Catholic school influences astronaut - Catholic Courier

Catholic school influences astronaut

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bishop Kearney High School senior Adele C. Smith and several of her fellow students traveled to Florida to cover the Oct. 23 launch of the space shuttle Discovery, which was piloted by BK alumna Pamela Melroy.

David and Helen Melroy conveyed that the power of faith, the power of a Catholic education and a steadfast belief in the power of God can have such an intoxicating impact upon an individual. On Oct. 24, the Melroys, parents of Col. Pamela Melroy who commands the STS-120 space shuttle Discovery, spoke about the lasting influence of a Catholic education and their faith in God during an interview with a team of student journalists from Irondequoit’s Bishop Kearney High School.

The Melroys held an interview with Eric Agostinelli, Libbie Mannix, Molly Schreiber and Adele C. Smith, who flew to Florida to cover the Oct. 23 space shuttle launch for various Rochester media outlets as well as their school paper The Coronet. From a condominium provided to them by NASA, the Melroys answered questions about their experiences being the parents of an astronaut and about their faith in God, which has greatly helped them come to terms with the dangers and risks involved in their daughter’s dream.

Helen Melroy spoke of how their daughter was quiet, shy and bookish as an adolescent, which is why it was important for her and her husband to place her in a co-ed high school. According to her mother, when David and Helen offered Melroy the option of attending public school or private Catholic high school, Melroy replied in an almost incredulous fashion, “You want me to go to a public school?” as if the thought had never entered her mind. Melroy immediately chose a Catholic education.

From the day she arrived at Bishop Kearney, Melroy’s parents remarked how she fit in perfectly with the Catholic environment and the education infused with Catholic principles. During a phone interview with Bishop Kearney senior Alana Cummings on Sept. 15, Melroy stressed how the Bishop Kearney motto to “do all things well” and the extended Bishop Kearney Catholic family helped shape her attitudes toward family, work and the God-given purpose of her own life.

The Melroys said that their daughter knew by the time she was 11 that she wanted to be an astronautat. They said that she never let go of this dream, and shaped her whole life around this desire, from the science classes she chose to take in high school to her majors in college, until finally serving in the U.S. Air Force.

As Melroy began her training as a test pilot, her parents said they began their own training to accept the life their daughter chose and the dream she wanted to follow, no matter what risks were involved.

“You couldn’t walk through every day of your life being scared that something was going to happen,” Helen Melroy explained. “Dave and I have a great deal of faith in God, and we feel that what happens, happens.”

As she continued to talk about their faith in God, she became overwhelmed with emotion as she recounted an anecdote about a phone call she received moments before the launch from two men religious from Bishop Kearney — Christian Brothers Paul Hannon and William Wright — who were very influential on her daughter during and after her years at Bishop Kearney.

“They told me how much they were praying, and how all the Christian Brothers were praying for her,” Helen Melroy said. “That meant more to me than anything in the world.”

During her phone interview with Cummings, Melroy recalled that Brother Wright, who taught her physics, had always reminded his students that “knowledge makes a bloody entrance.” She explained that she did not know it at the time, but Brother Wright was talking about how learning something new is not always an easy path; you have to struggle and persist to achieve something you are reaching for.

Brother Hannon, a former religion teacher at the school who founded its media center, WKBC, did not know Melroy at Bishop Kearney but he came to know her later in life and he keeps her fondly in his prayers.

The Melroys said they are grateful to everyone who prayed for their daughter and the other crew members’ safe takeoff into space. They said their fellow parishioners at St. Mary Parish in Honeoye have been their companions in prayer from the outset, and friends from the parish who came to watch the launch brought posters they made that wished Melroy good luck on her trip and a safe flight.

“I think that there were so many people praying yesterday, heaven must have been stormed,” Dave Melroy said with a smile. “We can’t tell you how much it means to us.”

Copyright © 2024 Rochester Catholic Press Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Linking is encouraged, but republishing or redistributing, including by framing or similar means, without the publisher's prior written permission is prohibited.

Choose from news (Monday), leisure (Thursday) or worship (Saturday) — or get all three!

No, Thanks

Catholic Courier Newsletters