The Vatican II Awards were established in 1991 to honor men, women and young adults who exemplify the Catholic Church’s vision set forth in the Second Vatican Council. These individuals have been selected by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki to be recognized for their service to the Body of Christ in southeastern Wisconsin. While an awards ceremony is typically held annually in October, this year’s festivities are postponed until such a time as it is safe to gather such a large group.
Service in Society — Thomas Mountin
One of the first things Thomas Mountin did after he was diagnosed with ALS in August 2016 was to download a biography of Lou Gehrig onto his Kindle.
“I wanted to know what this was going to be like,” said Mountin.
Reading about Gehrig’s experience with ALS — which took Gehrig’s life in 1941, just two years after his own diagnosis — gave Mountin a blueprint of sorts for how he himself could take on this disease.
“He took a job that he was appointed to as New York City Parole Commissioner, and he would be sitting in on these hearings for kids they wanted to put out on probation. He would meet with them and talk them into turning their lives around. He proved better at this than anybody ever expected, and he did that up until he couldn’t move at all or get to his office,” said Mountin. “I read that book and I said, ‘I guess the secret to dealing with this disease is to do something different than you’ve ever done before. To do something good with it.’”
Mountin promptly retired from his career as a private-practice tax attorney to fulfill what had for some time been a goal of his — volunteering his legal services with Catholic Charities, helping refugees obtain United States citizenship and lawful permanent residence.
“I don’t know what I’m doing there, but they try to help me,” said Mountin of his colleagues at Catholic Charities. The people he serves, too, he said “are the salt of the Earth.”
“It helped me to realize that there are an awful lot of people giving us the wrong impression about refugees,” said Mountin. “We have a large number of Somali refugees that we help out, and they are just the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. I don’t often get to the swearing-in ceremonies, but I enjoy helping them through the immigration maze.”
Mountin has been married to his wife, Dr. Susan Mountin (a 2005 recipient of the Vatican II Award for Service to the Church), for 46 years. The couple have three sons and five grandchildren. Parishioners of St. James Parish in Lannon, they reside in Menomonee Falls.
Mountin is a 1967 graduate of Saint Francis de Sales Preparatory Seminary and a 1971 graduate of Saint Francis de Sales College. He studied law at Loyola University and Marquette University, obtaining his J.D. in 1978. He later achieved his LLM in tax law from De Paul University Law School in 1981.
A cradle Catholic, Mountin said his motivation for service is inspired by Christ’s parable of the talents in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25. “Whatever you have,” he said, “you have to use it.”