By Rosalie Tomeny
For decades, Andy and Pat Shannon have donated their time, talent and treasure to advancing the mission of the Society of Jesus. Each encountered the Jesuits at an early age.
Mr. Shannon graduated from Jesuit High School in Dallas in 1954. While there, Jesuit fathers Mike Kammer and Julius May made indelible impressions on him. A quality education and faith formation are two main gifts for which Mr. Shannon is grateful, in addition to the lifelong friendships he formed there — his friends from Jesuit often meet for lunch and conversation.
Pat Shannon has her own longstanding ties to the Jesuits. Born in Minneapolis, she recalls meeting Fr. William [Bill] Kelley, SJ, when she was about 10.
“I felt as if he saw my essence, and he made me feel special,” she said. “I remember it still, and it warms my heart.”
Mrs. Shannon also has a family connection to the Jesuits: her cousin, Fr. James Bretzke, SJ, is a professor of theology at John Carroll University in Cleveland.
The Shannons began making retreats as a married couple at Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas, Texas, in 1969. The fruits of those encounters with God and the Jesuits have encouraged them to work with and support the Jesuits financially. They developed strong friendships with several Jesuits.
“They were often guests in our home,” Mrs. Shannon said.
She feels blessed to have had several Jesuit priests serve as her spiritual director, one of whom – the late Fr. George Wiltz, SJ – encouraged and supported her training in spiritual direction. Years later, Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ, certified her as a spiritual director.
“The reality of living as a person and couple for others permeates our life,” they said. “We are keenly aware that we are created with purpose. We love God as we love and serve others.”
The Shannons have served as premarital counselors and eucharistic ministers at their parish (St. Patrick in Dallas) for more than 40 years. Mrs. Shannon has volunteered at Montserrat Retreat House and continues to serve at Jesuit Dallas as a docent for the art museum.
The couple’s three sons – Mike ’78, Mark ‘79 and Matthew ’90 – all attended Jesuit Dallas. Their daughter, Mary Elizabeth, a 1982 graduate of Ursuline Academy, took a physics course at Jesuit, so all four children enjoyed the Jesuit experience. Mrs. Shannon served on the school board at Jesuit while her youngest
son was a student.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Shannon participate in the Jesuit College Prep prayer group. “We have benefited from the prayers of others and pray with all our hearts for those who ask,” Pat said.
The Shannons remain invested in Jesuit education decades after their own children attended. The Shannon Family Scholarship – A Man for Others, which awards tuition assistance to a junior at Jesuit Dallas each year – is one way they continue to make an impact.
In addition, inspired by the impact the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius have had on their lives, they donate to Jesuit formation and Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House.
Mrs. Shannon has made a 30-day silent retreat at the Jesuit retreat house in Grand Coteau, La., and Mr. Shannon makes a retreat annually.
“The fruits of the Jesuits’ work motivate us,” said Andy.
Several Jesuits are beloved by the Shannons and have made a positive difference in their lives, including Jesuit Fathers Tetlow, Paul Deutsch and Wally Sidney, as well as Br. Ferrell Blank. Still, the couple continues to make new friends in the Society. They have found the message of Fr. William Barry, SJ, particularly inspiring and have enjoyed reading Fr. Mark Thibodeaux’s books.
Having been around Jesuits their whole lives, they find that they grow more impressed by the Society’s work as the years go by, and more assured of God’s presence and love.
“We believe God is within and around us always,” they said. “We are cradle Catholics and feel affirmed and loved as we work with the Jesuits and live the Spiritual Exercises as laypersons.”
It is Jesuit education and the concept of magis that is most impressive to them.
“Jesuit education forms men and women who make good, solid changes in themselves and the world,” they said. “Magis, the more, impels us.”