Yesterday morning, as I sat in my Lay Dominican meeting listening to one of the Friars talk about the Dominican life, I was blown away by the fact that I was even there. So many things have had to happen in order for me to be where I am today. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. My husband and I own our first home together, and we are blessed with a beautiful daughter. We have amazing friends, and our church community continues to shape our lives daily. Then I started to think about people who have had a profound impact on me in the last 15 years. They are varied, and each served a purpose and a lesson. I am deeply indebted to them and I will have fond memories of them, even if we never meet again on this side of Eternity. Obviously, my husband, daughter, parents, and sisters, have been a huge impact on my life, but here are some non-family people who may or may not realize that they played a crucial role in my life. These are in chronological order from the time I was 18 years old.
- Dmitri Stagakis: My favorite teacher of all time. He showed me the beauty of foreign languages and the joy of following God. He also was deeply devoted to marriage, and even gave me a prayer in Russian to say for my future husband. I still imitate some of his word order choices and tell stories about his teaching when people ask about my Russian training. He is a brilliant man, tremendously gifted, with a huge heart. He also had a mighty good Stalin impersonation, minus all of the killing.
- Mauricio Ramirez: I met Mauricio when I was a 9-11 relief worker. He was handsome and charming. He was a kindred spirit, and one of the only men besides my husband that I have ever loved. He taught me sacrificial love. To want what is best for the other person, even if it means that I suffer. He taught me how to desire happiness for someone at all costs. I still desire his happiness 12 years later. Sacrificial love is one of the greatest lessons we have to learn in this life.
- Vance Clarke: Vance and I were in Russian school together, but did not become real friends until we were both stationed in Maryland. He is a fellow Anglophile. He showed me what a real gentleman looks like and taught me genuine friendship with the opposite sex. He was patient with me since we are separated by over a decade in age. He put up with many of my blunders, and my selfishness. I am thankful that I have kept in touch with him and his wife over the years. Their three daughters are gorgeous
- Nicola “Nicky” Williams: My British sister who taught me authentic friendship. Nicky blew me away with her love of Our Lord and her deep devotion to her friends. When I was in the hospital for a really bad period of PTSD, she drove 3 hours (one way) a couple times a week to see me in London. She took care of my affairs, and she loved me unconditionally. Mental illness is hard for people to grasp. She did not ask questions, she accepted, and walked with me. I had never had a friend like her, and I dare say, she is a very blessed rarity. We have sent each other birthday presents and Christmas presents for nearly a decade now.
- Kate Hennessy: Truly a sister. She took me into her family while we both lived in England. She took care of me, and treated me like a natural part of the family. She is intelligent, talented, and a beautiful person. Her kids began to show me what a loving sacrifice parenting is, but how much joy comes with it. Her family is brilliant. Even in her own struggles, she walked with me and helped lift me up. She will always be like a sister to me.
- Liam Hennessy (RIP): Liam was a second father to me. I still cannot believe that he is gone. He was one of the wisest and most brilliant men I have ever met. He showed me what it was to struggle on the journey towards Truth. He was dedicated to the military and the mission. He truly cared about the people he served. He and Kate both taught me that my crazy sense of humor actually exists elsewhere in the world. They were my tribe. I miss you Dad 2.0.
- Alyson Miller: Alyson actually helped to change the course of my life. She opened up the world of homeschooling to me and is an intellectual powerhouse. Another person with my dry sense of humor, she and I spent many hours laughing, while also wanting to change the world. She is one of the only roommates, I have not wanted to kill by the end. She is the reason I interned at The Heritage Foundation and ended up staying on the East Coast. She inadvertently brought me back to the Catholic Faith (she herself was not yet a Catholic-she is an amazing Catholic woman now), by telling me to go to Mass at the National Shrine when we lived in DC in 2009. Holy Week at the Basilica has sealed me as a devout Catholic for life. She is the reason that I met my husband. Living in Baptist territory, and knowing I wanted to marry a Catholic, she told me to join CatholicMatch.com (yep, we met online) and I met my husband 3 days later. It works for some people!
- Glenda Canfield: She is the epitome of Catholic wife, mom, and sister. She has stood by me during all three of my miscarriages. She held my hand until they wheeled me into the OR this past February for emergency surgery. She has helped my husband and me through some really tough times. She is one of the holiest women I have ever met. She has shown me what to strive for in my own vocation.
- Dana Blanchard: You are the definition of Christian mother and grandmother. The faith you exude is astounding and you have taught me a lot. We have both had difficult years on the medical front, but I am truly amazed by your holy presence. I am also so impressed with your whole family. God is definitely making saints in that family of yours. You are one of the sweetest, most genuine, kindest women I have ever known.
- Tresa Clarke, Christine Johnson, John Clarke, Bev Gilraine, Harry Koenig, Heather Burns (other Lay Dominicans): Without all of you, I would not have discovered my secondary vocation as a Lay Dominican. I feel like I have found my Heavenly tribe when I am with Dominicans. I honestly feel as though I have found my people. People who are deeply devoted to Our Lord, and who are as much of a Catholic nerd as I am. Who love the Liturgy and who have introduced me to St. Dominic; the ultimate kindred spirit. Tresa and John, you also have shown me how to work tirelessly to help men, women, and babies hurt by the scourge of abortion. You have strengthened me as I have stood and prayed outside of Planned Parenthood, you inspire me and give me great hope.
- There are so many others. I have been blessed with many people in my life who have helped me along the way and I am sure the Lord will bless me even more. To all of you thank you! You are all over the world. I pray for all of you constantly, and everyone on this list. May God bless all of you on your journey.
Have you ever thought about the people who have directly impacted your path?