“You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.” — Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

When I started my weekly blogging late last August, I certainly did not expect to be writing an obituary. I also had no way to anticipate that I would by now be blogging as the CEO of the Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA)-USA. But then one of the perks of this job is the family of social justice advocates that come with it.

This weekend the ICA extended family (from the east coast to the west; from the south to Canada) gathered at our GreenRise building in Chicago’s Uptown to remember one of their early colleagues – Betty Chipman Pesek,Betty born on June 12, 1925 in Harlan, Iowa, who passed away on March 24, 2015. One of her roles was as administrative assistant to the Ecumenical Institute’s and the ICA’s founder Joseph Mathews. In her own obituary, Betty wrote that she was “a citizen of the globe and of Chicago.”

The above quote is from the memorial service’s opening meditation. As Betty’s “great life lived and completed” was celebrated, there were many personal stories and common reflections. Elise Packard, now living in Santa Fe, wrote:

“Have you ever identified with Bridging Betty?… Can you imagine Betty telling her North Shore friends that she was going to take the train each day to (Chicago’s) West Side, and therefore would not be available for tea? Can you imagine Betty recruiting these same friends for a weekend of study in a church basement, or a chance to make a safe haven for West Side children during riots, or beckoning these friends to a life of action sparking social justice?”

Betty ServiceElise facilitated the reflections in small groups after the Daily Office, the morning worship service performed by staff of the Ecumenical Institute. Among the words offered by her colleagues to describe Betty were elegant integrity, gracious presence, fearless, and servant leadership.

Our Global Archives team named their room Saturday in Betty’s honor. Her son Chris shared in his eulogy that his mother proclaimed an alternative to “look busy; God is coming.” It was: “Get it done; God is already here.”

Betty RoomI never met Betty. I wished I had. I’m grateful to her family and ICA colleagues for having shared her life.

This week’s lyrics for the U2Cando playlist are from this morning’s Gathering hymn at Sunday mass. I thought of Betty while I sang them:

I have been anointed with the song of the Lord!
A song of love and compassion, a song to set me free!
God is my rock of salvation! A beacon for my soul!
Hallelujah! Amen! Hallelujah! Amen!
Praise to the rock and the well-spring, creator of my soul!

The Lord has called me
To sing His Word to the poor,
Ring out His Justice, His love forevermore;
To preach with words of compassion,
To feed the famished soul: Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! For God has made me whole!

by Steven C. Warner



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