Overland Park — When Mary Jo met Phil Doherty in the 1960s, she could never have guessed she would represent the Catholic community in northeast Kansas for the annual Archbishop’s Call to Share appeal. Mary Jo was not Catholic and had no inclination to become Catholic. That would change when the young couple met Father Carl Zawacki.
Father Zawacki was a childhood friend of Phil’s when they were growing up in Kansas City, Kan. He officiated at Phil’s wedding, and soon became a close friend of the Dohertys’ growing family. Mary Jo entered the church three years later, inspired by Father Zawacki’s joyful priestly ministry.
Each year, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann appoints a person or couple who exemplifies a true spirit of stewardship. That begins with a selfless approach to life, and a recognition that everything — above all, life itself — is a gift from God. Our Catholic faith, a true treasure, wealth beyond measure, is a grace lavished upon us by a merciful and loving God.
This year, the archbishop has named Phil and Mary Jo Doherty of Ascension Parish in Overland Park as the chairpersons for the 2013 Archbishop’s Call to Share appeal. The Dohertys exemplify the spirit of stewardship to which we are each called.
Giving is not an afterthought for the Dohertys. It is their first thought. They have given selflessly of their time for the past eight years. On behalf of Archbishop Naumann, they invite everyone to learn more about those who are helped by the Archbishop’s Call to Share and to respond generously when asked to give.
“Every year more than 40 different ministries are assisted by the Archbishop’s Call to Share. A few years ago, we visited El Centro, a Hispanic outreach center,” said Mary Jo. “When we learned that more that 15,000 people are helped each year — with child care; education; legal, medical and financial help; food and emergency assistance — well, it was just overwhelming.”
Mary Jo and Phil have nurtured faith in their family and now help advance the mission of the Archbishop’s Call to Share so that others may share our Catholic faith.
“This is our eighth year as volunteers for the Call to Share. Each year, we have been honored to speak at Masses and tell the stories of great need and even greater love that we witness among those we meet,” said Mary Jo. “The Archbishop’s Call to Share is truly a blessing for us. We get much more out of the experience than we give.”
The respect life apostolate of the archdiocese is especially close to their hearts. The devastating effects of abortion on women are profound. “One in four women in America experience an abortion,” Phil said. “Project Rachel is one of the programs supported by the Call to Share appeal. It provides spiritual and emotional healing and is in the heart of our Catholic faith.” Phil and Mary Jo and all those who support the Call to Share are helping women fight depression, anxiety disorders and failed relationships due to abortion.
Mary Jo and Phil are the proud grandparents of eight “little ones” that range in age from nine to 27. Their two children have devoted their lives to public service: Stacy is a paramedic and Jeff is a firefighter.
“After Sept. 11, we grew in our admiration for our children and their careers. If they had been in New York that day,” said Mary Jo, “they would have gone into the World Trade Center without hesitation.”
This family has “giving” in their DNA. But it is more than that. “It’s simple,” said Phil. “Jesus taught us to be good to our neighbors. So we are.”
When it comes to youth activities, it is clear where Mary Jo’s heart is. “Camp Tekakwitha at Prairie Star Ranch is so special to our youth — and to us,” she said. “Anyone who sees those kids knows the change it makes in their lives. They will take these experiences with them their entire lives.”
The Dohertys have faced their share of heartbreak and sorrow through the years. Divorce has impacted the lives of those around them. Younger generations in the family are sometimes unprepared to live their faith with conviction.
Like most families, they see the cultural changes making changes in their own family. But this does not diminish the joy of believing seen in the Dohertys. Their faith never fails them, and their enthusiasm to share the joy of believing only grows stronger.
“Sunday Mass is a respite for me,” said Mary Jo. “It is refreshing and prepares me for the week.”
Mary Jo and Phil are joyful parents and grandparents, ready to reach out when any need arises.