Thursday, September 3, 2015

Me, One of Al’s Gals? No Way!!

St. Coleman School, Pompano Beach, FL
I’ve always held the Joliet Franciscan Sisters (Order of St. Francis, OSF) in deep regard, even when I was in trouble with a good Sister, a frequent event from 3rd grade on. 

They ran, and still oversee, my grade school (St. Coleman’s, Pompano Beach, FL), high school (Cardinal Gibbons, Ft. Lauderdale, FL) and college (now University of St. Francis, Joliet, IL). Impressively, they just celebrated 150 years as a religious community. Their foundress, Mother Alfred Moes, got things started back then in ways she wouldn’t have been able to predict, I’m sure. 

Yes, I had considered joining their ranks, and went through several years of what I’ll call apprenticeship, but eventually I decided I’d be best not staying, so in 1973 we parted ways. I’ve kept in contact, and have several Joliet Franciscans who are my Facebook friends. I’ve participated in a few USF/OSF events. And, I’m humbled to admit, USF has twice honored me for my work with homeless persons. 

Mother Alfred Moes statue
So when I got word that DZ, aka Sister Dolores Zemont, the congregation president, wanted to speak with me this Spring, I had no idea what she’d want. Astoundingly enough, in my mind anyhow, she said they wanted to present me with their esteemed Mother Alfred Moes award. No way! (Event details)

DZ told me that they hadn’t made a mistake in choosing me. They wanted to recognize my decades of efforts working with homeless kids and adults. Sometimes, not often, I’m speechless.

I remember a bit about Mother Alfred. She was quite a gal. In fact, the Sisters are still fondly called “Al’s Gals,” indicating high regard people had for her and her followers. Besides countless accomplishments from her work in Joliet, she was also instrumental in starting what is now known as Mayo Clinic. (Legacy)

I don’t underestimate how my life changed back in the 1980s when I became involved with homelessness. As much sweat and blood as I’ve put into this unforeseen vocation, I’ve received much more from those I’ve met along the way who fall into the category of “homeless.” 

My talents and education have been put to use in ways I never imagined. My penchant for fighting for justice has been put to good use on more occasions than I would have ever imagined. My heart, while it’s been saddened and angered by the horrors of homelessness, has been happier than I could ever explain to those who don't get it. And I've received incalculable amounts of support of all kinds to help me pursue my unconventional HEAR US mission of giving voice and visibility to homeless children and youth. (My latest film, Worn Out Welcome Mat - Kansas, was just released!)

The only thing I can point to that I share in common with Mother Alfred is that we both taught at St. John’s School in Joliet, me way back in 1969-70. Ironically I taught under Sister Thelma, who endured a bruising year as my 8th grade teacher years before. I was shocked she hired me as gym teacher for her school.

I’m not going to argue with DZ. But I’m in search of ways that I can receive this honor in conjunction with all “Diane’s Pals,” my homies big and small who’ve taught me so much about what’s important in life…you’ve given my life more meaning than I could ever imagine.  May I have the strength and focus to continue working to make things at least a little bit right for you.
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