Mooney shines spotlight on pandemic frontline heroes

The students who attend Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota are formed with core Christian values. The students also learn that they are “called by name” by the Lord to be more – more a man or woman of God.

Responding to this call, some alumni of Cardinal Mooney choose to enter careers as first responders or in medicine. In a time when the world needs people to look up to, those working as doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, law enforcement, as well as in various support services are stepping up to put themselves out there, to make everyone safe.

Many of these people on the front lines are graduates of Cardinal Mooney and the other Catholic high schools in the Diocese (Bishop Verot in Fort Myers and St. John Neumann in Naples).

This fact inspired Tara McClean, Cardinal Mooney Director of Development, to expand a segment of the Mooney social media presence ( called “Alumni Shoutout!!” to focus in April on alumni first responders.

Initially the shout-out posts were ‘spotlights’ showcasing one to two alumni a month; then the COVID-19 pandemic started and that changed everything.

Jennifer Rode Foscolos, Cardinal Mooney CAtholic High School class of 2007, is a Registered Nurse with Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

“One of my classmates is a current parent and a triage nurse here in Sarasota,” she said. “On March 30 I was texting with her and kept thinking that I wished there was a way to thank her, to let her know how worried yet proud I was of her. And then I thought what if we showcase only the medical alumni for April? What if that is the best and safest way to thank them for now?”

On March 31, 2020, McClean posted a thank you to the medical community and asked the alumni to leave them words of encouragement in the comments or for the alumni medical professionals to share photos of their “offices.”

“That is where this really took off! I almost instantly had the photos of the really intense, plexi-facemasks and ambulances. And from there it grew,” McClean said.

The first post recognized “rock star” Jennifer Rode Foscolos, Cougar class of 2007, a Registered Nurse with Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She works on a unit caring for non-COVID and COVID-positive patients. The post states: “Stay safe & well Jenn! Paws up!! Your Cougar pack salutes you!!”

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School class of 1997, Maggie Wessels Castro, BSN, RN, is a Clinical Manager for the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System,  and oversees the Respiratory Progressive Care Unit.

Another post noted the work of Cougar class of 1997, Maggie Wessels Castro, BSN, RN, who is a Clinical Manager for the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System and oversees the Respiratory Progressive Care Unit.

McClean posted: “As you can imagine respiratory care is front and center during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maggie has been working tirelessly to care for her patients and lead the specialized nursing team in charge of this unit, while also being a superhero wife, mom, daughter, and sister to her immediate and extended family… She is truly a superhero in scrubs and should be celebrated. Thank you, Maggie! Paws up!”

Kathleen Ross Hayden, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School class of 1983 is currently serving with Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Assistance Response team in one of the hardest hit areas in Italy.

Other alumni recognized included doctors and nurses working in New York City hospitals, as well as many working locally. Others highlighted were firefighters, paramedics and members of law enforcement.

Dr. Cristopher Cowart, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School alumni, anesthesiologist for Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Through their own social media accounts, both Bishop Verot and St. John Neumann Catholic high schools recognized many of their own alumni working on the front lines of the pandemic.

Diocesan Interim Superintendent of Catholic Education and Cardinal Mooney Principal, Ben Hopper, joined in praising not just the Mooney alumni but all Catholic high school alumni by posting a video message of thanks on the Diocesan coronavirus response website and the DOV Catholic Schools Facebook page.

“To the men and women who are on the front lines of this pandemic, we thank you for your service and sacrifice” Hopper said. “The doctors, nurses, researchers, first responders, administrators, manufacturers and others in the field have put the health and wellbeing of others above their own. Our thoughts, hopes and prayers are with you during these trying times as you perform miracles much like what Jesus did to heal the injured and cure the sick.”

Hopper added thanks to the alumni who have worked tirelessly treating patients, researching vaccines and delivering life-saving equipment, “We thank you. We will never forget the good you bring during these grim days, and we hope you will remember that the Diocese of Venice is with you every step of the way.”