I was 9 years old when Uncle Matt was named Bishop of Rochester. The ceremonies and celebrations marking that change in his life were fascinating, especially to a child, and will always be a part of my fondest memories. Through it all, Uncle Matt remained and always has been Uncle Matt — a kind, thoughtful, loving and gracious person.
In 1979, I felt proud of him and mesmerized by all of the fuss that people made over him. He must really be an important guy, I thought. Obviously, I was a little overwhelmed by everything I witnessed and, more than anything else, focused on the pageantry of the occasion. Thankfully, as I got older, my perspective matured and I developed an adult’s appreciation of those events and of my uncle. Of course, I’m still proud of him and think he’s a great guy, but as an adult, I more fully understand how having Uncle Matt in my life has shaped me as a person.
Recently, I have been particularly focused on imagining what it must have been like for my uncle when he was named Bishop of Rochester. He was my current age when that happened. When I imagine what an experience like his would look like for me, I consider how I, a teacher, would respond if I was called upon to act as superintendent of a large city school district. The very thought makes me shudder. I don’t know how Uncle Matt did it, but I would be willing to bet that he found the strength to face the challenge just as I think he always does, through prayer and reflection. This is the example that I have drawn on when a challenge arises in my life. It does not matter that the challenges of leading a diocese are nothing like those I have faced in my life. What does matter is that every challenge I have had was easier to face, understand and address because I was mindful of my uncle’s example. The strength and sense of peace I have gained from relying on prayer and reflection have transformed what often appeared to me to be impossible obstacles into problems that I could manage and resolve. Uncle Matt’s example is one of the most important influences of my life.
In addition to being grateful to Uncle Matt for his example of how to face challenges, I am very thankful that no matter the circumstances — whether it’s a fun, playful family event or something much more serious that he faces in his role as Bishop of Rochester — his life has always been one of peace, dignity, integrity and respect. In addition to his faith and a healthy dose of good humor, these are the qualities that I most admire in him, try to incorporate into my life and try to instill in my daughters.