YOU ARE a prolific Catholic writer. Are you a cradle Catholic or did you convert at some particular point in your life?

I have been a Catholic all my life, my mother was a southern Baptist when she gave birth to me, but she later became a very fervent Catholic. My grandmother from my father’s side, instead, was a very devout Catholic all her life, and she had a great devotion to St. Anthony. She named my father John Anthony, and she taught me a lot about being a praying person.


As a grandmother, what kind of teachings do you wish to pass on to your grandchildren?

My grandchildren asks a lot of questions about God and I dedicate much time and seriousness to all their questions. Christmas seems like a wonderful opportunity to talk about God because children love this season. So I made sure that both households have a Nativity Set, and I had the opportunity to set it up with them and speak about each person present at the Nativity scene. I believe that this is the best way to pass on a Christian message to young children.


Is it easy to talk about God to children?

In some ways it gets harder because we can get by with fancy words with adults, but with children it is different. I wrote a book for children called Forgiving Is Smart for Your Heart. In it I tell things straight, because that is the only way of communicating with children. So I think it is harder in a way, but I love it, partly because I myself have grandchildren.

I want to communicate with children in a simple yet accurate way about the importance of the Divine in our lives.


You volunteer at the Garden of Gratitude at St. Timothy Church, your parish. What does this organisation try to do?

The Garden of Gratitude is a plot of land cultivated by volunteers from our parish. We grow our own produce, largely vegetables, and deliver this food twice a week to the poor, who receive it with great gratitude.

This initiative was started by a pastor whose early upbringing was in farming, and he got this idea from the example of a Presbyterian church across the street from us which has a similar initiative.


As a member of the Adult Faith Formation Committee what, on the basis of your experience, usually drives adults to religious education again?

I think they want to be able to speak to their children. Many people conclude their religious education when they graduate from school, so when they become parents they often experience difficulties in communicating religious and spiritual values to their children. To help parents in this important task our committee has set up activities which engage the whole family so that they can have the same faith experience with their children. And then it is easier for parents to converse with their children on religious topics.

These activities with whole families are very popular and well-attended. We are currently planning a bus trip to the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Thomas Merton, the American Trappist, lived. These enjoyable family trips offer great opportunities to impart religious values to children.


You also volunteer with CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates for children). Could you explain to us what this work involves?

Children often end up as part of a court case because of the action of one or both of their parents. Sometimes they are removed from their home because of physical danger to them or because of parental neglect. When this happens the judge appoints a custodian. In that capacity it is my task to  visit the child’s home and talk to his or her parents. I then also talk to the child’s teachers to get an overall view of the effects that the troubles at home are having on the child. I then report my findings to the judge, who will then have to decide whether the child can remain at home with one or both of his or her parents or whether it is best to transfer the child to a safer, healthier environment. I have had very tender experiences with young children in this capacity, and I am glad to help them in this way.


Two months ago you interviewed former American President Jimmy Carter. Did anything in this interview strike you in particular?

It was quite a privilege to speak with former President Jimmy Carter. He is a very gracious, kind and knowledgeable man. In the interview he told me that he has taught Sunday School for almost 70 years. He is a devout Baptist, and his knowledge of the Scriptures is wide-ranging. In the interview he spoke to me of his meeting with Pope John Paul II. This was the first time ever that a pope had set foot in the White House. The private meeting took place in the Oval Office on 6 October, 1979, and lasted for an hour. The former President also told me that he had written to Pope Francis, advocating for a greater role for women in the life of the Church and in society as a whole.

Jimmy Carter has just written a new book titled A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power, in which he says that the biggest challenge facing our world today is the subjugation and abuse of girls and women. He addresses the issue with a global perspective, and it is really a powerful book. I read it in just one day. He speaks out of personal experience and then moves from what is in his own heart to approach the problems of the world.


You have written Anthony of Padua: Finding Our Way. In the book you associate St. Anthony with spiritual retreats. Could you explain this connection?

I had to write that book because of my love for St. Anthony and also because I wanted to help people connect with him. The book was inspired by a weekend retreat on St. Anthony for Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg.

During the retreat, I tried to apply the example of Anthony to everyday life.  I developed the notion of carving out more time in our daily lives to do God’s work, as Anthony did. I also spoke about identifying the losses we have experienced – and letting go of regrets. Then we shared about treasures we have found, celebrating them, just as Anthony celebrated the return of his missing book – and the Franciscan novice who returned it to him.


You are obviously very devoted to St. Anthony. What is it about this Saint that particularly appeals to you?

I identify with the challenge that he faced between the inner life and the outer life, the outer life being our relationships with other people. Anthony wanted to be a hermit, but he was called by God to became a preacher. As such, he was able to inspire Catholics to keep their own traditions and not fall into heresy. I am facing the same challenge between the outer and the inner life that he was facing, and I think that many other people do as well. It is hard to find time to pray and time to be there for others in a loving way. I am inspired by Anthony’s example in reconciling the two.


Do you have any early recollection concerning the Saint?

I don’t have particular memories, but my grandmother’s example did inspire me. Upon her death I was given a carved box which belonged to her. This box contained some devotional items – a very tiny Bible, a tiny prayer book in German, and a blackened statue of St. Anthony. When I touched that box for the first time I felt a strong connection to her and to her deep faith. I still take that box out from time to time, especially when I wish to be close to her. So it was through my grandmother that I got to know about devotion to God and to St. Anthony.


How do you relate to St. Anthony in your everyday life?

Sometimes I think of myself as a defender of Anthony. He was so knowledgeable of Scripture that it is  said that if all the books of the Bible were missing we would be able to recreate the Bible from his sermons.

Because of my connection to the Sisters of St. Francis, I have a great devotion to Francis, and I feel that one way of making the Franciscan tradition better known to people is to present the figure of Francis together with that of Anthony. This is because both figures complement each other. Francis was not a learned man; he was a wonderful poet, but he was not ordained, and he was simple. Anthony, on the other hand, was very learned. So it is by looking at the two of them together that you learn about the Franciscan approach to daily life.


Who is God for you?

When I pray I sit facing outdoors, and my favourite prayer is Psalm 63 which reads: Shelter me in the shadow of your wings. I perceive God as holding me; I feel held by a compassionate and yet mighty power. Outside my window I see a high power line, and there are three crosses on it. I think of them as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and I address each of the Persons of the Trinity as I pray. Being held in the shadow of God’s wing I feel as though I am being cradled. So God for me is like a very loving parent.


Why do you think writing about St. Anthony is still important in 2014?

It is an amazing mystery that people are still so devoted to St. Anthony. He is still helping people find lost objects on a daily basis. But I think the Saint’s popularity rests on something much bigger than that. What attracts people to St. Anthony is his persistence in preaching the Gospel in the face of difficult circumstances. We find him through our small problems, but then he leads us to something much larger.


Do you have any writing projects for the future?

I recently attended a lecture about St. Claire in which it was said that the miracles of her life help reveal what sort of person she was. Now in the early biographies of St. Anthony there are detailed descriptions of his miracles, and they appear to be physical healings. So I believe the Saint’s miracles reveal was sort of person he was.

I have often toyed with the notion of further exploring the meaning of St. Anthony miracles in an essay or book. I’d like to find out especially what his miracles mean in the light of the following apparent contradiction: that he suffered a lot and died young, yet he was able to heal other people after his own death.


BORN IN 1943 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Carol Ann Morrow was educated at Marian University in Indianapolis and earned a graduate degree at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. She is married to Larry Morrow and has 4 grandchildren, three girls and one boy.

Her paternal grandmother, Katharine Heithaus Munchel named the first son of her marriage John Anthony, Carol Ann’s father (now deceased). Her grandmother was very devoted to St. Anthony, and Carol Ann still keeps a small statue of the Saint which belonged to her.

Carol Ann worked for St. Anthony Messenger Press (now Franciscan Media) for 25 years. It was in that capacity that she was able to travel to Portugal and Italy twice, in the footsteps of St Anthony.

She has authored Forgiving Is Smart for Your Heart (Abbey Press); Trust-In-God Therapy (Abbey Press); Getting Older, Growing Wiser (Abbey Press);Peace Therapy (Abbey Press) and Anthony of Padua, Finding Our Way (Saint Anthony Messenger Press).

Updated on October 06 2016