St. Mary's Dominican High School

Inspiring Lives, Thomas Morstead Speaks to Senior Assembly

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How we respond to challenges can impact our lives. James A. Ragan understood this, when at age 13 he was diagnosed with cancer. At a senior assembly, New Orleans Saints player Thomas Morstead showed excerpts from the film Until 20 that tells James’ story of courage and faith. Morstead, knew James and found his life inspiring. He sponsored the film’s local showing to benefit the University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital and Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

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Senior Madeline Puente understands the impact of cancer. At the assembly she shared her personal journey with best friend Ashley Code, a Mount Carmel senior, who was diagnosed in the summer of 2015 with an inoperable brain tumor. Throughout her illness, the faith of Ashley and her family, was evident and unwavering; inspiring the community in prayer. Ashley died September 1. She would have turned 18 on September 15, a day that Jefferson Parish declared September 15 “Ashley Code Day” for 2016 and every year thereafter.

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“What powerful words we have heard today and seen through James’ movie trailer. We should not look back on this talk today as something sad, but we should strive to live everyday of our lives like James did,” said Madeline. “Everything bad in life, such as cancer, death, stress, and tragedy, depends on your attitude as to how it will affect you. James lived his life to the fullest through his positive attitude and accomplished what most of us only dream to achieve in our lifetime.”

“James’ story is so similar to my best friend Ashley who passed away from cancer a few weeks ago. People will say that Ashley and James lost the battle to cancer, but in life they won. They both were courageous and strong and actually have taught us not to be fearful, but to live life joyfully. James lived 1,000 more days than an average kid with this disease. Ashley also lived 380 days more than was expected. In 1,380 days, two selfless teenagers gave to the world more than the world could ever have expected.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux reminds me of James and Ashley. St. Thérèse was very young when she got sick, but everyday of her life she wanted to bring happiness to people by doing small acts of kindness. She said once, ‘Kindness is my only guiding star. In its light, I sail a straight route, I have my motto written on my sail: To live in love.’ As we have heard today, James truly lived in love. Ashley and James will always be a constant reminder of how we should lead our lives by making the best of the time that we have on earth. By doing this, we all get a glimpse of the eternal life that God has guaranteed to us.”

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Sponsored By Dominican Sisters of Peace