Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Remembering a great priest and mentor

August 9, 2017

With the sudden passing of Father Ron Lewinski, who was a gifted, dedicated and loving priest and collaborator, many of our priests told me about the mentoring role that he played throughout his years of service. He was someone his brothers, juniors and seniors, could count on as they grew in their ministry. I could appreciate that contribution, as I have been blessed over the years by brother priests who guided and chided, pushing me to keep growing and learning.

I recently shared with the priests some thoughts on mentoring, listing the following seven qualities of mentorship that come to mind as I think about Father Ron and other priests I have known. For me good mentors are:

1. Generous: Good mentors are willing to give the time and make the commitment to share what they know and the skills they have developed over time. Their generosity in being accessible is anchored in a deep humility, constantly keeping in mind what it was like for them as a beginner.

2. Motivate by good example: Good mentors are aware they teach best by consistently demonstrating the specific behaviors and actions required to be effective and successful. They set goals for themselves and follow through. They are respected by colleagues who look to them for good example.

3. Communicate: Good mentors provide guidance and constructive feedback, but have good listening and communication skills. They are both patient in paying attention to those they mentor and bold enough to challenge when that is needed.

4. Enthusiastic: Good mentors are excited by their work and convey a confidence that their work has meaning and has the potential for doing things that transform the lives of others. Their enthusiasm is contagious, prompting those they mentor to become more passionate about the mission.

5. Value ongoing learning and growth: Good mentors are curious, lifelong learners who read and keep up to date with new developments, rather than growing stagnant with the passing of time. They are not risk averse to experimenting and learning from new insights.

6. Positive: Good mentors are especially attentive to name the gifts of those whom they mentor. They do this far more than pointing to deficits or problems. They are fundamentally positive in their approach. They build on grace.

7. Love those they mentor: Good mentors want only the best for others, rejoice when they succeed, are not envious when the pupil surpasses the teacher and are free enough to let them do so.

The history of the church is replete with examples of passing on the tradition of good practices and pastoral skills by those who took time to mentor a younger generation. We know that Paul had that kind of relationship with Barnabas, Titus and Timothy, as did Peter with Apollonaris of Ravenna and Ignatius of Antioch and the apostle John with Polycarp of Smyrna, who, in turn mentored Irenaeus.

Renew My Church calls us all to grow and support one another and will require good mentoring. I am just sad that Father Ron won’t be there to help us. But perhaps he has inspired us sufficiently to pick up where he left off.


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