Thomas and Mary Shields honored for support of Catholic schools

EASTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley joined supporters of Brockton’s Trinity Catholic Academy Oct. 7 at Stonehill College in Easton to inaugurate the academy’s Trustee Founders Award given at a reception hosted by the Campaign for Catholic Schools.

The new annual award was named for Thomas Shields and his wife in honor of their support for the Trinity Catholic Academy and the Campaign for Catholic Schools.

“Mary and I are honored by the attention you paid to us this evening,” said Thomas F. Shields, the founder of Shields MRI and a member of the campaign’s board of directors. “We cannot think of a group of people we would rather have the esteem of than the people in this room.”

The supporters and teachers from the academy gathered at the reception were men and women devoted to helping others and had given themselves over to the love of education, he said. “They are here because they want to be here.”

Shields said it was fitting that he would become involved with the effort to revitalize the Catholic schools of Brockton because it is where his wife Mary grew up and where they started their life and their business together.

“We always have a warm spot in our heart for this city. It may be blue-collar, but it is a well-scrubbed, clean blue collar,” he said.

Though the Shields were unaware the award would be named for them, many others in the room were in on the surprise, including the two dozen family members who hugged them and snapped photos when the announcement was made.

When the cardinal made the call to revitalize the Catholic schools, the Shields were among the first to respond and recognize the time had come, said Jack Connors Jr., the chairman of the board of directors of the Campaign for Catholic Schools.

“The defense was on the field too long,” Connors said. “It was time to put an offensive team together.”

Connors said when the campaign started they had no money and no place to start. Then, the cardinal told him the pastors of the three schools in Brockton were down to 100 students each and were ready to “call it quits.” With that opportunity, Trinity was born.

At the end of the 2005-2006 school year, the three remaining Catholic schools in Brockton were closed and reopened the following September as one academy with two campuses, he said.

Looking back on a friendship with Shields of 30 years, Connors said knew he would be there to help the children of Brockton, he said. “This is the place he fell in love.”

In addition to the Trustee Founders award, Brockton Mayor James E. Harrington read his official proclamation honoring the couple on behalf of the people of the city for their support of Trinity Catholic and other charities in the city.

Reading from the parchment, the mayor said: “Tom and Mary Shields have demonstrated by their words and deeds they are worthy of the title ‘True Champions from the City of Champions.’”

In his remarks, the cardinal said, “It is a joy to be here to celebrate with you the success of the Trinity Catholic Academy those whose generosity has made this possible.”

The night was an opportunity to thank those who responded to the call to make the new venture in Brockton work, he said.

One of the great achievements of the school is its music program, he said. “When I went to Catholic schools, we didn’t have music.”

The school’s band, The Swinging Angels, and the chorus provided the evening’s entertainment.

It was amazing that none of the musicians had played an instrument one year ago, the cardinal said. “I was assured earlier that they did not learn using the ‘Think Method’ from ‘The Music Man,’” he said.