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The Light of One: A True Missionary


Continuing our daily Advent reflection series, Fr. John Ullrich, OFM, writes about a woman whose generosity showed him the spirit of a true missionary.

I met Lee D’Amico about ten years ago. She was about 75 years old then. The first thing that struck me about her was that she was happy – and shared that happiness with a tremendous sense of humor. At the time, she’d been widowed about ten years and was living a content and comfortable life. Her husband had been a chemist who’d worked for a pharmaceutical company and earned a decent living. Lee lived in a nice home, but was of modest means.

She grew up during the depression with four siblings. Her mother died when she was six years old. She was raised by her father with the help of her maternal grandmother. She recalls those days fondly, grateful for their love. Other than that, “We had nothing!” But that never mattered to her. The home was full of love, care and deep mutual affection.


About six years ago, Lee’s grand-daughter, Kathy, was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive and rare form of cancer in the muscle of her left thigh. Kathy lived in New Jersey, and she needed to travel to Houston for her oncology appointments and treatments. Kathy’s parents, Lee’s son and daughter-in-law, were financially strapped. Without giving it a second thought, Lee immediately decided to sell her home and use the proceeds to help the family with the medical and travel expenses.

Quite simply, Lee would move into an apartment. And if the money ran out, well, the money ran out – “and I’ll be able to figure out what I need to do to live.” She said, “The important thing is Kathy, and her family, and being able to do for them whatever I can.”

Unfortunately, Kathy died of the cancer about two years after diagnosis – and a load of medical treatments, expensive care, and travel to Houston. The family, of course, was devastated. Yet, Lee never regretted for a second her sound decision to be the kind, thoughtful, caring, generous and loving person that she learned to be from her very early years. She has helped me understand that the “different way” she chooses to live her life can only make the world a better place. In my mind, Lee is a true missionary, sensing the call to follow the love of God planted deep within her, and carrying that love forward to the world she lives in!

Coming up tomorrow: “The Wire Man” by Katherine Menezes

Fr. John Ullrich, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province and a Priest. He lives at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, MD, ministering within the Franciscan formation program there, and serving part-time in several local ministries in the Washington, D.C. area.

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