Dr. Dovre's Remark's - Sept. 6 ChapelStudents, faculty, staff and friends of Concordia College. We have come today to honor the memory of our leader and friend, Pamela Jolicoeur.
When this community received word of Pamela's coming in the spring of 2004, some wondered-can a Californian who spent most of her life living in year round sunshine, driving down the freeways in top down convertibles-hair blowing in the wind, enjoying the beeches and bike trails on any day-could such a person find peace and contentment and joy in a four season land of snowstorms, floods and random days of natural wonder? The answer of course was yes and that was so, we came to understand, because Pam brought the peace, contentment and joy with her. She claimed her place among us immediately, affirmed our mission and added her own exegesis, came to meet us in the hither and yon and embraced our traditions one by one whether it was buttering corn cobs, tossing the golden beanies or attending the bonfire rallies.
I greet you today in the name of Christ our Lord, in the spirit of Paul's letter to his friend Philemon and in observance of the life and witness of Pamela Jolicoeur. In his letter, Paul began by expressing appreciation for the friendship of Philemon but, more significantly, for his faith in Jesus and for his life and service which, he said, had been a source of refreshment for the saints. Today I invite our attention to some of the ways Pamela Jolicoeur refreshed our lives and how the witness of her faith may continue to do so.
Pam refreshed our lives through her example of vocation. As most of you know, Pam was a devout Catholic early in her life. As a teenager she understood her vocation as a call to holy orders, a call she accepted when she joined the Sisters of Social Service, an order committed to the urban poor. Her life long friend, Sister Patricia McGowan told of first meeting Pam at a summer camp. This was the same Pam we knew-perfectly coiffed and color coordinated. But at that same camp she always carried a purse around which led her to be know as "Lady Pamela." Which soon led her to ditch the purse.
Pam was profoundly shaped by her years in the order. There she learned about attention to text and worship and liturgy; about the discipline of the Order of St. Benedict and its focus on hospitality to the neighbor. But after several years, she came to understand that the Holy Orders were not the right fit so she moved into the world of the academy and then eventually to California Lutheran University. It was during the CLU years that she said she discovered herself and her vocation. There she found new models for understanding the Word, new language for understanding herself-and a new impulse for her vocation-the impulse of grace. Pam's experience exemplified the words she so often used to describe vocation-an act of response to God's grace in service to the neighbor. Today we give thanks for the unique ways in which Pam refreshed our understanding of vocation.
Secondly, we were refreshed by Pam's commitment to excellence. Again, she exemplified this in her life. Sister McGowan wrote that during their years together in the novitiate she discovered that Pam was not just smart but really smart. Sister McGowan wrote:
"I saw how articulate she was, and also discovered that she could dance, speak French and sew. She even choreographed a play we performed! Was there anything she couldn't do? Well it turns out there were two things. She couldn't type, and she could not give anything less than her best. I suspect she later learned to type, but I know she always gave any project 100% throughout her life."
As I remarked at the memorial service last summer, it was hard to think of anything Pam did not do exceedingly well-with the possible exception of leading the Cobber yell at halftime of the Homecoming game, an act that was clearly unnatural to her, it was her "bridge too far" as it were. And it was something her husband Mike and I convinced her a couple of years ago that she no longer needed to do since her Cobber credentials were already well established. Pam gave us what I called the best six years of her life and her Mother Kitty told me they were also the six happiest years of her life.
And Pam saw the excellence in us-individually and collectively. She saw our gifts and called us to do our best and be our best-to overcome our militant modesty, to live out our possibilities for excellence and so, again, we were refreshed.
The third way Pam refreshed us was in our understanding of leadership. For Pam, leadership
- Was not about having the all the right answers but about having the right questions
- Not about having a detailed road map but about setting the general direction
- Not about an exclusive cadre of leaders but about an engaged commons
- Not about scarcity but about abundance
- Not about accepting someone else's vision for our future but about framing our own
- Not about hierarchy but about community
- Not about uniformity but about diversity
And so our community was refreshed and leadership became a community function and not a solo performance. Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher of the 6th century BC said "At the end of the days of a truly great leader, the people will say about him/her ‘we did it ourselves.'" This community can say that, thanks to the kind of leader Pam was.
In his letter to Philemon, Paul thanked his friend for his example of faith and, in that same spirit, we give thanks that we were refreshed by Pam's living faith. In a remarkable essay and address that she wrote and presented in 2006, Pam spoke of coming to understand God's action in the world and in her life. She wrote:
"I wasn't knocked off a horse exactly, but it was just very close to that. When I understood what it means to be saved as an act of unmerited ... unconditional love on the part of God and there was nothing I could personally do to earn (it), (that) was an experience that was just hard to describe in my life. All of a sudden I saw everything differently. Now, following Jesus was much less about rules and discipline and control and doing.... I knew how to do that stuff. Now it was about listening to words, life, accepting, being grateful for being loved for who you are and as we are. That was an astonishing revelation to me. And I am so grateful to God, to Jesus for opening that up to me."
And it was for her, a live thing. She put it this way:
"...what we do, we do for the glory of God. I love our motto at Concordia College-"Soli Deo Gloria." If you are thinking of what you do, as not for yourself; (then) you are not running for your next job, but doing it for the glory of God, (and) you are empowered to do what you need to do. Even things that are really hard to do."
Pam later described the experience of taking vows into the Sisters of Social Service. She was given a motto. Her motto was "Abide in my love." She wrote "so this thought has been there 40 plus years of my life, and God was in the place I was but I didn't really see it, I didn't see it fully until now. I feel that I am called...to abide in God's love. And I think that what Jesus does...is walk with me in that journey as a companion and as a guide. I think he shepherds, he heals, encourages and exhorts me. And in that, I can do whatever I need to do - Soli Deo Gloria."
This faith in which Pam lived is also the faith in which she died, the Lord her shepherd still. And this faith is the grounding for our hope, it is at the core of our calling and it is all the reassurance we will ever need.
May the life of Pam Jolicoeur and the faith she lived continue to refresh us all. And let us work while it is day. Amen