Michael Scott Feeley has mastered the art of linking community-driven service with a devotion to global community.
Many aspects of his life for the last 30 years in Los Angeles, with wife Janet and in raising their sons Declan and Brogan, have involved a faith journey at St. Paul the Apostle in Westwood. A law partner with Latham & Watkins LLP, he has served on the board of the Catholic Schools Collaborative (which fosters holistic communities in inner-city schools), the Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation, St. Anne’s Maternity Home, and the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. He enjoys outreach with the Order of Malta, serving on the L.A. Cathedral Finance Council, and undertaking projects for Loyola High School, Verbum Dei Jesuit High School, and Immaculate Conception School.
As he steps down as Lieutenant for the Western USA Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Feeley feels a special connection to a piece of art on display in his living room, one commissioned for him by the organization in appreciation for the past five years of leadership. It is an icon of Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians, with her arms outstretched over Christian martyrs from the Middle East under her mantle. “It’s a beautiful expression of how we need to turn to Our Lady and emulate raising our arms in an embrace of the many persecuted Christians throughout the world,” Feeley says. The Equestrian Order of Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which supports the Christians in the Holy Land, is an example of “how we can live in community here with a view to a higher companionship with the church around the world,” Feeley adds.
His admiration of religious artistic expression inspires his involvement with the California Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, a group he chaired for 12 years. Noting that seven million people visit the Vatican Museums each year, Feeley emphasizes the value of making this treasure trove of the Church available to people of all backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities, and educational levels. “We find art so powerful because of how it enriches our lives as well as creates the atmosphere that we come home to,” Feeley adds. “It’s a living, visual faith expression. It’s important to support life-giving art and allow everyone to get that glimpse of the creativity, the beauty that is what our gracious God is all about.”
Having roots in his Catholic faith has provided Feeley with stability in a life that, as a young man, took him to nearly a dozen places to live around the world before he was 14 as his father served as a special forces commander in the Green Berets and his mother worked in the state department. His parents met in the Iranian capital of Tehran, were married in Japan, and he was born in Okinawa. His younger brother Sean became a Green Beret commander. “We had a very ordinary Catholic family in the best sense of the word,” admits Feeley, “We had a Catholic vocabulary. But moving so much as an Army family caused us to make friends quickly, to be active in whatever parish we found ourselves because that was a ready-made community that we understood. “Community is utterly central to us as human beings. If we don’t have it, we are not mentally, spiritually or physically healthy. The faith community, which is based on the essential issues of life – who we are, what is our purpose, what is our destiny, how should we treat other people – is central to our nourishment.”
His time as a boarding student at the Jesuit Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Maryland, gave him a deeper religious formation before he attended Dartmouth, Harvard Law, and Oxford.
Finally landing in Los Angeles, Michael met his future wife, Janet, some 30 years ago while both were in a volunteer training program in Hollywood for Covenant House. This service set the tone for their faith-based journey together. Shortly after their marriage in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, they began teaching marriage preparation classes and then baptism classes at St. Paul the Apostle, staffed by their beloved Paulist Fathers.
Michael speaks proudly of how his sons have set their courses in life as well. Both graduated from Loyola High School. Declan studied theology and finance at the University of Notre Dame and works in private equity in New York City. Brogan graduated from his mother’s alma mater, Boston College, and is currently in Nashville, serving in the Jesuit Volunteer Corp helping former prisoners reintegrate into society. “I believe they have our faith tradition and hopefully what is bred in the bone will out in the flesh,” said their father.
In 2014, Janet Feeley was honored with the Cardinal’s Award for her extensive work, and her effervescent personality, boundless energy and sense of humor meshes on so many levels with her husband as they work on many common projects.
“This award is a great honor and a great surprise,” says Michael. “My wife received it six years ago, so as usual, I’m several years behind her. But I just keep following happily wherever she’s taking me.”