ST. FRANCIS — Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart, 53, founder of Tomorrow’s Present Youth Leadership Program, and former archdiocesan associate director for youth ministry, died Friday, Dec. 9.
Shortly after her diagnosis with lymphoma and bile duct cancer during the summer of 2009, Calderone-Stewart, author of 20 books and more than 50 articles, began blogging about her life and approaching death. Through “Dying to Get to Know You,” she detailed her health journey, but also shared memories, stories and wisdom to her circle of friends.
In the last entry that she wrote on Sunday, Nov. 6, Calderone-Stewart included “another lesson from mom” about the need to be authentic and say what you mean and mean what you say. She was also “authentic” about her health.
“I’m not doing well. My pain is increasing, and my fatigue is decreasing,” she wrote, promising to write the blog as long as she could, but “then I will turn it over to my sons so they can let you know what’s happening with me.”
In her last entry, she wrote she was thrilled to have had so many opportunities in the last two years of her life, years she wasn’t supposed to have, based on doctor’s predictions. “So we’ll see how many surprises God has in store for us.”
He had few surprises left, as Calderone-Stewart’s health continued to decline, and on Friday, Dec. 9, Ralph Stewart wrote, “The time has come for Mike and (me) to relay to everyone that Lisa has officially gone home. She passed earlier this afternoon and it was a peaceful process. She was surrounded by my brother, myself and plenty of love.
Born in Montgomery, Ala., to Joseph Phillip Calderone and Constance Croce Calderone, Calderone-Stewart grew up in New Jersey with three brothers. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from Holy Cross College, Worcester, Mass., a master’s degree in early childhood education from Lesley College, Cambridge, Mass., and a doctorate in leadership for the advancement of learning and service from Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, in 2003.
She came to Milwaukee, the city she called her “adopted hometown,” in 1997 and served from June of that year to August 2005 as the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s associate director for youth ministry.
While working for the archdiocese, she created “Tomorrow’s Present,” a program she continued to develop with the Capuchins after she became director of youth leadership at the House of Peace.
Prior to coming to Milwaukee, Calderone-Stewart was involved with youth ministry in Nebraska, Michigan, Alabama and Massachusetts.
Devoted to molding teens into leaders, Calderone-Stewart once wrote, “Teenagers are old enough to understand the problems that earlier generations have caused, but still young enough to have hope. I believe in teenagers because they believe they can make a difference.”
In a joint email to archdiocesan staff, Randy Nohl, coodinator of the John Paul II Center, and Gary Pokorny, director of catechesis and youth ministry, wrote, “Lisa’s life exemplified this belief as she worked tirelessly in helping teenagers to make a difference in their parishes, schools and communities.”
Calderone-Stewart is survived by her two sons, Michael (Megan) of St. Augustine, Fla., and Ralph (Cassie) of Franklin, three grandsons, Evan, Issac and Kaleb and three brothers.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated on Sunday, Dec. 18 at All Saints Church, 4051 N. 25th St., Milwaukee, at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers or Mass cards, donations may be made in her memory to “Cardinal Stritch – Tomorrow’s Present,” The Leadership Center at Cardinal Stritch University, 1037 McKinley Ave., Milwaukee, 53205 or www.tomorrows