Vai's View: Frederick Pratt, a gracious Catholic relative of Parley P. Pratt, Mitt Romney
He moved to the Bronx in New York City where he worked at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Mid-town Manhattan, one of the busiest churches in the world. He went to Brazil, Bolivia and Peru where he learned to speak Spanish and studied South American culture. He returned to the States and took his vows and studied theology at Catholic University in Washington D.C. He spent two years in graduate studies in D.C., before he opted to take a leave of absence to return to the Philadelphia area. He took admissions counselors' jobs at local universities before landing at Merion Mercy Academy, where he realized his true love was teaching. It was also at Merion Mercy that he met Erin Simms, the pretty young Dean of Students, to whom he's been happily married for five years.
Frederick Pratt could not have been more gracious in receiving my gift. He spoke of his love for his Mormon heritage. "Pioneer blood runs through our veins, " Pratt told me. "I am very much aware of Orson and Parley Pratt and the fantastic stories that surround them and their families - their connection to the prophet (Joseph Smith) and the Quorum of the Twelve. When I was a freshman in high school my family traveled from New Jersey to Montana to Arizona and back home - it was a great vacation and an opportunity to visit Salt Lake. I was able to do a lot of research when I was there."
His research took him back to the brothers Orson and Parley, the early Mormon leaders, in the 1800s, and all the way back to brothers William and John Pratt who came from Hertfordshire, England in 1630, landing in Massachusetts before settling Hartford, Conn in 1633.
Though he teaches Catholic theology, Frederick Pratt is very knowledgeable about his Mormon forbearers. "If I recall from my studies of my family," he told me, "Orson was very instrumental in the promotion of genealogy in the Mormon Church as well as the codifying of the Book of Mormon into verse format. I know that his time as a missionary in the UK was an opportunity to dig even deeper into the Pratt family tree."
"It is essentially through my love of genealogy that I became aware of Orson, Parley and other Pratts that are also related to those first brothers who settled in New England from England. It seems to me that from the Mormon point of view, Pratt genealogy starts with Jared and Charity Dickenson Pratt (the parents of Parley and Orson). From my point of view, most Pratts in the United States are 'standing on the shoulders' of William and John for their courage to brave the Atlantic and come to this land we now call home. We must also remember the courage of their parents to allow their sons to follow their consciences and leave England."
Perhaps it's that strain of independence and courage of conscience in the Pratt DNA that compelled Frederick Pratt to invite my LDS daughter to discuss her faith in his Catholic school sacraments class.
Vai Sikahema is the Sports Director and Anchor for NBC10 Philadelphia and host of the "Vai & Gonzo Show" on ESPN Philadelphia Radio. He is a two-time All-Pro, two-time Emmy Award winner and was a member of BYU's 1984 National Championship team.
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