Dec. 1, 2010

President and Mrs. Garvey on Their Faith

John and Jeanne Garvey
John and Jeanne Garvey agree that their marriage is grounded in their shared faith.

Among the many factors that led John Garvey to the presidency of The Catholic University of America, the most important may simply have been a leap of faith.

"I believe God has called us here," says Jeanne Garvey. "John is the right person for Catholic University right now," she says of her husband of 35 years.

"I can't think of anyone more grounded in the Catholic faith than my husband," she adds.

John Garvey is known for speaking forthrightly about the role of religion in his professional and personal life and admits that such openness about religion might be unusual in America.

"People in American society are naturally accustomed to hearing priests and religious talk about the role of faith in their lives. It is not so common for lay people to open their hearts in this way," he said.

John Garvey was the second of eight children in an Irish Catholic family from Sharon, Pa. His father attended Mass with Garvey and his brothers and sisters each morning before school. Some 50 years later, President Garvey still maintains his devotion to daily Mass, often attending 5:10 p.m. Mass on campus with his wife.

Jeanne Garvey's path to the Catholic faith was different from her husband's. The Garveys met at Harvard University, where he was in law school and she was working on a master's degree in education.

It was not love at first sight, admits Jeanne Garvey. She was dating a friend of Garvey's at the time, a very devout Catholic (Xavier Suarez, who went on to become the first Cuban-born mayor of Miami). When she and John later began dating, Jeanne Garvey says "because I had been dating Xavier and because I had red hair, he made an assumption that I was Catholic. So one day he asked me if I wanted to go to Mass and that's when he realized his assumption was wrong."

Jeanne Garvey was born and raised Presbyterian, but converted to Catholicism before marriage. She now says with a laugh, "Converts make the best Catholics."

More than 35 years later, Jeanne Garvey says her marriage is grounded in their devotion to Christ. "Our faith is a constant presence and has gotten us through some tough times, such as the death of parents," she says.

John Garvey couldn't agree more. "My wife and I both feel that faith is near the center of our lives. It may serve a good purpose to share that commitment with CUA's students, as we have with our own family."


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