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On a Firm Foundation


Mary Quilici Aumack
Executive Director
Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County

The first Christmas without my mom. My mom, Winona Amaya Quilici, went to heaven in October. I prayed for God to welcome her. She had not been fully present for some time, and she enjoyed no great qualify of life. I am joyful that she is without pain and anxiousness. And yet…

The Mass of the Resurrection we had for her was just perfect. It was held at Saint Justin, where I grew up and my family faith was nurtured. My father literally helped build that building. My sister Corey was the first baby baptized there in 1956.

The main celebrant was Monsignor Terry Sullivan. When he was ordained in 1964, he was assigned to Saint Justin. He has participated in many celebrations for my family over these decades. Father Chris Bransfield, a good friend and current pastor of Saint Justin, concelebrated, along with my pastor, Father Rick Rodoni, who was in my little brother’s class at Saint Justin. We were surrounded by friends, clergy, religious, and lay, and our large and wonderful extended family. It was a joy filled, faith filled Mass, all that I had envisioned. And yet…

The extended Quilici Family, gathered to celebrate.

After my mom’s Mass, family went home and we entered into Advent, and the Christmas “party” season. Those who know me know that I am truly a “party animal.” I love the food, music, and mostly just the gathering. And yet…

This year I just didn’t feel it. I was baffled. On the one hand I was truly joyful and grateful that my mom was at peace. Yet I found myself feeling a void. In a conversation with my daughter, Kacey, we concluded that we were both facing the finality of it. Kacey had been fortunate to really KNOW all four of her grandparents. From them she received great love and has life forming memories. My mom was the last to leave us.

Father Warwick James once said something I have quoted often, and now hits the mark with me. He said “When you have faith and a loved one dies, it does not mean that you don’t grieve. It means that you do not despair.” While I experience unexplained sadness, I am mostly filled with joy, for the gift of my mom, and the fact that she’s in heaven.

In his beautiful homily, Father Chris suggested this way to honor my mom: “To do our best to live with a love that always sees the good in the other and that sees where our help is needed; and to live with a passion for life that will bring all of us one day to rejoice together in God’s eternal kingdom. If we do, just imagine what a marvelous reunion we shall have!”

This column is titled “On a Firm Foundation.” I stand on a firm foundation because of my parents. This is their legacy, the FOREVER VALUE that they gave to us through unwavering love.

I am grateful. I will work to exhibit my gratitude in my approach to life. I will look forward to the marvelous reunion.