Think about your last major volunteer commitment, and how you reacted when it was finished. Did you plunge into something else, or take a breather and maybe allow yourself a chance to catch up on your reading list?
Either way, few of us can hope to match the exceptional example set by Sr. Jude Fitzpatrick, 73. Her story may inspire you to find even more meaning in what you do for others. When asked to join the Mercy College Board of Directors in 2006, Sr. Jude was already working full-time for the Des Moines Diocese and serving on the State Board of Education (she served from 2002-2014).
But she said yes, and has never regretted it. “I feel I’ve been enriched by both opportunities. There’s a reason for why things happen, and I almost hate to admit how much I’m going to miss it,” she says reflectively. “Serving on the Mercy College board has been a truly wonderful experience for me, on so many levels.”
She’s leaving the college board this month, due to the board’s bylaws that cap members at three consecutive three-year terms, but she is grateful for having had the chance to serve. And there is good news: she will be able to continue volunteering as a “community” member of one of the board’s committees, and is delighted to maintain that connection to the college. “I’ll have my fingers in it a little bit, and hope that I can continue to make a contribution,” she says.
She’s proud of the college’s ability to make significant changes in a relatively short period of time, such as adding the new start-to-finish BSN program in the Fall of 2014.
“I’m greatly impressed by the ability of the college to respond to the changing face of health care and the health care professions. Their adaptability is just amazing. The president, Barbara Decker, administrative staff and deans are all so committed to the values of Mercy College."
“We saw so much growth in the number of students and programs, and maintained such excellent quality. I really think the school is one of the best-kept secrets in Des Moines, but it looks like the secret is getting out!”
Now the Chancellor for the Des Moines Diocese, where she provides support to the Bishop and staff of the diocese, Sr. Jude has worked in many roles over her long career: as a classroom teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent of schools for the Des Moines Diocese, and from 1996-2004 as president of her order, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. Other than those eight years, she has called Des Moines home since 1970.
Born in Denison, but raised in Dunlap, Sr. Jude credits her parents for instilling a sense of community and teamwork in her and her four siblings. “We grew up with the belief that with each other, we could accomplish anything, and that philosophy has been my guiding principle everywhere I’ve worked,” she says.
“The goal of leadership is to engage people at all levels of the enterprise.”
She herself has been engaged in work or education nonstop since she gradated from high school in 1959 and joined her order. And she has no intention of slowing down. “My siblings have all retired as of this spring, but I intend to keep working as long as my health allows and I can make a contribution,” she says.
In what must be a small amount of spare time, she enjoys sports, both on television and in person. You might spot her at a Dowling Catholic High School game, or at a Drake women’s basketball game (she has season tickets). And she loves to spend time with her siblings and their families. “Their children and grandchildren are family to me.”
With her unfailing dedication, grace, and commitment, there’s no doubt that Sr. Jude will continue to contribute to her community … and maybe inspire others to do the same.