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CSW Profile: Lehman planted seeds of faith, service in Harrelson’s life

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For Catholic Schools Week The Catholic Telegraph published profiles on young, thriving alumni of Catholic Schools. Pictured above is Will Harrelson of Lehman Catholic.

By John Stegeman
The Catholic Telegraph

The stereotype of the millennial generation conjures up images of plugged in earbuds and tuned out attitudes, but finding young men and women who dispel those myths is as easy as looking for Catholic school graduates.

Will Harrelson, 28 of Troy, is a millennial. He is a successful lawyer at Faust, Harrelson, Fulker, McCarthy & Schlemmer but more than that, he’s spending extra time and effort to make his community a better place to live.

Harrelson graduated from Lehman Catholic High School in 2004 and wherever he’s gone since, he’s made a point to get involved.

“It probably started at Lehman,” Harrelson said. “Lehman is relatively small school. I only went there for my junior and senior years but in that very short time, you learned that a lot of students wear a lot of different hats… I felt an obligation to participate.”

For 2015 Harrelson will be the president of Troy Main Street Inc., which focuses on economic development of downtown Troy, Ohio. He’s also on the board the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau, The Overfield School and the Lehman Catholic Advancement Committee.

His experience as a Lehman Catholic student helped Harrelson grow in faith, but also in thinking of his responsibility toward others.

“The value of the education was the simple idea that one should be giving to the community and should be someone that reaches out to help,” he said. “It is easy just to close yourself off and not participate, whether that is participating in a right to life march or a soup kitchen or participating in bringing better housing to the community. I don’t believe the only option for a Catholic is to just go protest at an abortion clinic and that’s all we can do. There’s a lot of things Catholics can do to better their community.”

Harrelson was raised Presbyterian until his mother converted with he and his siblings while he was in junior high. While his faith life was primarily formed at home, the experience of daily life at a Catholic school like Lehman was strong reinforcement.

“The added value of the Catholic education is instilling the moral compass that, no matter how hard they try, the students are always going to have…
With the challenge society faces, that’s what people need to be trumpeting. The value of that moral framework is just so important. Home is where the faith really originates and is nurtured the most, but school is the reinforcement of those values.”

That moral compass established at Lehman has led Harrelson to a deeper faith life as he’s grown up. He is currently a parishioner at Holy Angels in Sidney.

“It planted a seed in me that there your faith is a daily relationship with God and with Christ and (at Lehman) it’s because it is in the framework of the school and the education,” he said. “That seed, this isn’t just Sunday Mass obligations, your faith is how you live everyday. That has blossomed now in my life. In college and law school it was there, I went to Mass, but in my mid to late 20s it has become much more clear to me how that relationship with God is just everyday of your life.”

In the northern parts of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, many of the public schools serve heavily Catholic populations and are friendly to religious education. Still, Harrelson credits the strength of Catholic education in helping him.

“It is easy to make a lot of bullet points about Catholic education, but really it is about learning to be a good person and doing the right thing,” Harrelson said. “What you don’t get at public schools is the lesson of how to do the right thing all the time, or why you should do the right thing all the time, and what the right thing is.”

Harrelson spoke of his experiences at a gala for Lehman in late January as part of his giving back to the school that helped form him by planting the seed of faith.

“I’m a lawyer so there’s ethical things you have to make sure you do right. You have to be an ethical person in this profession,” he said. “When you’re on a non-profit board you need to be a good steward… So much of that is guided by your relationship with God.”

This profile of a Catholic high school graduate originally appeared in the February 2015 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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