January 28, 2018

Last week in his poignant funeral homily, Fr. Brad   referred to long-time parishioner Peggy Fay as an  influencer.

These days, influencer is the hot term used to describe someone who advances your message on social media, but Father’s usage was the traditional one. Influencer: one who affects or changes the way people behave.

In 1976, Peggy—er, I mean Mrs. Fay—was my 8th grade CCD teacher.  (CCD stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine—it was the precursor to today’s Religious Education.) It was Peggy’s task to get me and my classmates prepared to be confirmed by Bishop Blanchette. While I was  never thrilled to go to “church” school after a day in public school, I do remember Peggy’s classes as being engaging and interactive with just enough dramatic flair to keep things interesting.

Decades later, when I came to St. Raymond as a staff member, Peggy regularly—and with a twinkle in her eye—declared me her star pupil.  (Take that Tim Curran!)

Our CCD class met in the school in a classroom that had a good view of Raynor Avenue.  During one class, I vividly recall an ambulance going past with its sirens blaring.   Mid-lesson, Peggy paused for a moment and blessed herself.  Obediently, we automatically blessed ourselves, but the perplexed expressions tipped off Peggy to our cluelessness.

Peggy explained that she had said a prayer for the  person in the ambulance.  Ohhhh. This was my first  real-life exposure to extemporaneous prayer.  I’d said plenty of prayers during Mass and before dinner and at bedtime, but the concept of impromptu praying was entirely new to me.   And I’d never thought of praying for someone I didn’t know, will likely never know and without any hope of knowing if the prayers worked.

With Peggy’s death on January 12,  I realized that many of the influencers from my youth have all passed on.  This includes my parents of course, and so many other kind-hearted and generous-of-spirit folks who took the time to teach, to guide, to explain on matters big and small.

This means it’s time for me to be the influencer. You too.  Surely I’ve been doing this already…I’ve certainly influenced my kids (probably more than they’d like) and my nieces and nephews and now their children.

But in thinking about my encounters with children and youth, I want to be more cognizant of what and how I  interact with them.   No matter the topic, my goal is to model behaviors that are important to me:  looking out for the little guy, clear communications (with proper    punctuation and spelling), expansive and inclusive thinking and kindness.  Always kindness.

That’s my list.   What is on yours?  Whether coach, teacher, boss, neighbor or even just the lady in the next pew, how do you want to influence?  It’s worthy of thought. 

And if you are wondering whether influencers make a difference, just watch me drive to and from work on Glenwood Avenue.  I’ll be the one pulling over for the hospital-bound ambulance and blessing  myself.

Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development and Project Liaison
815-722-6653, extension 242


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