We are only weeks away from our Sixth Annual Gala, on Friday, April 27! Time is running out to reserve your seat! That evening we will be celebrating the service of four very special honorees: Fr. John Merkelis, O.S.A., Br. Jerome Sysko, O.S.A., and Augustinian Affiliates Tony and Phyllis Lauinger. For those of you who will not be able to join us in celebrating these honorees, we ask that you consider taking out a congratulatory ad in our Program Book or making a Tribute Donation to honor one specific honoree. (Deadline for ads is April 13)
We are delighted to take this opportunity to tell you more about our 2018 Affiliate Honorees: Tony and Phyllis Lauinger, who are members of the Cascia Hall community and Chairpersons for the National Right to Life.
Our honoring of the Lauingers will celebrate a relationship begun 68 years ago, when six-year-old Tony Lauinger began accompanying his older brothers as they walked through “the woods” on the Cascia Hall campus to cheer on the Cascia football team. Since then, Tony’s love for Cascia Hall and its Augustinians has ever increased, and today the Midwest Province counts him and his wife Phyllis among its most active and dedicated lay leaders.
The sixth of seven children, Tony followed his brothers as a student at Cascia Hall, where he was a member of the Commandos’ football, basketball, baseball, and tennis teams. For Tony, the story of his time at Cascia Hall is a roll call of the Augustinians who had a lasting impact on him. There was Fr. Labadie, O.S.A., his eighth-grade football coach, who “taught us to rise above ourselves and push ourselves further than we knew we could go.” There was Headmaster Fr. Sinnott, “the best teacher I ever had,” who taught apologetics, “the most important course I ever took.” Fr. Spielmann, O.S.A., his baseball and basketball coach and biology teacher, remained a lifelong friend to both him and Phyllis, whose family he had known in the 1930’s. Father returned to New York in 1971 to con-celebrate Phyllis and Tony’s wedding Mass.
It was Fr. Porreca, O.S.A., who first asked Tony in eighth grade to consider whether he might have a vocation to the priesthood, “planting a seed” that Tony continued to nurture throughout high school. Upon graduation from Cascia, Tony pursued his discernment and entered the Augustinian Novitiate in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. There he was reunited with his close friend and English teacher from Cascia, Fr. Gaffney, who had become Novice Master. After a year, Tony discerned that marriage, not the priesthood, was his vocation, and he enrolled at Georgetown University.
Not long after Tony and Phyllis were married, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade abortion decision – an event that changed the course of their lives. The Lauingers immediately got involved in the pro-life movement, helping to start Tulsans For Life, their local right-to-life group, in their living room. Phyllis, a physician, gave pro-life lectures, and Tony later became President of Oklahomans For Life. Tony is now Vice President of National Right to Life. Phyllis has dedicated her medical expertise to providing free health care to Tulsa’s uninsured through Xavier Medical Clinic. She also helps take care of the Cascia Hall chapel as a member of Saint Rita’s Guild. The Lauingers have eight children – seven of whom are Cascia alums – and seventeen grandchildren.
As a recognition of their dedication to both Cascia Hall and the Augustinians, Tony and Phyllis were made Affiliates of the Order in 2013. Prior Provincial Fr. Bernie Scianna, O.S.A. explained the Province’s selection of the Lauingers as honorees: “Tony and Phyllis are true friends of the Augustinians and were made Affiliates because of this relationship. Tony knows of us from his early days at Cascia Hall. They were always very involved with the activities and sports of their children. They both contribute a great deal to the broader community with Tony as President of Oklahomans For Life and Phyllis giving so generously of her time and her skills as a volunteer physician for the poor and needy. They are also very generous to the Province, where Tony serves as a member of the Advancement Council. From Tony’s time more than a half century ago as an Augustinian Novice with Fr. Gaffney – who is now in his 99th year and whom Tony still visits regularly – to the present day, it is evident that the Lauingers’ bonds with our Order are very deep!”
Please join us in thanking the Lauingers for their service at this year’s gala.!