This morning a beloved member of the Notre Dame family passed away. Father Jim Riehle was 83.
If you have seen the movie Rudy,you have seen Father Riehle. He played himself as the football chaplain, a position he held for several years.
Father Riehle also founded the University’s Monogram Club, Notre Dame’s version of a Lettermen’s Club for varsity letter winners. I currently serve on the Monogram Club’s Board of Directors. It is part of my way of giving back to a community that has given me so much. During this time, I have had the privilege to briefly get to know Father Riehle, and more importantly to learn and appreciate all he has done for Notre Dame Athletics.
Father Riehle was a Notre Dame man through and through. But priest or layman, Catholic or not, man or woman, what we can all learn from Father Riehle is passion, commitment and dedication. Find your passion, make a commitment, and live your life dedicated to that cause to make the world - or perhaps just one person’s life - a better place.
I spent the past few days in Virginia as a guest of the Notre Dame Club of Charlottesville. It was an amazing trip and experience, and the members of the Club could not have been kinder or more welcoming. When I was first invited to speak, I don’t think they had any idea how excited and honored I was to return to Charlottesville.
I am always honored to be asked to speak anywhere; and certainly a Notre Dame Club is an engaging audience. But Charlottesville specifically is a meaningful place for me.
One of the saddest and overlooked effects of a tragedy is how it affects an entire family. There were 37 people involved in our bus accident - and these 37 families’ lives were altered and devastated to varying degrees. Certainly in my story, and in my book, I talk a lot about my relationship with my mom. We struggled at times, and it is one of the storylines that gets the most comments when I meet with readers. The mother-daughter dynamic is one to which most mothers-daughters can relate.
But the relationship with my sister was equally as altered. She was in 8th grade when my accident happened, and she lost her parents. My mom flew back to South Bend to be with me, and did not leave for several months. My father flew back and forth, but even when he was physically with my sister, his mind was elsewhere. My sister had to fend for herself during the very difficult teenage years.
And even though she knew it wasn’t my fault, she blamed me. She was angry at me - and then felt guilty about her anger. I can’t speak too much for her and her emotions - but I know we struggled as sisters for years.
Until she went to college and played volleyball at the University of Virginia - in Charlottesville. For four years, she was the Cavaliers’ starting setter. I loved watching her play; I loved visiting her and being “Mary Frances’s sister” - instead of the other way around. One summer I spent several weeks living with her in Charlottesville as she took summer school and I studied at a Jefferson seminar on campus. Those visits and that summer allowed Mary Frances and me to reconnect as sisters. I saw her as my equal, as an athlete, as a strong woman - and most importantly as a friend.
Perhaps the geography doesn’t matter, but to me Charlottesville is a place of healing. Last night after my speech someone came up to me and said, “Hey, your sister still holds the school record for assists at UVa!” Yes, she does. And this sister couldn’t be more proud.
Listen to me tell part of my story on WINA radio - from Charlottesville, VA. Click on the link to the right….
I spoke to the Charlottesville Catholic School this morning, and will be speaking to a larger group tonight at an event sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of Charlottesville. See “EVENTS” for details.
Last weekend, Jamie and I took our two boys to North Carolina to visit friends from Arizona and Notre Dame. We also attended the Notre Dame vs. North Carolina football game.
I found it interesting when I was talking about my upcoming plans for the weekend that I said we were going to visit friends. In college I would have said something like, “We are road tripping to the Carolina game.” Football was the biggest event of a weekend in college.
Nancy and I have been friends for 25 years; we grew up together in Arizona - and then we both went to college in South Bend. Both our husbands went to Notre Dame. So we all have been to plenty of Notre Dame football games, and experienced plenty of depressing weekends (yes, the disappointment often lasted an entire weekend) after a loss.
But despite a close loss to North Carolina, we had a fantastic weekend. Nancy has two boys who are the same ages as my two boys, and an older daughter. For three days, we took delight in watching our five children play together, disagree, make up, say prayers. We laughed, we shared stories, we talked about the future. We’ve been through some rough times together, but this past weekend reflected what is most important: family, faith and friendship. It was a weekend filled with all three. And while I REALLY would have loved a Notre Dame victory, I am blessed to know that the fourth “F” in our lives: football, doesn’t replace the other three.
I spent the weekend with benefactors of various means. On Friday I had the privilege of traveling to South Bend to spend the afternoon with some pretty inspiring people. Included were student-athletes who compete at the highest level in college athletics, and current and former student-athletes who had competed at the highest level: the Olympic Games in Beijing. Their talent and dedication to their sport is matched only by their commitment to their education and social outreach. These student-athletes are benefactors in their community by giving of their time and talent. That was inspiring.
Friday evening I had the honor to speak to a group of donors who provide the financial assistance that allows many of these outstanding student-athletes to achieve their personal and athletic goals. What I found most impressive was how grateful these generous benefactors were to be able to give to such deserving recipients. It was a dinner to thank those who gave; yet those who gave were the ones who were the most thankful.
How inspiring is that! I was in awe of their generosity, yet even more moved by their humbleness. Yet, in a way, I understand. I am often thanked for sharing my story. However, my story is the ultimate act of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for the gifts in my life, and for the many gifts of kindness I have received along the journey.
That is what giving is all about: Giving selflessly. Giving with your heart. Giving of your time, talent or treasure. We all have something to give – and when you do, it feels good!
This afternoon I am attending an East Coast reunion of my high school, Xavier College Prep. I grew up and went to high school in Phoenix, Arizona, but today Xavier will gather on the East Coast.
I recently was at Xavier for an Alumnae book event. Sister Joan Fitzgerald, Xavier’s principal, and Polly Fitzgerald, XCP’s Alumnae director, invited me to speak and do a book reading/signing at my alma mater.
It was awesome. First of all, any thing Xavier does, they do with class. The event itself, independent of me, was fantastic. Alums from as early as the 1950s socialized with more recent alums…and all of us shared the similar lessons and values we learned during our years at Xavier.
This was the first book reading I have done - and I really enjoyed it. Not only was I able to share with the Xavier audience - over 150 alums - the lessons I have learned, but I was also able to illustrate my message by reading passages from the book.
As I have found with each group to which I have spoken, the response was overwhelming and inspiring. I am grateful not only to those who attended the event, but also to those who waited up to an hour to have me sign my book. Once again, I am honored to Share the Inspiration!