A sound spirit and body

First slide

Terry McCarthy doesn't look his age. At 80, he has a full head of hair with just a few traces of gray, and he has the slim physique of a runner - which he is. While most men of his age are reflecting on a life well lived, McCarthy is running, writing, teaching and ministering to people who are his contemporaries.

For the past 16 years, McCarthy, and his wife, Teresa, have been active in the Ministry for the Aging at St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg. It's a ministry that brings companionship and the Eucharist to seniors in retirement and assisted living homes in Loudoun County.

But McCarthy also teaches people how to continue to live an active life well into their golden years.

McCarthy was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He attended Campion Jesuit High School, a boarding school in Prairie du Chien, Wis. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, and he earned a master's degree in international relations from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

He was an ROTC cadet at Marquette, and in 1959 he began his service in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer. He served for 20 years with tours of duty in Vietnam, Germany, Thailand and the United States.

He started running in 1971 when he was stationed at the Pentagon and received orders to go to parachute jump school at Fort Benning, Ga. He was in his mid-40s - a late start in a running career - and it began a discipline of fitness that continues.

He retired from the Army in 1979, and started a career of spiritual ministry, serving as assistant hospital chaplain at Fort Belvoir from 1983 to 1998. In addition to his spiritual vocation, he became a writer, poet and managed several non-profit organizations; and he continued to run.

McCarthy married Teresa in 1987, the second marriage for both.

In November, 1993, the couple experienced a catastrophic life-changing event. Teresa's daughter, Mara Rose Fox, was killed by a drunk driver as she walked with friends in South Bend, Ind. Both Mara Rose and the man who killed her were students at the University of Notre Dame. Mara Rose was a 19-year-old freshman; the driver who hit her was a law student. The man did not stop after he hit the young woman, but eventually he was found by the police and charged with leaving the scene of an accident and driving under the influence. He was tried and acquitted.

"It was the most devastating experience you can go through," said McCarthy.

The couple is not bitter about the tragic death of their daughter.

"I ask the Lord for forgiveness for him, I hope he can find peace," said McCarthy.

McCarthy and his wife started a scholarship in memory of their daughter. Every year the women of Lyons Hall, a women's dormitory at Notre Dame, sponsor a 5k fun run to help fund the scholarship. In 21 years, the scholarship has provided about $250,000 to deserving students giving them an opportunity to study is Spain.

The couple joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1995, and became tireless activists for victims' rights. That activism continued with their work for Alcohol Safety Action Program, a Virginia criminal justice program that works to reduce the problems caused by drunk and impaired driving.

Their work with St. John the Apostle's Ministry of the Aging is at INOVA Loudoun Nursing and Rehabilitation, an assisted living center in Leesburg. Every week, someone from the ministry visits Catholics at the center. It's a ministry of grace and companionship. Members of the group bring holy Communion and provide companionship to the residents.

"We bring Jesus Christ to them," said McCarthy.

The residents become their extended family, said McCarthy. But like most families, there are challenges.

About 12 years ago, they brought communion to a 91-year-old resident, formerly from Brooklyn, N.Y. They asked if he would like to receive communion. He said, "Drop dead."

But it's mostly a wonderful experience, and Teresa said most are very appreciative.

Both husband and wife said they've gotten more out of the experience than they put in, and they both plan to serve in the ministry as long as they can.

"There is something special about the elderly," said Teresa. "We would never abandon them."

In his more than 40 years of running, between racing and training, McCarthy has logged thousands of miles. In fact, in 2014 he ran about 60 races. He brings the same passion to fitness that he brings to his ministry.

In 2009, he wrote Running until you are 100. The book is a guide to staying fit and to keep running into your 80s, 90s and beyond.

McCarthy's physical and spiritual regimen could make that wish a reality.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015