It’s Hard to Say Goodbye ~ Reflections on Archbishop Chaput
By Terry Polakovic
A Good Friend
A friendship was born in the year 2000, though I would not understand its significance right away. My family and I joined a group traveling from the Archdiocese of Denver to World Youth Day in Rome. We spent a lot of time on buses, and it was our great luck to have Archbishop Chaput sitting next to us.
My children, ages 10 and 12, were the youngest ones on the bus. They were excited and full of energy, but the Archbishop proved to have more stamina than the two of them combined. Even though it was August and the heat and travel were exhausting, the three of them played the “word game” past midnight on more nights than I can remember. The interaction between the three of them was a joy to watch and just thinking about it makes me smile.
A Wonderful Mentor
Knock, knock. May I have a minute? That’s how the visit began early in 2003, when I mustered my courage to approach Archbishop Chaput about the possibility of starting something brand new. I wasn’t even sure what it would be exactly, but the idea was strong and persistent and I needed to see if it would fly.
I had been studying John Paul II’s writings on women – along with two other friends – for over a year and we were excited to learn about the theology behind the “New Feminism.” This, we believed, was a story that needed to be told. So we hatched an idea to begin a teaching apostolate that would eventually become Endow.
On that day, we walked into the Archbishop’s office with no credentials, no concrete plan, no money, and no office space.
The surprise was that he didn’t kick us out. The Archbishop could have easily said “no” but he listened. He considered the possibilities. It is a sign of the Holy Spirit working in hearts that Archbishop Chaput saw something worth taking a chance on.
A Staunch Supporter
Over the ensuing eight years, he has walked with us and guided us every step of the way. In fact, just before the announcement regarding his new assignment to Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput gave us a parting gift. He finalized the paperwork formalizing Endow’s canonical status as a private juridic person of the Catholic Church.
No words of thanks will ever be enough.
A Spiritual Father
Over the years, I have wished that leading this organization would be easier, but it isn’t. The work is hard and the hours are long. The demands on the staff are tremendous and every day we are all reminded of our own human limitations.
I know that I could never do this alone. I have needed a lot of help from people who are wiser and further advanced in the spiritual life and Archbishop Chaput is surely one of those people. He has supported me, challenged me, guided me and consoled me. Like a loving father, he encourages me when I struggle, he dusts me off when I fall and sends me back out. He is the kind of father that believes in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Because he leads by example, I often find myself wondering, “What would Archbishop do?”
A Father’s Legacy
The truth is, Endow would not exist without Archbishop Chaput. Every time a woman tells me that Endow has changed her life, I stop and thank God. I am reminded that this apostolate is a work of the Holy Spirit. In His wisdom, God has permitted this relationship between the Archbishop and me and I will revel in the fruits of this friendship for the rest of my life. Knowing other lives are enriched is the icing on the cake.
Yes, it is hard to say goodbye but there is an exhilaration too and an eager desire to embrace the future. I have learned that our God is a God of surprises. I stand before Him in gratitude.