Regnum Christi Spotlight featuring Mary Therrell

Back to My Roots…

Isn’t it funny how God sometimes sends us on a long journey only to bring us back to where we started?

My parents were native New Yorkers. Both of them were born and raised in The Bronx and attended Catholic schools. After a couple of years of marriage and a couple of kids, they made the move out to the New Jersey suburbs. Holiday visits were spent shuttling around to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in The Bronx, Manhattan, Brewster, and the far-off suburbs of Washington, D.C. I have such fond, childhood memories of great times with my extended family. I think it was a shock to everyone when my father’s job took us across the country to southern California.

I don’t recall much of our time in California as I was only 5 when we moved there. I remember learning how to speak properly (the way my peers spoke) thereby losing my NY/NJ accent. More significantly, I remember my parent’s marriage falling apart, my father’s absence from our home, and my mom moving my 4 brothers and me “back east” where we could be reunited with all the family we had left behind.

With the support of family, we settled in Bowie, Maryland where my mom worked hard to earn a living and raise 5 children on her own. She was a woman of remarkable integrity and strength, but during those difficult years in California, my mother drifted away from the Church. I’m certain it was the prayers of so many family and friends (and, of course, The Hound of Heaven) that lead my mom back to the Faith. She had a deep experience of the Holy Spirit through her involvement in a charismatic prayer group. This is where we learned about a small Catholic college in Ohio called the University of Steubenville (now Franciscan University). That is where I ended up attending college and earning my degree in Elementary Education.

I had 4 great years in Steubenville. During those years, I experienced the Lord’s tremendous love for me and His desire that I learn to trust Him. I began to reflect on the impact of my own father’s absence in my life and that I would not be able to trust my heavenly Father, until I could forgive my earthly father.

Once again, I was able to learn from my mother’s example. She had forgiven my father years ago and encouraged me to let go of the pain his absence had caused me over the years. That was easier said than done. It took my own failed marriage to truly start me on the road toward healing. Through the annulment process, I learned so much about myself and why I made the choices I made. I found the whole process to be difficult, but very much a healing and learning experience.

I knew the Lord was calling me to a deeper relationship with him and I was searching for a way to do that.  I was fortunate to connect with some friends who invited me to a fellowship prayer group. This group was affiliated with a non-denominational community. I was very attracted to the joy of the people in this community and began to consider joining them.

In the meantime, my mom was inviting me to these morning retreats at Our Lady of Bethesda, in Maryland. She had become a member of Regnum Christi and wanted me to experience what they had to offer. The joy and the charity of the ladies I encountered at OLB made a huge impression on me. I was torn. When I shared this with my mom, she posed a simple question. She asked, “In this other community, will you ever receive a teaching about the Eucharist, or about Mary?” Her wise words opened my eyes. I wanted to learn more about the Eucharist and about Mary. I wanted to learn more about my Catholic Faith and live it more fully. In October, 2000, I incorporated into Regnum Christi.

It was such a pleasure to be involved with the events offered at the retreat center in Bethesda. As a team leader, my RC team generally consisted of single, professional women and sometimes married women with older children. Most of us were in time-consuming careers (I had earned my MEd and moved into Catholic school administration in 2005). While many of us were not able to run apostolates, we often support the various events at Our Lady of Bethesda. We would serve as retreat animators, hospitality for marriage enrichment events, and table facilitators during evenings of reflection.

Over the years, spiritual direction played a major role in helping me grow spiritually and emotionally. When my mom passed away, quite suddenly, in 2009, my spiritual director helped me process the loss and guide me through the grieving process. He would listen and encourage, but would also give me a little push, when needed. That is when the growth would happen! During that time of loss, our Regnum Christi and Legionary families pulled together to support me and my family. I will never forget the ladies from my mom’s team gathering around her bedside singing hymns. It was heavenly!

After my mom passed away my cousin and I began discussing the possibility of my moving up to Danbury to be closer to my aunt and uncle in their later years. I knew leaving would be difficult. I had been a teacher and administrator in the Catholic schools in the Arlington Diocese for over 30 years. It would be hard to leave my job, my friends, but especially my RC family in the DC area. My desire to spend time with my aunt and uncle while they were still in good health and to be there to help when needed, overtook any misgivings about making the move.

I took comfort in knowing I would be able to connect with Regnum Christi in the NY tri-state area and I have not been disappointed. I am meeting such wonderful people and am learning so much about what we have to offer the communities we serve.

My life’s journey started in the NY tri-state area and took some turns through California, Maryland, and Virginia, but here I am back in the tri-state area, back to my roots. I am thrilled to be serving as the new administrative assistant for the RC NY Tri-State and will be helping with some of the behind-the-scenes work that is necessary for events to go off smoothly. I look forward to meeting more of my RC NY Tri-State Family!