[dropcap type=”3″]T[/dropcap]om Perna loves school, but he wasn’t always like that. His blog posts, “Mondays with Mary,” teach Catholics about the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A former high school theology teacher, Perna is director of adult evangelization at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert. He has a B.A. in philosophy; Great Books certificate from the Ignatius Institute; an M.A. in education and an M.A. in theology.

Was your faith always as strong as it is today?

It was strong in the sense that I always was involved with the youth group as a teenager, but my faith didn’t really mean a whole lot to me per se when I was younger. I had faith but I had no intellectual understanding of my faith.[quote_box_right]

Parish: St. Mary Magdalene

Apostolate: Adult faith ­formation and evangelization

Blog: tomperna.org

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“Ah-ha” moment in his faith journey:

You’ve got to have faith in your heart but you also have to have it in your mind. If you have it only in one place or the other, it doesn’t fully work.

How he lives out discipleship:

Director of adult evangelization and catechesis at St. Mary Magdalene Parish

Quote worthy:

Evangelization doesn’t mean hitting somebody upside the head with the Bible or a Catechism. That’s not evangelization. Evangelization is building a relationship with someone.

You have a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why?

I took a class at Franciscan University in grad school called Mary in the Modern World with Dr. Mark Miravalle, one of the leading Marian theologians in the world. My friends said it would change my life and it did. It revolutionized my relationship with the Blessed Mother.

What could you tell me about Mary that might surprise me?

One of the things that blows my mind is how Our Lord, dying on the cross for all of our sins, redeems Mary at her Immaculate Conception while she is standing there at the foot of the cross. That’s because Calvary is outside of time — God sees times differently than us. He sees it all at once. He doesn’t see past, present, future — He sees it in the one eternal now.

What keeps you going when you get discouraged?

The sacrament of reconciliation helps me when I’m struggling. I go to reconciliation every couple of weeks because I need that grace. And then I know that all the saints before me all struggled. Everybody endured some kind of struggle, some kind of suffering, so it’s great to look toward the saints and say, ‘How did you get through this?’

Your life — what’s it all about? What’s its purpose?

To be a witness that men can be strong in their faith, can love the Lord, can love His Mother, but also can enjoy life, in moderation of course, and just have fun and be human. I am an average guy trying to be a saint, trying to live a saintly life but also I’m an all-American guy as well. I love sports, I love burgers, I love barbecuing, but I love my faith too. I love the Church. That’s who I am.

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