“By giving together as one, great, diocesan family, we will be bonded as a team for the future of our faith and our Church,” say Rowan and Julie Taylor, who have agreed to serve again as lay chair couple of the Annual Catholic Appeal.
“Rowan and I are excited to be a part of the new structure of the expanded lay committee,” says Julie. “We are particularly enthusiastic about working with Maureen and Mike Considine and Elena and Steve Schlegel, who join us in our commitment to sustain our faith and empower the young Church.”
“People need to know that the work of the diocese goes on in every community,” says Maureen, explaining one of the reasons she and Mike were happy to sign on as a chair couple. “There’s a lot the Church does behind the scenes that people don’t know about.”
Maureen and Mike and their five children are parishioners of St. Cecilia Parish in Stamford. Though they have lived in other cities, in one of the unexpected twists of life, they ended up back at the parish where Maureen was baptized and grew up. (Mike is originally from the Bronx.) Maureen graduated from
Georgetown University and obtained masters degrees in international affairs and public health from Columbia University. She worked with Catholic Relief Services in Thailand after she graduated Georgetown, an experience that profoundly affected her faith.
“I was working in a camp about an hour from Bangkok. We had Cambodians fleeing for their lives and Vietnamese seeking a better life. So many were unaccompanied minors. It gives me an insight into the refugee crisis we’re experiencing now.”
She is a Dame of Malta, and she and Mike have accompanied the sick and infirm on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lourdes in France Mike is a graduate of Boston College. After graduating from the Georgetown University Law Center, he became a federal prosecutor in New York. “Maureen and I missed each other by a year at Georgetown,” he says. They met instead at an alumni gathering in Manhattan. They were married at St. Cecilia’s, where Maureen now teaches religious education in the parish where she received all her own sacraments. She also volunteers as a Eucharistic Minister at Stamford Hospital.
Mike, a partner and co-head of the Government Investigations Practice Group at the Seward and Kissel law firm in NYC, is proud of the solid Jesuit foundation he received in college. He serves on the board of Fordham Prep in the Bronx and the Ignatian Spirituality Center at Fairfield University.
“We have to provide opportunities for people to renew their faith,” says Mike, holding up the collaboration between the diocese and Ignatian Center as an example. “One of the things I raised when I met the bishop was the importance of adult education and adult formation. People have a hunger for spiritual formation, and this lines up perfectly with one of the aims of the Diocesan Synod.”
Mike volunteers at St. Camillus Residence in Stamford on Saturdays, spending several hours each week bringing the Eucharist and visiting the residents.
The second vice chair couple, Elena and Steve Schlegel, both grew up in Fairfield County, she in New Canaan and Steve in Trumbull, where he graduated from St. Joseph High School. Steve earned his undergraduate degree from Boston College and his MBA from Harvard University. Elena went to the University of New Hampshire where she earned her undergraduate degree in communications.
“We met through a friend while we were both living in Boston,” Elena recalls. At the time, Steve was working at State Street Bank as an investment banker and Elena was the director of Human Resources for MFS Financial. “Our friend knew how important it was for Steve to meet a practicing Catholic girl. One day she learned that I went to Mass every Sunday. That was it!”
They found they had another common interest. Both liked to run: Elena had been in a few races, and Steve ran in a marathon or two. With faith and energy bonding them, they were married in 1992 at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan. They relocated to Connecticut when Steve became the chief operating officer of NYC/Tri-State region for JLL (real estate) in New York City.
Elena gave up her professional career so they could start their family. Again, coming back to their roots as the Considines had done, they and their three children are members of St. Aloysius Parish where Elena grew up. Even though their children have graduated from the parish religious education program, Elena still teaches the fourth-grade students.
Elena and their daughter, Katherine, recently became Eucharistic Ministers. “We served at Midnight Mass together this Christmas,” says Elena, her voice rich with awe recalling this faith-filled moment.
Steve has coached town rec baseball for many years. He went with Katherine on a mission trip to Puerto Rico last year, an eye-opening experience for him. “When Julie asked us to be part of the appeal, we didn’t fully understand what it was all about,” Elena says. “When we saw the appeal video, we couldn’t believe how much the Church is doing. Anything we can do to strengthen it is important. If our friends see us getting involved, maybe it will make them become connected and see why this means so much.”
Julie and Rowan have felt the same experience, and hope that they and their vice chair couples will be able to spread the message throughout the diocese. “Working with Bishop Frank and the Development Office allowed us to deepen our faith by further discovering the amazing works and ministries of our diocese. This year, we fervently hope that all will see that every donation, no matter how small or how large, makes a difference.”
By Pat Hennessy