Lenten gratitude to Sister Mary and many others

By Todd Brock


Sister or Providence Mary Evangelista, librarian at St. Paul’s School in Sellersburg, Indiana, in 1981 had already been within her personal ministry for the better part of 45 years by the time she laid a heavy lesson on me about creating a heart of gratitude. She had already taught my father, aunt and several family members at our small parish school in the hills of Southern Indiana, and she had already let me know that she knew she had her work cut out for her with me. And she was correct.

Due to some speech issues and shyness, I wasn’t the kid you would pick first to be in front of an audience reading anything at all; really. And Sister Mary knew that full well. In fact, she told me that in her direct but loving way, and started me on a path of thinking differently – not only about myself, but in knowing my heart and what impact that should play in my faith walk and impact on those around me in life.

I felt like I failed her so many times – and did. But she had more confidence in me than I have ever had in myself – to this day. Why did she do that? Why did she spend so much time on me? There were so many other tasks at hand – some, I am certain, more pressing than teaching an ungrateful boy how to stand in front of people and communicate clearly.

My heart of gratitude talks to me about Sister Mary daily. I feel like she is riding along with me often; and I believe that, in a sense, that is certainly true. Her fingerprints are all over anything I have ever done.

During this iteration of Lent, I have focused on a different person every day who I am grateful for within my life. Sister Mary Evangelista is one of 40; and without her, I’d be a worse version of myself. Without any of the 40 I chose, I’d be a worse version of myself.

In many regards, I am the legacy of many who put their work into me over decades. And I am immeasurably grateful for the love, effort and persistence that, in my mind, I did not deserve. But Sister Mary was always quick to point out that I am uniquely made by God never to be repeated, and there is a responsibility inherent that lies within that statement.

So for Sister Mary, and the rest of the 40, I will focus my life ministry on creating positive change for my brothers and sisters in a systemic, faith-filled way. That is the mission that they have helped me realize, and it is my responsibility to be Sister Mary Evangelista to whomever should so need it.

I am grateful for you my brothers and sisters, and I am hopeful that this Easter will be a time of reflection, love, and building a heart of gratitude with those in your life.

Todd serves as Executive Director of the Catholic Foundation of Southwestern Indiana.