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On A Firm Foundation: Steps on the Journey


By Mary Quilici Aumack

Chief Executive Officer
The Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County


Last week I had dinner with Father Mark Arnzen. I often have the opportunity to meet with pastors, hear about life in their parishes, and discuss challenges, ideas, and ultimately hope. When I got home I texted Father Mark and said “you are an important step in my journey.” This got me to thinking about my journey, and the people who have made marks along the way.

If you’ve read this column for any amount of time, you know that I continually ask one question: “Why am I the lucky one to have a strong and comforting faith?” It occurs to me that my gift of faith has been strengthened by steps in the journey, my faith journey. (Diocese of Spokane) Bishop (Thomas) Daly says that my faith is strengthened because I possess a willing openness to it, and a real desire to strengthen my relationship with God. Well, then that’s a gift too, for which I am deeply grateful.

My parents were people of great faith, LIVED faith. They worshipped and got involved, at Saint Justin Parish and later at Notre Dame High School. We often mark the first steps of toddlers, an important and celebrated occurrence. With my parents I had the first steps in my faith journey. This continued at Saint Justin, Notre Dame and Gonzaga. These institutions provided the framework, but my life steps on the journey went well beyond.

Throughout this journey, my faith remains strong. And it has been tested:

  • When so many leaders in the institution of the church sinned against children and/or covered it up
  • When our nephew was taken from us so young
  • When our niece developed brain cancer
  • When my friend and mentor Bob Peters slipped away from us in a fog of dementia, way too soon
  • When all four of our parents (Doug’s and mine) experienced rough end of life

On the way home from one of our cherished road trips, Doug & I listened to a podcast about “believers and nonbelievers.” It emphasized (and I agree), that what you believe or don’t believe does not entirely define one’s life. Many atheists live as Jesus would want us to live, and many so-called Christians do not. With great respect for nonbelievers who set examples of behavior and contribution, I am grateful to be a believer.

In recent years, in church life as well as in political life, there is growing polarization. Labels such as “progressive or traditional” try to define us. We shy away from an organization or conversation because we presuppose that the content or message will be disagreeable to us. This is nonsense. The “why” of us, deep gratitude for the real presence of Jesus in our lives, can and must transcend these differences. I have good friends in the clergy who, if classified, would fall in both these categories. This means nothing to me. Their works and love for the broader community are what matter.

What do I seek in my next steps? A deeper prayer life. I’m interested in exploring prayer. I am also interested in tools to help young families with their prayer life, strengthening the domestic Church and fostering vocations. This is why I am pleased that my friend Father Gerardo Menchaca is leading the evangelization team for the Diocese, with a segment just for family life. I am also grateful that Bishop Cantú is focused on a culture of encounter and vocations. I pray for ongoing renewal in the Church that only comes from humility and trust in God, with the intercession of Mary.

In my work, there are countless people: bishops, religious, priests, donors, beneficiaries, my “work family,” and all colleagues, who add challenge, richness and context to my faith. Each exhibits gratitude that manifests in generosity, and the desire to provide FOREVER VALUE to the institutions and ministries that have formed us.

On October 12 we hold our annual Mass for members of the Society of Saint Joseph, who have remembered institutions and programs of the Church in their estate plans. Together with Bishop Cantú we celebrate these providers of FOREVER VALUE.

So, I continue to walk this journey. Last week I had coffee with my friend Vicki Viso. We talked specifically about the journey: the fact that it’s tough and wonderful, and bolstered by faith. Yesterday I chatted with Don McGovern, who is working to grow a tuition assistance endowment for Saint Simon parish. This morning I’m meeting Fr. Joseph Benedict for Mass and coffee. We will complain about things, laugh, share stories, and ultimately talk about faith and prayer. Another step in my journey, for which I am so very grateful.

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