Generations of giving: Woodbury couple honored with highest honor from Catholic academy

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When it comes to their Catholic faith, actions speak louder than words for Sharon and Michael D'Agostino of Woodbury.

If there's something to be done, be it serving Easter brunch at Little Sisters of the Poor, supporting the Woodbury Life Resource Center or raising money for the Nyumbani Orphanage in Kenya, they step up.

"We learned it from our parents," Sharon D'Agostino said. "We both were raised in homes that give back a lot to the community."

Things were no different when their eldest son Tom enrolled in St. Thomas Academy, an all-boys preparatory school in Mendota Heights. The D'Agostinos offered to pitch in.

"We had no history of it until he started as a freshman," his mother said. "Now three sons have graduated and our fourth son is a sophomore."

The couple co-chaired the academy's annual Community Auction in 2013. Each year,

Sharon and her parents assemble hundreds of gift baskets for the event. Michael organized a new fundraising event, Trivia Night, which raised money for the Academy's chapel.

In recognition of their generosity, St. Thomas has awarded the D'Agostinos with their highest honor, the 2017 Opus Sancti Thomae Award.

Jodie Whaley, director of events and parent stewardship at St.Thomas Academy, said the couple can always be counted on.

"They stand up every time something's needed," she said. "When it comes to volunteering or spiritual community help, they are always there, first in line."

The D'Agostinos literally are ready to help on a moment's notice, as happened one Easter Sunday as they were preparing to leave for Mass. They received a call from Little Sisters of the Poor in St. Paul. The family who were originally scheduled to serve Sunday brunch that morning had fallen ill, the caller said. Could they fill in? They could and did.

"Sometimes, those experiences that are very spontaneous end up being incredibly rewarding, but you have to be willing to take the call and drop what you're doing," Sharon said.

Some volunteer efforts are more long term.

In 1998, the couple joined 250 other families in a grassroots campaign that eventually established St. Ambrose of Woodbury, the Catholic church and school at the corner of Woodbury Drive and Bailey Road. The school opened in 2000 and the church later that same year.

"We set up a temporary worship space at Woodbury High School for Mass on Sunday mornings," Sharon said. "That's where we began."

Sharon served on the executive planning committee and Michael contributed his professional engineering skills as part of the building committee. They both played a significant role in the capital campaign.

They are characteristically modest about receiving the honor from St Thomas Academy.

"It's hard to imagine that what we've done is that extraordinary when you think of all the people ahead of us," Michael said. "You just say, 'Wow.'"