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The Power of Mentors


About a month ago I was rummaging through my thoughts as it was becoming clear to me the holidays were over and we were moving into 2019. As is typical for most of us, the January swoon of dark days and sluggishness of moving beyond Christmas and New Years has the tendency to keep us locked in place feeling immovable. If you're a Midwestern or a Northerner by birth, you know what I mean—it's the annual pattern of thought linked to winter, reminding you spring will not arrive for a few more months.

Moving beyond the holidays I paused for a moment to consider all the fresh memories just experienced with family and friends. One family story stayed with me into January and kept coming up in my thoughts that I couldn't shake. My sister texted all of us in the family to report our Aunt was ailing in New York. She was 92 years old and was under the careful care and watch of her doctors and nurses. Her health report gave me pause, and I quickly felt I had to go see her and visit with her. I know life doesn't afford us the leisure of predicting when the end will inevitably come, but it does remind us that staying awake is important as we strive to live in the present moment.

I reached out to my brother and asked him if he would like to join me. He agreed, and we met in New York City on a Friday night ready to take the morning train north up the Hudson River to Ossining. If you know Ossining, it is somewhat famous because it is home to Sing Sing Prison, but fortunately I wasn't headed there but rather to Maryknoll. The Maryknoll Sisters are a Roman Catholic religious order with a focus on missionary work in the countries of China, Japan, Korea, Latin America, and Africa. The Maryknoll Sisters, Brothers, and Fathers are all trained and headquartered at Maryknoll, NY, and when their missionaries finish their service, they retire to the Motherhouse.

My Aunt's influence on my vocational choice in education runs deep in many ways. I still remember how she would visit us in Chicago fresh from her missionary work in Peru and Bolivia. She would visit our grade school and tell stories of life in a Latin American village. Her colorful gifts and artifacts would decorate our home as she would present us with stories of faith and courage.

As I sat with her in New York just a month ago, I was transported back to the many stories she loved to tell about her missionary work. She was about to celebrate her 75th anniversary as a Maryknoll Sister. As my father's younger sister, I immediately felt I was sitting with a woman of incredible strength, hope, and resilience.

We all need mentors and friends in our lives who inspire us to want to be our best selves. We have the blessing of having Jesus as a model for us of how to live our lives with dignity. For our Regis community, we have the gift of a community grounded in empathy and serving others. When boys become Regis Knights, they begin the journey as a future mentor to the boys who will follow them.

I was so grateful to spend time with my 92 year old Aunt and soak in her passion for others. She dedicated her life to others through her missionary work. What a model of service she has been to me. I thank God for her gifts abundantly poured out!