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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Randy Petrides

Updated: Jan 8


Gordon:  When did you attend the University of Michigan, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?

 

Randy: I graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor’s Degree after four great years, major in

Classical Studies. I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation, especially in history, classics,

and art history, all of which helped me years later in writing my book. Besides

friendships and studies, I thoroughly enjoyed the sports environment. The Wolverines

football team, in Bo Schembechler’s early years, lost only 3 games in my four years. I

attended two fabulous Michigan-Ohio State games and the 1972 Rose Bowl (ticket

was $10!). Relishing in the glow of this New Year’s Rose Bowl win brought back

those memories. I am grateful for my time there.

 

Gordon:  When did you attend Notre Dame Law School, what degree did your earn, what was one of the more challenging courses you took, and why was it challenging?

 

Randy: I went straight to law school after college and graduated with a standard J.D. degree from ND in 1977. A wonderful three years, great friends in an intimate setting, a bit like high school socially (we had lockers!).


Course work was standard with little room for variance. The faculty was full of serious Catholics, including our Dean, David Link who decades later became a priest, and Prof. Charles Rice, who had a national reputation as a conservative Catholic and pro-life supporter. My first-year courses in Criminal Law and Procedure helped to influence my later career choice.


The campus, much smaller then, was beautiful, especially the Main Building with the

Golden Dome, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and the library with its mural (of

“Touchdown Jesus”). My first year was the popular Ara Parseghian’s last as football

coach, Once during a game when it was raining, the students began to chant, “Ara,

stop the rain.” He allegedly turned to an assistant and said, “Should I?!” My last year

was the year of “Rudy.” We knew nothing about it until the movie came out years

later. I had great Catholic friends in my class, one who is a priest of Opus Dei and

another who introduced me to the charismatic renewal, which became a major part of

my spiritual journey for decades and led to me meeting my wife at a prayer meeting

back home soon after graduation.

 

Gordon:  When did you attend Franciscan University of Steubenville, what degree did you earn, what was your favoreite course, and why was it your favorite?

 

Randy: I received a Master of Arts degree in Theology in 2018. It was a long process of about 15 years taking courses via “Distance Learning” and online. After I retired, I was able to accelerate the pace and complete the degree. Getting a Steubenville Masters in

Theology had been on my bucket list for decades. It was as great an experience as I

had hoped. Among the professors I had was Dr. Scott Hahn, who taught Theology of

the Old Testament Covenants. He was thorough, intense, and quite demanding but it

was rewarding. Perhaps my favorite course was Church History with Dr. Allen

Schreck, especially since it led to me eventually writing my book.

 

Gordon: When did you serve as a lawyer and what was on of the more interesting cases that you had?

 

Randy: I practiced law for 40 years, 38 of those years in the Genesee County MI (Flint)

Prosecutor’s Office. The last 12 years, until my retirement in 2017, I served as Chief Assistant, in essence, the chief operating officer of an office of 2-3 dozen attorneys

and also a large support staff.


During much of my career I was a trial lawyer. I tried about 100 jury trials, including murders, rapes, robberies, and the first wave of racketeering cases. Two of the most memorable cases I handled were: 1) 1986 the murder of a well-known and community-active professor at U of Michigan Flint. She was brutally murdered at her residence in the “gate house” on the Mott estate. C.S. Mott was a GM mogul who spent his later years in philanthropy in Flint.


The case was not solved until about 2002 when a DNA hit finally IDed the murderer. It made big news in Michigan, especially since he murdered an airline flight attendant at Detroit Metro Airport in 1991 in much the same way. I spent a long time working that case up but the afternoon before trial the accused came in unexpectedly and pled to all the charges. There is a book about this case, Blood Justice by Tom Hemmingway, which mentions me periodically.


The other case I’ll mention was the trial of 5 leaders of the Spanish Cobra gang here in Flint, charged under the then brand-new racketeering law in Michigan. We were able to bundle all their offenses in one package and go after them as a group, or “criminal enterprise.” It worked. I spent a year on this case. We made agreements with several gang members to testify, including 3 of the 5 defendants and we tried and obtained convictions against the main two leaders.


The convictions disabled the gang (our goal) and the east side community where they were active was grateful to the police and us for taking down this gang. Tit made a difference: the streets were safer. I felt that my years in the Prosecutor’s Office were not only great professionally, but I was able to apply my Catholic faith to the job, fostering a perspective of justice, ethics, and fairness throughout the office and in the cases I handled, and being an example of faith to my colleagues.


An ND law professor once wrote that he did not think a lawyer could be both a good Christian and a prosecutor. I vehemently disagreed and I think my career is an example that it can be done.

 

Gordon:  Please share with our readers a bit about your family.

 

Randy: I met my wife Elizabeth in 1977. We married in 1979 and had five kids, whom we

raised intensely in the Catholic faith, with assistance from parish life and our friends

in our charismatic prayer group. They all are now married, still church-going

Catholics, and have given us 17 grandchildren to date, scattered about the country.

Elizabeth and I are now empty nesters in Grand Blanc, MI, active in our parish and

trying to stay useful in retirement.

 

Gordon:  When did you start working as a freelance writer, what are some of the assignments that you had?

 

Randy: I have always loved to write – legal, fiction, expository. I care about revising,

trimming adjectives and adverbs, sentence balance, creating beautiful prose. It’s a

labor of love. However, given the time demands of raising a large family and

practicing law, time to write was limited before retirement. I don’t know if I can be

 

called a “free-lance writer” so much as one who has crawled out of the hole of time

demands and began to write. I have not published until last year’s book and I am still

seeking my voice. I do not write articles and seek publication – at least not yet. I am

working on a couple options for future books and in dialogue with Our Sunday

Visitor about them. So, I do not have assignments, per se, but simply write.

 

Gordon: Please provide an overview of you book How the Saints Shaped History.

 

Randy: My book, How the Saints Shaped History, published by Our Sunday Visitor in 2023:

This was an outgrowth of my love of history, my faith, and attaining my degree from

Steubenville. Rather than smile at the framed certificate on the wall and note a bucket

list item accomplished, I wanted to “do something.” Writing was the obvious answer

and faith and history were potential topics. From this the idea of this book took shape.


How the Saints Shaped History is a narrative of Catholic Church history from the

Resurrection of Jesus to the present day. I sought to “tell the story” of our heritage in

a readable way. It is not an academic book, but rather is aimed primarily at the typical

Catholic in the pew.


I chose a unique approach in telling the story of our history via the saints. This had not really been done before. There are many wonderful books on saints and lots of good Church histories, but my book tells the history of the Church through the actions of over 180 great saints as the ones who made that history. In a sense, it is the story of the Holy Spirit moving throughout history, guiding, protecting, and rescuing the Church. And it is through the saints, those people who are most open to the Holy Spirit and most intent upon following His lead, that the Spirit most often works.


Due to sin, the Church has struggled from one crisis to another. Each time, God has raised up saints to inspire and rescue the Church. Examples include the 4th-century Arian crisis when the divinity of Christ was challenged to the point that over half of the bishops were Arian. God raised up St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Ambrose, St. Hilary of Poitiers, and many others – a remarkable explosion of great saints to save the day.


And, as the Reformation exploded in the 16th century, God raised up one of the most spectacular arrays of reforming saints to lead the Catholic Church back to its roots in holiness and prayer, including St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Peter Canisius, St. Phillip Neri, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas More, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Francis de Sales among them.


It was exciting, as I researched this, to see how the saints always appeared when needed. It was also fascinating to see how so many saints knew each other and collaborated and to see so many unsung people who were quietly instrumental in assisting the saints on their way (the topic of a book I am now writing). So my treatment of the saints is not to look at them individually, in isolation, but to show their place in history.


I cover history beyond the saints as well – including the key battles that affected the course of Church history, history-impacting apparitions, councils, and some non-saints. And the ultimate lesson here is hope. When the Church is in need, God will raise up saints. You can probably tell that this topic excites me!

 

I am grateful to the wonderful folks at Our Sunday Visitor who saw merit in this

project, agreed to publish it, and provided expert editing, all with the eyes of faith.

They provided some great art work and designed a 16-page illustrated timeline of

history and the saints that enhances the look of the book. How the Saints Shaped

History has been on OSV’s best seller list for months now.

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