Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

She’s no angel—but she’s close

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published May 29, 2015

Sometimes I wonder if the end times aren’t nibbling at our heels, especially when I see what’s happening to so many teens today. They wander around with thumbs on their phones, eyes downcast as they madly text to friends—and are oblivious to whatever’s right in front of them.

They roll their eyes when their parents beg them to go outside and do something active—anything really—rather than playing some mind-numbing virtual-reality game. Add to that the teen gangs you read about in the newspapers, wreaking havoc on society—and things look pretty bad.2015 05 28 GB MURRAY She’s no angel–but she’s close

Fortunately there are exceptions on a grand scale—all the teens who go on mission trips, do their homework and strive to make their parents proud. One of them is our friends’ girl, Hannah Harvey, who just graduated from St. Pius X Catholic High School.

Let’s be clear from the start that she would strongly deny being an angel. You see, she’d surely point out that she does her share of texting and some eye rolling too, especially at her younger siblings, two boys and a girl.

But she belies the stereotype that the teenage years are a big rush of self-obsessed fun-seeking and rebellion.

Truth be told, this girl could put many adults, including yours truly, to shame with her generous spirit. She loves animals—particularly the family dog, Ruby—and she organizes neighborhood drives to collect food, money and supplies for the Atlanta Humane Society.

This means picking up donations and storing huge amounts of stuff in her house, and then—with her family’s help, of course—loading it in her mom’s van for delivery.

Hannah enjoys beach excursions as much as any other teenage girl, but her first priority each summer is a mission trip to help folks in impoverished neighborhoods fix up their houses or work with disadvantaged children.

When her friend’s mother died from Alzheimer’s, Hannah grieved, but she also took action by organizing yard sales and other benefits to raise money for Alzheimer’s research groups.

It’s little wonder that she won a special award at her recent graduation ceremony from Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory for doing service work that reflects Catholic values.

How does a family raise a teen who puts others first? Is there a secret recipe? Maybe it’s growing up in a family of four children with a hard-working father and a devoted stay-at-home mom. Maybe it’s because Hannah’s parents made their children’s Catholic education in private schools their first priority, which has meant serious sacrifices.

In this family, everyone pitches in. The boys and the mother prepared and sold bakery treats to fund Hannah’s mission trip. When the children earn money from babysitting, pet-sitting or doing odd jobs, the parents require them to give a percentage to the church and to family savings.

Hannah is happy to get her clothes from thrift stores—and grateful when I call her on a walk to tell her I spotted some cool items on a neighbor’s curb that might interest her.

The family has endured tragedies like the death of Hannah’s beloved grandmother, and seriously hard times like her mother’s heart surgery and long recovery period. Throughout their ordeals, the family has relied on prayers from relatives, neighbors and their community at St. Thomas More Church.

You’ll see this family on their knees at Mass every Sunday without fail. They’re the ones you’ll notice volunteering at church and school events. They’re the ones you can call in the middle of the night if you need help.

Putting God first, praying, living simply—all these things, I suppose, are the ingredients that go into raising a teenager like Hannah. But there is also that ineffable something, that lovely mystery that can’t be pinned down—and that is God’s grace.

Artwork by Jef Murray. All his illustrations for The Georgia Bulletin may be seen on his website, You may contact the Murrays at