Franciscan Influences: Unspoken Wisdom

Linda DiPietro Features

This essay is part of a series in which lay people describe the impact that the friars have had on them. The most recent reflection appears in the Sept. 11 issue and was written by a staff member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh, N.C.

Below, a former staff member of the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia describes the lessons she learned from the friars’ actions and how their unspoken wisdom has changed her for the better.

My name is Linda DiPietro and I live in Athens, Ga. My life has been deeply touched by the two Franciscan friars who serve at the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia. Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, is the director and David Hyman, OFM, is campus minister. I worked for, and with, the friars for more than four years, just recently ending my employment in July.

Being an administrative assistant in the office at the Catholic Center was awesome. I loved coming to work, not so much for the sake of doing the work but for the purpose of interacting with the friars, center staff, and office visitors.

Enriching Lives
I’m a believer that God works in mysterious ways. Would you believe that Fr. Tom and I came to discuss my interest in working at the center at a local Italian pizza joint? I had been volunteering in the center office for about six months, quietly slipping in and out, trying not to draw attention to myself.

Volunteering at the center was my therapy for the emptiness I felt after having cared for my mother for five years and coping with her death from the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. I really had no thoughts about reentering the workforce. I now believe that God had different plans, and Fr. Tom and I merely followed his instructions.

The friars enriched my life in ways that I’m still discovering. I believe that my awareness of the impact that the friars have had on my life will continue to be uncovered as I progress in life. I may not remember all of their words of wisdom, but I sure do remember their actions.

For instance, when I take myself too seriously during life’s bumps in the road, I often am reminded of how the friars responded to their frequent interruptions that changed even the best of their plans. Fr. Tom usually lifted the mood through some light-hearted comments or a surprisingly gentle and loving understanding of what needed to be done. Fr. David used his dry wit and was calm, soothing, and peaceful in bringing things into perspective. Their admirable behaviors, of course, are rooted in their deep faith and commitment to serve God’s people.

Unselfish Acts
My learning about the friars and their brothers did not always go smoothly. On my first day alone in the office, I was reminded about not judging a book by its cover, so to speak. I noticed that three men were loitering just outside of the office under the covered porch of the center building. They were in varying degrees of casual clothing, some unshaven in the face, and all of them looking as if they had slept in their clothes. When one of them entered the office, I expected a request for financial assistance. It was, instead, a request to let Fr. David know that his friar friends had just arrived after their long drive to Athens. Whenever my thinking leans toward judgments about people, I remember this sobering experience.

Witnessing the friars’ unselfish giving of themselves to those in need has been humbling for me. No matter what kind of day or night they have, they do not turn away someone in need. They always give their time and, frequently, their money. Their example has caused me to have a change in the way I look at the world, and I’m a better person as a result.

In seeking godly counsel, not looking to the world and ungodly people for answers, I have trusted the friars and will continue to do so.

 Linda served as administrative assistant at the Catholic Center at UGA for over four years. She is pictured here with Tom and David in the receptionist office at the center.