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My first role model.
She was my school principal. A nun. With personal power that, I believe was unique. She stands beside other people that I have met – people with immense personal power from all walks – corporate professionals, medical professionals, social entrepreneurs, all of whom are national icons…she is in that group of top 2% of high-impact people.
When she assumed that position for me, I had the mind of a fifth grader – barely able to understand concepts such as drive and commitment and personal power. Totally unable to form questions in my mind about what goes into making a person so impactful in another’s life. She stepped onto that pedestal not through the judgment parameters of my mind – but through un-analysed experience – which surely went beyond the few fragments of memory that I retain of those days.
She stood tall and upright at most of our daily assemblies. Commanding respect. Not evoked through fear – but through the motivational speeches she made every morning. Somedays she implored us to become great women. Other days she told of heart rendering stories of the trials of human life. And yet on other days she talked about mistakes we should never make. Every morning, we received advice, character building stories and philosophy in the 10 minutes that she addressed us.
White habit, white veil, a completely committed nun of the Daughters of the Cross. Strong. Full of conviction. Upright physically and mentally. Full of fire. Lighting sparks in our hearts that we would not recognise until much later.
After 3 years of her presence she moved to higher positions at the convent, and we had other nice principals – but none other had the deep impact on the unformed spirits of a thousand secondary school girls.
I met her yesterday after 30+ years. A warm chat in the parlour of the convent – that began with me introducing myself – I was not that one-in-a-thousand girl that she would have remembered. We talked long, she told me her life story, her convictions, her lack of regrets, her strength in her vocation, her family and her current life…
Two serious road accidents, two heart attacks and a brain ailment later, she is a much mellowed person. In my first individual interaction with her, I found her warm – a new dimension that the closeness brought.
Still upright, still strong in her retired role.
I wondered about how I could pay her back. How does one pay role models back?
How long ago did you meet her? I too studied at St. Joseph’s and yes, she has left a huge impact on who I am today. Compassion, honesty, truth, fearlessness – all drilled into me in those 10 minutes each day. I. bow my head in gratitude to this great person.
Very recently – like 3-4 months ago.
I knew Zita in Europe when she was a general councillor for the Daughters of the Cross in Liège. She is a truly impressive woman, devoted and in love with her vocation and the charism of the Daughters of the Cross.
Did she tell you the story of her teenage friend George whom she encountered many years later? Or the story of Sister Madeleine and how she came to be a Daughter of the Cross?