Committed to community.
Standing by each other in good times and bad.
Rooted in Christ.
This Giving Day 2021, we are honoring our fellow alumni and the difference they make in our lives. Let’s share stories about how our friends in the Christendom alumni community have supported us or made a difference in our lives. This year, as we Stand Together and draw strength from our Christendom roots, let’s reconnect by sharing memories of fellow students and alumni—from our time at Christendom and beyond—making an impact in our lives.
Make-A-Difference Stories from Alumni
Annie Sullivan (‘20)
The Christendom alumni family helped me with the difficult transition from student to graduate. Following graduation, thanks to Vince Criste’s (‘98) recommendation, I was offered a job in Christendom’s Advancement Department. I am so grateful for the chance to work with an amazing team and give back to Christendom in a unique way.
Back in June 2020, while excited to move and start post-grad life in Front Royal, I was worried about friendships since most of my closest friends from school were not staying in the Front Royal area. A few days before I moved from Nebraska to Virginia, though, my fellow classmate, Isabella Reilly, called me to let me know she too was employed by Christendom’s Advancement Department and would be living around the corner from me. Isabella and I weren’t super close while at school, so I was a little surprised when she called me. But we ended up talking for a long time and she reassured me that it was all going to be fine. Now, as fellow employees, we’ve become good friends. In the first months, when I was tempted to just stay at home alone, Isabella often invited me over to her place for game nights or just good conversations and tea. Along with Isabella, several older alumni offered lots of support and advice over the last several months, checking in on me every now and then and inviting me out or to their homes.
While moving to Virginia, starting a new job, living alone, and becoming staff at Christendom were all difficult changes, the strong presence of Christendom alumni reminds me that I’m not alone in all this change. While I’m states away from my immediate and extended family members, Christendom alumni have been a second family to me and helped me during a time when I was very lonely. Among others, I’m so grateful to Isabella Reilly (‘20), Johanna Burke (‘19), Marilyn Charba (‘14), Maura McMahon (‘09), and the Criste, Jalsevac, Wilson, Rohlena, and Halisky families for being alumni who’ve really helped me amidst so much change. They’ve helped make Front Royal home again.
Adam Wilson (‘07)
Kevin Fox (’04) made a huge impact on my life. We first met when he was my RA in my first year at Christendom. I enjoyed the privilege of “flying under the radar” as one of the only freshmen living in an all-seniors dorm. We reconnected years later after we had both gotten married and had several kids. At the time, I was scouting around for my next career move and Kevin offered helpful advice not just about jobs but about being a Catholic father and husband. Kevin invited me to join a local Catholic men’s group that met for bonfires once a month. Thanks to this connection, I was able to make friends with Greg Settducati and several other alumni and other Catholic men seeking to improve has husbands and fathers. The guys in this group gave me a lot of much-needed guidance as well as a prayer network through which to support each other’s families. I’m very grateful for the difference Kevin made and continues to make in my life!
Isabella Reilly (‘20)
The drive back from the Christendom Graduate school (in Alexandria) to Front Royal can be painfully long, especially at night after a two-hour theology class. My brain was usually fried, and I was almost always starving and exhausted. Fortunately for me, alumnae Lily Mann, Cabrina Gorges, and Riley Lane, all Class of 2020, had a warm and welcoming home right off 66. Every Thursday (the same day as my class), Lily, Cabrina, and Riley hosted a “Family Dinner Night”
with several other alumni and had extended an open invitation for me to stop by after class. I would come exhausted and hungry to their door and they would give me lots of delicious food and good laughs before sending me on my way home. I am so grateful for their hospitality!
Niall O’Donnell (’03)
I landed in Rome in the Fall of 2003, a newly-minted Christendom alumnus ready to take on graduate studies in the Eternal City. I quickly learned that life in a city, even as beautiful and spiritually rich as Rome, could be very lonely. Step in Alphonse Pinto (Class of 2000). Alphonse, who was also pursuing a graduate degree, became a great friend and mentor. He hosted myself and many friends countless times for wonderful feasts, expanding our horizons culinarily and theologically every time. His dedication to the Church and the saints made a big impact on me. After three years of wonderful adventures—from making hilarious music videos to navigating the darker streets of Rome, from exploring Italy’s lake towns and hill countries to meeting Pope St. John Paul II—I can say with certainty, that I would not have survived nor had such a rich Roman experience without Alphonse’s friendship and guidance. Thank you, Alphonse!
Vince Criste (’98)
As part of a new year’s resolution, I decided to “grab the bull by the horns” and attack the paperwork clutter on my home office desk. Five years ago, my father passed away and I received many cards, emails, and kind gestures from friends, parishioners, and alumni. It was with mixed emotions that I unearthed the particular “pile” of sympathy cards from that time and read the thoughtfulness of so many good souls. As I reached the bottom of the stack, I came across a very nice card that, to my profound joy, indicated that indeed 30 days of Masses were being offered for the repose of the soul of my dad. Who sent that card and arranged for these Masses? None other than (the late) Brendan and Susan McGuire (’03). Thank you, Brendan and Susan … what a wonderful act of charity for my father and a deeply meaningful gift you gave to me and my extended family.
Johanna Burke (’19)
A beautiful thing about friendships between Christendom alumni is that they easily extend beyond the different Christendom “generations.” This has been the case with my dear friend Jess Schmidt (’15). My senior year I decided to participate in a spring break mission trip in Denver to work with the homeless, and when Mr. Brown opened up the mission trip program to alumni, Jess decided to attend, a testament to her generosity and heart for service. This mission trip was the start of our friendship, but certainly not the end. We reconnected after I graduated and became fast friends, and eventually became housemates too. She introduced me to many of her friends, welcomed me to her bible study, invited me to young adult events at our parish, and even got me involved with an ultimate frisbee league. Even though we never attended Christendom together, we still have Christendom to thank for our friendship and enjoy looking back at the similar experiences we shared
Zach Smith (’14)
During my first three years as a Christendom student, I can’t really say I did much at the college outside of spending time with my group of friends and studying. When it came to events and college life, I coasted through much of it without ever stopping to truly appreciate all the college had to offer. That all changed when Caitlin Bowers (’09) offered me a position on the Student Activities Council for my senior year. Thanks to Caitlin, who was Director of Student Activities at the time, I truly fell in love with Christendom for the first time. Even more than that, she was incredibly generous with her time, never failing to be there for a one-on-one conversation or for a helpful bit of advice. It was Caitlin that pushed me to work at Christendom after graduation. After I initially did not get a position, I applied for, I went off to work at Disney, but Caitlin kept in touch, again with the encouragement. When I eventually did return to Christendom to work in the Marketing Department, it was Caitlin who made sure to congratulate me and welcome me back first. I can safely say that, thanks to her, I not only fell in love with my alma mater, but I was also able to give back to it in a way I never anticipated. Thank you, Caitlin!
Lily Mann (‘20)
2020 came, the pandemic hit, and praise God the Class of ‘20 still graduated. Then we had to make our way into the crazy society of the post-Christendom world. Thankfully, none of us were alone: we had a long legacy of Christendom graduates to help us make our way. Most memorable to my journey so far have been Cabrina Gorges, Isabella Reilly, Riley and Josh Lane, and Tom Anderson, all of whom graduated from Christendom in the last few years. This group of alumni has given me a sense of normalcy in a trying year as well as the intellectual stimulation that helped us thrive at Christendom. Through our strengthening friendships, our support of each other, and our common commitment to live out the mission of Christendom to restore all things in Christ, I have come to realize that a Christendom alum is never alone because we are always part of the Christendom community that is a true family.
Cabrina Gorges (‘20)
Starting out on your own after graduation isn’t easy to begin with. Try starting out during a pandemic when no events are going on and people are afraid to meet. I’ve been so blessed by Christendom alumni of different classes. Moving from Oklahoma to NOVA has been an adjustment but friends from the Classes of 2020 and of 2018 have been so helpful in helping me get involved in the community. In a situation where few events are going on, I’ve seen many Christendom alumni pull together to help each other branch out into new circles and communities. I will be forever grateful for the support and friendship shown by my Christendom family. It’s a great reminder that we never truly start out on our own.
Henry Love (‘19)
In my first year as a missionary on a state school, it was very daunting to be on a college campus with little faith and almost no families at all. But there was one family who was always at daily mass and always willing to invite me over to help me adjust to the area. It was Karl and Melanie Haislmaier (’11/’12) with their two boys, Joe and Thomas. It was such a source of joy for me to have at least one growing family around in a world where no students wanted to even consider starting a family yet. They were an incredible influence not only on me, but on the students here as well. I wish I could’ve been here for more than just a year with them!