Rita, Father Tom recruited members to the Augustinian Order as vocation director. “I loved working with these young men who were thinking that God was calling them to the religious life, and talking about something I believed in and I was living,” Father Tom says. As a result of his efforts, five men were ordained, ending a dry spell of 16 years without a single ordination.
Father Tom and Sister Therese are second cousins and knew each other growing up, “but I didn’t get to know her well until I entered religious life,” he recalls. “The first time I visited St. Martin’s, it was in a converted drugstore. I was flabbergasted that they were doing all of this great work in those conditions. It was pretty primitive, with a big dorm room, but it was an oasis in the middle of the neighborhood. That touched me, and I got to know Sr. Therese on a more personal basis. I saw the good work she did, and I started showing up.”
Father Tom showed up a lot. He said mass at Christmas, by a feast and presents for every woman and child at the shelter coordinated by the Dunleavy family. He coordinated concerts, so the residents’ choir could sing with the choir at St. Rita’s. He is proud that two young seminarians, Brother Phillip Yang and Brother Sam Joutros, have interned at St. Martin de Porres House of Hope.
Father Tom says he continues to support the work at St. Martin. “These women may be having some difficulty in their lives, but they’re willing to work hard and turn their lives around. Anything in life that is worthwhile is going to take a lot of effort. I’m impressed with St. Martin’s dedicated staff and their success rate is unbelievable,” he says.
“It’s almost sad that St. Martin de Porres House of Hope has to exist, but I’m glad that it is here. If we didn’t have problems, we wouldn’t need these places. We’re all human. Life happens. I’m glad that St. Martin de Porres House of Hope is around.”
Join us for our 35th Anniversary Celebration on May 19, 2018. Tickets and info: http://www.35thanniversaryofhope.org