Tell me about Sara.
Sara was my older sister — she was my first best friend and my role model. She stood 3 feet, 10 inches due to a rare condition — spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita. She was a complete powerhouse and despite enduring pain and surgeries — and cancer in her 30s that took her from us way too soon — she saw all the ways she was more fortunate than others. She used the gifts she was given, her fierce determination and her intellect to make the world around her better.
What did you learn from her example?
When people would stare at her or say hurtful things, she handled it with such grace — much more than her protective younger sister. Being her sister was and is one of the greatest blessings of my life. Watching her — the inequities she faced, her commitment to making the world a better place for others, and her true desire to understand and listen to others — shaped who I became. I try to continue her legacy by living out her own commitment to equality and justice, and demonstrating it for my kids.
How did her commitment to social justice and equality shape your worldview? How has social justice been part of your faith?
No belief has shaped my worldview more than the fundamental truth of the inherent dignity of each human being. Early on, my parents instilled the notion that because of this belief, our faith calls us to serve others, so from an early age, a commitment to service was part of my faith life. My experiences at Dominican and Marquette further enforced my own commitment to social justice.
How do you define social justice?
As Catholics, we are called to be Christ’s hands and feet on earth. We are also called to listen and seek to understand the experiences of others. We have such strong examples of this in the Catholic Church in America, from Dorothy Day to Sr. Thea Bowman. The past few years have again exposed the many inequities in our country — racial injustice, religious discrimination and economic inequality. Catholicism has a lot to say to us on these issues, if we open our hearts and listen.
You mentioned Dorothy Day and Thea Bowman, are any other saints and blesseds are special to your family?
I’ve always had a special devotion to Mary, and praying the rosary helps centers me. I think that my colorful wooden rosary, which my youngest daughter now has, was next to my childhood bed until a new one came at my First Communion. Both my grandmothers prayed the rosary, and my mom would take me to pray at church. Now, as a mom of girls who mostly see figures in our Church depicted as white, I love that Mary appears to people as they are. St. Catherine of Siena is also special to our family. She was a trailblazer and defied the norms for women of her time. I want my children to embrace who God intended them to be and set the world on fire — there is a painting in our home with this quote, so they are reminded every day.
Having a successful career and a young family is a lot. How does your faith keep you going?
My faith has always been a source of strength. When the balancing act feels overwhelming, I remember the reasons I am balancing a lot: I have work to do from a career I love, a house to take care of, a supportive husband who has been by my side as a friend and then partner as I pursued my goals, and children I prayed I would one day have. There were many things I wanted for my life, but the call to have a family has always been at the center. Focusing on all I have to be grateful for and thanking God for the gift of my family has always helped me when times are hard.