On a Firm Foundation: Reflections on Friendship with a Bishop

On a Firm Foundation: Reflections on Friendship with a Bishop

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Bishop McGrath, red sweater, joins Mary Aumack, front row center, at an annual dinner of friends and fellowship.

Mary Quilici Aumack

Executive Director
Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County, aumack@cfoscc.org

When I met Bishop Patrick McGrath, it was fall of 1998 and he had taken a wrong turn.  My husband Doug and I were on our way to the annual Caritas reception for Catholic Charities at La Rinconada in Los Gatos.  We recognized Bishop McGrath in front of us, and realized he was about to go the wrong way.  We followed and flashed our lights.  What must he have thought of us!  We did get his attention, helped with course correction, and started a friendship that has enriched my life for more than two decades.

You’ll read in another part of this issue that we are introducing the Bishop Patrick J. McGrath Endowment for Ministry.  What a fitting tribute to him! Think about the ways that he has impacted our community, and please considered saying “thank you” with a gift of any size to the endowment.  

Here are my own thoughts.

We have worked together: For 13 years I chaired the annual donor recognition Mass and reception for Catholic Charities.  All of those years, my favorite part was the Mass, and each time I worked with Bishop McGrath on themes and ideas.

Doug and I were founding members of the Bishop’s Circle of Excellence.  For many years, I have worked to grow the Circle, introducing friends and colleagues to this opportunity to support the bishop’s charity.  

In 2008, I joined the board of the Catholic Community Foundation. Two years later, when the Executive Director left, I stepped in to keep things going and fell in love with the work. The Foundation is separate from the Diocese.  This was Bishop McGrath’s vision – to provide a repository for philanthropy that is separate and distinct, giving donors comfort that the funds will only ever be used for that which they intended.  Bishop McGrath is strongly supportive of our work as we build financial strength for ministry.

We have socialized: We have a group of five couples that host the bishop every year just to share great food, good stories, and some down time.  We all cherish this time.

I think of the bishop’s home as really “our home,” open to the people of the Diocese to gather, celebrate, recognize contributions, and be renewed.  We are grateful for the receptions to which we’ve been invited, and the truly countless gatherings that the bishop has hosted to raise money for ministry, or just say “thank you.”

We have prayed together: Every year I attend the Circle of Excellence Afternoon of Reflection during Holy Week.  This is a time of renewal, perfect for the season.

How many Masses have I attended with Bishop McGrath?  I can’t count, but I know four that stand out.

In 2015 we gathered to celebrate the broad contributions of our Catholic Community: Parishes, elementary & high schools, Catholic Charities, the religious, and Santa Clara University.  Once again, the Mass was my favorite part.  We prayed and sang in thanksgiving for the “why” of us, the gratitude that fuels our works

Last year we had the very first Mass for the Society of Saint Joseph, recognizing and thanking those who have remembered “Church” in their estate plans.  It was a beautiful celebration of these important gifts, and a great start to this important ministry.

In 2008, we lost my dad, and in 2017 we lost my mom.  Both times the bishop was there at Saint Justin Parish to support me.  Both times he listened deeply and told a few sweet jokes that indicated how he had gotten to know my parents just through our anecdotes and remembrances.  Both times, he provided great comfort in the final blessing.  I think my mom is still up in heaven bragging about it!

In times of great joy and great sorrow, to rejoice, to remember and to say “thank you,” we gathered around the Eucharist. At the end of the day, who we are and what we want to BE in the world is fueled by deep and compelling gratitude for this “WHY” of us – shared faith and deep comfort from the real presence of Jesus in our lives.

My gratitude extends strongly to Bishop McGrath. I am grateful for his inclusive and loving leadership, for his self-deprecating humor.

At the Foundation we talk a lot about legacy, thinking of how we would like to be remembered, the contributions that will define us. This is how I think of Bishop McGrath’s legacy: He has been a joyful shepherd, an avid “cheerleader” for us as we develop our own personal friendship with Jesus the Christ.  He welcomes us, literally and figuratively, to enter into deeper relationship with God, to worship together, and then to boldly go out and BE the Body of Christ, ministering joyfully to our neighbors.

Dear Bishop McGrath, Your impact on my life is ineffable. My gratitude is deep.  My faith and actions are stronger because of you. I love you, Mary

For more information regarding the Catholic Community Foundation, please visit, www.cfoscc.org.