The parish community of St. Monica Church in Santa Monica, Calif., is remembering two of its parishioners, Jean and Scott Adam, ages 66 and 70, respectively, for their love of sailing and their love of spreading God’s Word throughout remote regions of the world.
The Adams were kidnapped along with a Seattle couple, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, by Somali pirates onboard their 58-foot yacht Quest in the Indian Ocean on Feb. 18, and shot dead four days later, as the U.S. military was attempting to negotiate for their release. They were the first Americans killed by Somali pirates.
According to the Adams’ website, on their final trip they planned to stop in Sri Lanka, India, Oman, Djibouti, the Suez Canal and Crete. Jean wrote, “We seek fertile ground for the Word and homes for our Bibles.”
‘Worst possible outcome’
Their deaths were devastating to many, including Ed Archer, a music director at St. Monica’s for 30 years. Jean sang in one of his choirs, and he knew Scott through the parish.
“It was the worst possible outcome,” Archer told Our Sunday Visitor. “You never realize how much of an impact the loss of someone can have on a parish community until something like this happens.”
“Jean was faith-filled, positive and always smiling. Scott was calm, friendly and intelligent.”
While many knew the Adams, Archer said, few knew of their generosity to those in need. They funded scholarships for children so they could attend the parish elementary school, and also contributed to the parish’s music ministry. In fact, when one of St. Monica’s choral groups went to Italy to perform in 2000, the Adams offered the funds necessary so that eight members could go.
The Adams were based in Marina del Rey, a Los Angeles-area coastal community. Scott had been an assistant director and producer working on films and television programs, including “Deliverance,” “The Goonies,” “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “The Love Boat.” He had a religious conversion in 1996 and left the movie business.
Originally Episcopalian, Scott earned a master’s degree and taught classes at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical Christian school in Pasadena, Calif. Archer told OSV that Scott took classes through St. Monica’s RCIA program and became Catholic.
Jean was a dentist and a committed Catholic.
It was a second marriage for both Jean and Scott; each had adult children from previous marriages. While their family was not available for comment, they issued a statement on St. Monica’s website:
“Our hearts are broken. Jean and Scott were taken from us in the worst possible way. While we want to grieve in private, we wish to extend our deepest gratitude to the brave men and women of the Navy and other military branches who risked their lives for our loved ones. God bless each and every one of you.”
Following God’s plan
The Adams began sailing full time seven years ago, attending St. Monica’s when not at sea.
Maureen Martorano has been a St. Monica’s parishioner since 2005 and was a close friend of Jean’s. They sang in the choir together, were members of the same Malibu prayer group and spent many hours walking and biking together.
She said: “I’m sad, but I have to say she died doing exactly what she wanted to do. She had the firmest conviction that she was doing exactly what God meant her to do with her life.”
Martorano especially enjoyed Jean’s cheerful demeanor and lighthearted nature. Martorano warned her about the dangers of sailing on the open ocean and promoting Christianity in Islamic countries, but it did not deter her.
“Jean would just laugh and say, ‘Pray for me.’ And I did!” Martorano told OSV.
Some overseas trips would take the Adams out on the open ocean for days with just the two of them alternating 12-hour shifts. They would pick sparsely populated, poorer islands on which to distribute their Bibles, Martorano said.
Despite their eagerness to share their faith, they were no “Bible thumpers,” said Scott Sternberg, a former student of Scott’s who now works for Fuller. They made of point of checking in with the village chief, asking permission to stay, and then dining with and getting to know the village people. When villagers asked, the Adams would give them Bibles, which they had purchased or were donated by others.
“They were the opposite of the Ugly American stereotype,” said Sternberg. “They enjoyed meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. The stories they’d bring home of the people they met were captivating.”
Sternberg took a “Media and Ministry” filmmaking class Scott taught at Fuller in 2004. Scott still wore his hair in a gray ponytail, a remnant of his Hollywood moviemaking days. Sternberg and his wife, Lynn, became friends with the couple.
Sternberg said: “They were neat people. They had an infectious enthusiasm and were really alive. They loved God, they loved people and they loved seeing the beauty of the world. They’ll be missed.”
Jim Graves writes from California.
Care for captives (sidebar)
Vatican officials have repeatedly issued statements expressing concern about the rise in piracy worldwide, in particular its effect on ordinary sailors taken captive while merely trying to earn a living for their families.
On Feb. 14-16, just days before the capture and murder of Jean and Scott Adam and their friends, the Vatican sponsored a conference on providing care for sailors captured by pirates. At the end of 2010, at least 35 ships were held captive by Somali pirates with more than 650 hostages. The treatment of prisoners has been increasingly brutal, with physical abuse, torture and, now, murder common.
During the conference, Vatican officials called attention to the spiritual and psychological needs of hostages. Father Gabriele Bentoglio, undersecretary in the Vatican’s office for migrants, said to the conference’s opening session, “While the owners pay soaring ransoms for the recovery of vessels and cargos, seafarers, (fishermen) and their families are paying the highest price in terms of psychological trauma and other consequences.”
“Before, during and after their ordeal, very little professional assistance is often offered to these people.”