Every step toward the legal profession seemed like a natural progression to Mark Reardon, a long-time parishioner at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Wilmington.
“I can’t remember a single moment when I considered doing anything else,” said Reardon, 53.
There was a family connection to the law through his grandfather, the late Family Court Judge Francis Reardon.
“He was a great Irish storyteller and I was really captivated by his tales from the courthouse,” Reardon said. “I definitely was drawn into the romanticized impression of lawyers and the justice system. By the time I was in law school, I realized he seriously embellished many of those stories, but by then I was hooked.”
But the actual work of practicing law “is the perfect melding of my own interests and talents — to read and write, to strategize, to be an advocate for causes I care about, and to work with bright ambitious people,” said Reardon, a partner at the Wilmington office of Eckert Seamans.
“And I get to argue,” he added. “I feel naturally drawn to litigation, the competitive nature of presenting and defending cases, working through facts and the law to put the client in the best possible light.”
Much of the litigation Reardon has worked on for the last few years included cases involving his church institution clients, such as the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Salesianum School, the Franciscan Capuchins among them.
It’s a client list that grew naturally out of Reardon’s personal involvement in Catholic activities (he’s the president of the board of Ministry of Caring) and he sees little difference between his faith and career.
“The notion of being a Catholic and being a lawyer, I don’t really see those vocations as being different or distinguishable,” Reardon said.
A graduate of St. Edmond’s Academy, Salesianum School, Boston College and Widener University School of Law, Reardon said, “There’s not a thread of difference between the grade-school catechism and the Delaware Lawyer’s Rule of Professional Conduct.
“Like any other occupation, it’s a daily challenge to do the right things. In 27 years or so I’ve found the surest way to practice law ethically is to make honesty a habit on the job and off.”
In addition to being inspired by his grandfather, Reardon said his notion of practicing law isn’t a Catholic one, so much as one inspired by “what my local heroes were doing. I wanted to be like them, highly respected lawyers, highly principled men with active faith lives.”
Reardon said a few of his personal “Mount Rushmore” of Catholic attorneys includes Justice Joseph Walsh, Jim Kipp, Fran Truzskowski, Tom Sweeney, diocesan attorney Tony Flynn and the late Jim Collins.
“They probably don’t know the impact they have.”
Reardon also credited his wife, Megan, the volunteer business manager at Nativity School in Wilmington, with helping him through the sex abuse crisis that rocked the church and impacted so many of his Catholic institution clients.
“With the help of others, but mainly Megan, I was able to distinguish my faith life, my core set of beliefs, from the institutional church,” he said.
“By the end of it, my faith life was actually rejuvenated because of my very close association with men and women in current church leadership. … They didn’t create the problem. They were the cleanup committee. They totally grasped the importance of healing, reconciliation and penance.”
Reardon represents the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales’ Wilmington-Philadelphia Province. The order’s provincial, Father James J. Greenfield, who, said Reardon, emulates St. Francis de Sales, who was both a civil and a canon lawyer. The saint preached “direction of intention” as a way to focus daily activities for the good.
“Mark has taught me, no matter what’s out there, there’s always something you can do to turn it to good,” Father Greenfield said.
“I believe our faith is more than a religion of rules,” Reardon said. “It’s a matter of heart, it’s a matter of action and it’s a matter of service.
“Prayer yields faith and faith yields love and love is service. From the fulfillment of service comes the inner belief that you’re meant to be in that place at that time and God’s work on earth is our own.”