A thalidomide baby, Tony Melendez was born without arms because his mother was prescribed thalidomide, a drug used to help calm morning sickness
during her pregnancy. He was brought to the Los Angeles area from Nicaragua to be fitted with artificial arms. He wore them until he was ten,
when he disposed of them. "I didn't feel comfortable," he explains, "I could use my feet so much more."
His proficiency with his feet extended to more areas than just day-to-day care. He remembers that "at first, I started playing push-button organ.
Then in high school I began playing around with the guitar and harmonica." He also began writing his own songs. Whether it was "playing around"
with music or merely adjusting to a normal high school routine, Tony never let his handicap get in his way. "I was pretty secure in what I could
do," he says.
It was also in high school that he became deeply involved in the Catholic Church. During this time, he considered becoming a priest but couldn't,
because priests were required to have an index finger and thumb. The news disappointed him but he persevered in his church activities, using his
talents as a guitarist and composer for masses and church related events. Demand for him increased to the point where he was directing and singing
in music groups at up to five masses on a given Sunday.
Since then Tony has traveled across the United States and forty foreign countries, making countless television appearances. He also performed at
The World Series, where he sang the National Anthem for the fifth game of the 1989 series. Tony has had the opportunity to give five performances
for Pope John Paul II.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including special commendations from President Reagan, The State of California, The City
of Los Angeles, and countless other civic and charitable organizations.
A highly talented composer and musician, Tony recorded his first album in 1989, a collection of contemporary Christian songs entitled, Never Be
the Same. Now an author his best-selling autobiography, A Gift of Hope
, was published in 1989 by Harper & Row.
Currently, Tony resides in Branson Missouri with his wife Lynn, which is most known for its small-town hospitality and world class entertainment.
"Lynn and I love each other deeply and music brought us together. So, one day we'll share all of these memories with our children. Music has opened
the door to my dreams and I will keep singing, continue to share my life, and keep making' music for all who will listen."
Fr. Leo Patalinghug
Born in the Philippines and raised in the Baltimore area, Fr. Leo actually developed his love for cooking while attending the seminary at the
North American College in Rome. There, he became friendly with several Italian restaurant owners and would often invite them back to the student
kitchen to trade cooking secrets. They would teach him about rigatoni and lasagna; he would show them how to make hamburgers and ribs. Today, he
is a skilled cook who still enjoys learning how to make new dishes, and loves the process of preparing a meal, as much as he does sharing it with
a table full of friends.
Fr. Leo was ordained in 1999 and served as a parish priest for five years at St. John's Church in Westminster, Maryland. He was often invited to
his parishioners' homes for dinner. To their surprise, he would turn the table and cook for them, using these opportunities to build friendships
and engage in relaxed conversations in the kitchen. Those memorable and unstructured times spent making a meal together provided the inspiration
for Fr. Leo's first book, Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life
Currently, he is a member of the faculty at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary where he directs the Pastoral Field Education Program for future priests.
Before becoming a priest, Fr. Leo pursued degrees in writing and political science with the intention of studying law and journalism at the
University of Maryland. He also taught high school speech, debate and drama. Along with his brother, he founded a martial arts school in 1988.
Fr. Leo studied philosophy at Theological College at Catholic University in Washington, DC. He holds advanced theological degrees from the
Pontifical Gregorian University and Pontifical Maranium Institute in Rome.
A popular conference speaker with a growing national reputation for his ability to connect with teens and their parents, Fr. Leo has appeared
at events across the United States and Canada. His enthusiasm has frequently earned him invitations to return and speak about topics like the
theology of beauty, teen spirituality, spiritual combat and praying as a family.
Fr. Leo E. Patalinghug and the Grace Before Meals movement has been featured on the front page of the Washington Post, Fox and Friends, ABC News,
Denver Post, Martha Stewart Radio, CBS Morning Show as well as Food Network's hit show, Throw Down with Bobby Flay, where Fr. Leo defeated world
renown chef, Bobby Flay, in a steak fajita cooking competition.
Susan E. Wills, Esq. is Asst. Dir. for Education & Outreach, USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat. She earned a J.D. cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law
and an LL.M. in International Law (receiving the Thomas Bradbury Chetwood, SJ Prize for the highest academic average) from Georgetown University Law Center in
Since joining the USCCB staff in 1993, Susan has written hundreds of educational materials, overseen the preparation of the annual Respect Life Program
and developed training and outreach materials for Project Rachel Ministry, among other duties. She writes regularly for Catholic and secular periodicals,
such as the National Catholic Register and the diocesan press, National Review, The Washington Times, American Thinker, and Public Discourse.
Her scholarly articles have appeared in Linacre Quarterly and The Journal of Health Law and Policy (The Catholic University's Columbus School of Law).
Susan and her husband of 40 years have six children, including an adopted daughter from Nicaragua, and welcomed their 6th grandchild in December 2011.
John Carr serves as Executive Director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the United States Catholic Bishops' Conference.
In this role, he assists the U.S. Bishops in sharing Catholic social teaching, advocating on major issues of justice and peace and building the
Catholic community's capacity to act on its social mission. The Department he leads includes the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which is
the Bishops' anti-poverty program, and is guided by two Bishops' Committees: Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and
John leads Catholic Bishops' policy development and advocacy efforts on a wide range of national and global issues. He has assisted the U.S. Bishops
in developing a number of major statements, including: Communities of Salt and Light, Sharing Catholic Teaching, Everyday Christianity and Faithful
Citizenship. He has represented the U.S. Bishops' Conference at the Vatican and in the Middle East, Central America, Southern Africa, Southeast Asia
For three decades, John has been a leader in Catholic social ministry, serving at the Bishops' Conference and as Cardinal Hickey's Secretary of Social
Concerns in Washington, DC; as Education Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and as Legislative Coordinator for the Archdiocese of
Outside the Church, John served as Executive Director of the White House Conference on Families and as Director of the National Committee for Full
Employment. He currently serves on the board of Bread for the World, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, the Catholic Health
Association and the Law School of the University of St. Thomas.
John is a graduate of St. John Vianney Seminary and the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. John received the "Vision Award" from Catholic
Charities USA and the Msgr. John Egan Award by the National Pastoral Life Center and was named a "Hunger Hero" by Bread for the World.
John and his wife, Linda, have four children.
Darrell Kipp is a Native American author, historian, and educator. He is a member of the Blackfeet tribe and director of the Piegan Institute.
Darrell was raised in the rural community of Blackfoot, 25 miles east of the stunning peaks of Glacier National Park. After graduating from
the eighth grade, Darrell's parents insisted that he continue at the reservation's high school in Browning. He had learned to read early as
a small boy and, despite pitiful report cards, devoured Faulkner and Hemingway novels and joined the school's oratory club.
In 1962, Darrell attended Eastern Montana College in Billings, MT where he pursued a degree in English. In 1966, two weeks after graduating,
Darrell answered the Vietnam draft and was soon on his way to South Korea, where he served in a signal corps unit. After his discharge, he
returned to Billings where he earned his teaching certificate. In 1970 Darrell married his wife Roberta and went to work as an English teacher
at the reservation's Browning High School.
Darrell applied for and was accepted into the Harvard Graduate School for Education. He first set foot on that Ivy League grass in 1974 and
frequented all of Boston's campuses to hear readings by the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and Anthony Burgess.
In 1987, Darrell founded the nonprofit Piegan Institute to study and archive the Blackfeet language. The institute produced seminars and scores of research
papers on the Blackfeet language. From the start, the school has operated without any state or federal funding. The funds to construct and operate
the school since 1995 have come almost exclusively from private foundations and donors.
In 1995, Darrell cofounded the Nizipuhwahsin Center along with Dorothy Still Smoking and Thomas Edward Little Plume. The Nizipuhwahsin Center is a
Blackfeet language immersion school for grades K-8 that has become a model for indigenous peoples worldwide. Tribes from as far away as South Africa
come to the remote Blackfeet Reservation, often at the rate of two a month, to observe Nizipuhwahsin's work. "Language is the true, essential human
quality of an individual," says Darrell. "We think and feel our world in the language we speak."
In 2004 Darrell joined composer Robert Kapilow to create a large-scale choral and orchestra work for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. The work, entitled
Summer Sun, Winter Moon
, was commissioned by the Kansas City Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony and the Louisiana Symphony. The work premiered in September
2004. A documentary of the event, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, was made and aired on public television.
Darrell and his wife Roberta live in Browning, MT.