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My mentor

I never thought of myself as consciously mentoring anyone. So I was surprised that in later years some would refer to me as their mentor. Yet when I did think of it, I realized I was paying forward what I had experienced with my mentor.

I never thought of him as a mentor.  I thought of him as a wise person who listened to the hopes and fears of an average “Prepster” attending St. John Prep in the early 1950s.

My mentor’s name was Fr. Fred Gaulin CM. I saw in him something that inspired me.

Listening and respect

What was it about him that I now recognize as mentoring? Two things stand out.

He listened… and listened and listened.

He respected me even though he was much wiser than I.

He apparently saw in me a potential that at that point I could not see in myself. But he never pushed what he saw. He encouraged me to explore my possibilities.

He allowed me to “wake up” and my own pace. Looking back, I remember well the question he asked me in my sophomore year at the Prep. I had just hesitantly shared with him that I thought I might have a vocation to be a priest. He was obviously pleased.

The next question he asked me was when I would like to enter the seminary. My quick answer was after I graduated three years down the road. He never pressured me beyond asking that question. He just kept on listening and walking with me. Looking back, I realize that those three years allowed me to experience so much that I would not have experienced had I entered the seminary earlier.

Paying it forward

I also realize how much impact he had on my 55 years of ministry.

He was a gadgeteer who liked to experiment and build things (just as my father did). I enjoyed exploring things with him.

Unknowingly he nurtured the seed that led to my fascination with computers and then the wonders of the internet. In many ways, this was the prequel to the last 20 years of service to the charism of Vincent via the FamVin Project.

But perhaps most significantly he taught me how to listen. After ordination, at the University of Pennsylvania, I was in training as a marriage and family therapist. There I heard the expression “listening with the third ear”. It wasn’t until years later that I made the connection. Fr. Gaulin had listened to my deepest longings hidden beneath my teenage words and respected them.

To this day  I have certainly not been conscious of mentoring others. It is now dawning on me that in listening to others and their hopes, walking at their pace, I was simply “paying forward” the blessing I had received.

Taking it further, I can’t help think that so much of the growth of the Vincentian Family came from listening and respecting. Just think of the mentors in our tradition – Vincent,  Louise, Frederic, Rosalie…  They listened to and respected others. They all became aware of God’s love for them. They all paid it forward in loving others.  They all unconsciously taught others to pay it forward.

Of course, there was Jesus who knew he was loved by his Father. He paid it forward by washing our feet and asked us to pay that love forward.

Mentoring in our lives

  • Who are or have been your mentors?
  • What was the most important thing about them?
  • How do you pass on to others the gift you received from them?

Click below for an audio version of this Mindwalk

Are You A Mentor?