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Everyday Evangelist: St. Antoninus principal runs for family, school

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St. Antoninus Principal Jack Corey, center, poses with fellow members of Team Mitch. From left are Sean McHale, a cousin from Baltimore, Jack Corey’s mother Mary, Corey, his son Joseph, and his father Bill.
St. Antoninus Principal Jack Corey, center, poses with fellow members of Team Mitch. From left are Sean McHale, a cousin from Baltimore, Jack Corey’s mother Mary, Corey, his son Joseph, and his father Bill. (Courtesy Photo)

By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph 

What possesses an individual to set out and run 100 miles? In Jack Corey’s case, it’s faith, family devotion and a firm belief in Catholic education.

Corey, now in his seventh year as principal at St. Antoninus School in Cincinnati, began running shortly after the sudden death of his brother-in-law, Mitch McLaughlin, who suffered a fatal heart attack in February 2006 at the age of 30, leaving behind his wife, Maria, and a young daughter, Ellie. At the time, Maria was also seven months pregnant with the couple’s son, Mitch Jr.

“He was a very low key guy with a great sense of humor,” Corey said. “He was one of those people that everybody loved.”

In memory of Mitch, some of his elementary school friends from St. Antoninus decided to run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon in his honor that year, the beginnings of what would become known as Team Mitch. Maria, who had met Mitch when she transferred to St. Antoninus in the fifth grade, also wanted to participate and began training for the following year’s marathon. Her brother decided to join her. “I just wanted to support my sister,” Corey explained. “It had meaning for me because it was personal. The fact that my sister was faster than me also kept me motivated.”

Since then, members of Team Mitch, which has included not only grade school classmates, but Mitch’s fellow Elder High School graduates, friends and family members, have participated in the Flying Pig at various levels. Corey ran in his first full marathon in 2008 and plans take part in this year’s events.

Seeing so many people who loved her husband come together in his memory has been “overwhelming,” said Maria McLaughlin. “It’s been such a blessing to have their support. It shows that people are good, that God is good. I get to see that goodness over and over again each year.”

Corey has since participated in 28 races of marathon distance (26.2 miles) or longer, always wearing his Team Mitch T-shirt. “I don’t know what keeps me going or pushes me to see how far I can go,” he admitted. “It just feels right. Each time I hit what I think will be my limit, I find myself thinking I can do more.”

He couldn’t run without the support of others, Corey noted, especially that of his wife Mary Beth, a Spanish teacher at Seton High School, and children Mary Katherine, 14, and Joseph, 11. “My family and friends have always been willing to assist my running long distances from running in the wee hours of the morning keeping me going, meeting me in places with food and drink and keeping me in their thoughts and prayers while I am out on the trails.”

It was during a 100 mile run that Corey came up with the idea of using it as a fundraiser to help St. Antoninus families continue to afford Catholic education. He wrote an article for the parish bulletin requesting people donate to the school’s endowment or tuition assistance funds when he ran in the Potawatomi Trail Run in Illinois, a 150-mile race, the weekend of April 5-7. Every 10 miles, Corey would send Twitter messages, along with posting on Facebook, so St. Antoninus students and parents could follow his progress. His goal, explained Corey, was to challenge the students to “beat the principal” in their fundraising efforts during their own Jog-A-Thon, which took place the week after his race. “They told me they were going to raise millions,” Corey said.

The numbers weren’t in at press time, but past Jog-A-Thons have raised between $15,000-$20,000 for St. Antoninus, said Corey.

Although Corey struggled a bit during the trail run and had to drop down to the 100-mile option, he definitely experienced a sense of accomplishment and feels there’s a lesson his efforts for the students. “Of the 41 people who signed up for the 150, only 10 finished the whole thing. It gives me reason to back and try again,” he said.  “We tell our students, we only fail when we quit trying so I need to take another shot at it.”

Corey has learned many lessons himself through running. “Intellectually, I know God makes nothing ordinary and since He made us, we are extraordinary, each in our own way. It does not mean that we all need to go out and run to prove we are extraordinary,” he said. “It just means that we can live exploring the limits of our potential, or we can live within artificial limits we place upon our God-given talents.”

To donate to the endowment or tuition assistance fund at St. Antoninus, please visit http://www.edline.net/pages/StAntoninus/Classes/Corey.

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