This is part one of a three-part series in how Archdiocesan schools offer faith-in-action opportunities to students. 


“A lot of seeds getting planted in you.”

As warm sunshine blazed upon the soil outside Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor on a picture-postcard April afternoon, a dozen students decided to forgo enjoying the rays. Instead, they found a longtime financial executive in the Delaware Valley watering their spiritual soil with those words and many more.

Paul Mulholland, a retired treasurer at Sunoco, came to Carroll’s finance club not to learn about and discuss the newest philosophies in investment portfolio management.

He instead spent an hour sharing where to find God in the journey of a financial career, inspired to share that perspective because of Carroll’s Faith in Finance student club, shepherded by ACHS Campus Ministry Director Fr. Mark Cavara.

It’s one of a series of new courses, clubs and activities that numerous Archdiocesan high school are implementing across fields from business to ethics and even the sports world, planting seeds of realization on where students can encounter God far beyond church walls, religion classes and personal prayer time.

As students sat intently in desk chairs similar to what they might find in a Fortune 500 office, Mulholland used the tail end of his talk to convey how he parlayed his financial career success into a ministry of social responsibility in the example of St. Vincent de Paul.

“He went up with the poorest of the poor in the Paris slums,” Mulholland said. “He knew prayers are nice, but you’ve got to eat.”

Paul Mulholland, a retired treasurer at Sunoco, speaks to Archbishop Carroll High School students during Faith in Finance Club. (Jay Sorgi)

Mulholland watered the students’ soil that Monday afternoon with his stories of a vocation of service with the St. Vincent de Paul Society and St. John’s Hospice in Center City, in everything from feeding men both meals and conversation to serving on St. John’s advisory board.

“Whether it’s grace, whether it’s the Holy Ghost, but when I’m with some of these families,” he said, “that’s what the faith is for. One of our mantras is to see the face of Jesus…it’s a bunch of men and a bread line going in. And in the middle of it, you can see there, there he is from the back, Jesus.”

If that doesn’t sound much like analysis of the latest trends in mutual funds, that career wisdom is not why students like sophomore Therese Laphen take part.

“Hearing how people keep their faith in their jobs,” in her words, is why she spends that post-school late-afternoon hour on a regular basis.

“A club like this offers an opportunity for you,” Laphen said. “My faith is a big part of my life…I hear how it relates to me and how I can bring it back to my life.”

Laphen happily blames club CEO James Klusarits, a junior at Carroll, for corralling her into the organization that includes a monthly inspirational speaker series with business leaders like Mulholland.

“It’s a great time to learn about these people’s path and how they chose their career and how faith has impacted that decision,” said Klusarits. “It’s just really important having faith when you’re trying to choose your career.”

These informal lessons come at times when students are becoming much more thoughtful of future career paths, and schools like Carroll have realized this may be the most opportune time for such faith formation.

“When Father (Cavara) came to me last year about this, it was really about meeting people, often successful people, but [revealing] that faith has a huge component, whether they’re aware of it or not, through their journey,” said Carroll President Dr. Tricia Scott.

“I love the idea because it’s subtle, but it’s really important that kids are constantly reminded about God in ways that are just everyday moments.”

Dr. Scott calls such seed-panting the most powerful way to reach teenagers at this point in their lives, and compared how schools are now much more aware of this kind of faith-building pathway compared to when she attended a Catholic high school.

“It wasn’t the norm,” said Dr. Scott, who noted one priest at her school made that aspect of understanding God in the daily journey more present to her, but not with such a structural scholastic or extracurricular component.

“To really meet people in our area, in our community who talk about not only what they do for a living, but how God made a difference in that? I’ve never heard of that before, until Fr. Mark brought it up last year, and I thought it was brilliant.”

“Having speakers who embody both faith and success in business has made this Faith In Finance club both pleasant & professional,” Fr. Cavara said, evoking a favorite phrase.

That pleasant atmosphere allows for students to open up about the challenges they are discerning about their own journeys, things she says Catholic dogma and tradition may not directly teach.

“I love the small format, because then the kids really feel like they have a connection there,” said Dr. Scott. “They’re asking really poignant questions, like ‘How did you know God was there? Where were you when that happened?’ They’re very curious.”

Dr. Scott says the inquisitiveness of youth is spawning these teenagers to ask where God can be found, an important journey they each must take.

“ ‘Meet me where I am,’” she said. “We’re able to meet them where they are in this moment and talk about God in a way that kids are open about it, and have an open heart about it.”

Dr. Scott said that in general, youth are finding a harder time as teenagers, and calls faith the strongest way to get kids through what they endure.

“Every way we can touch them, whether it’s subtle – such as Faith and Finance – or whether it’s in a classroom, I think all of those add up to something pretty wonderful for them,” she said.

“I think it’s important that they see that you can be successful, and you can be really faith-filled, and success doesn’t mean money,” Dr. Scott adds. “You can be successful in life, but you’ve got to have that faith in God in there, because it will make a huge difference in the end.”

Such classes and clubs in numerous Archdiocesan high schools are planting those seeds, showing plenty of evidence that lives of faith in action can grow from the sunlit soil of our young people.

“If you’re doing a lot of the right things now, keep it up,” said Mulholland to those dozen students on that sunny April day. “It pays dividends.”