President’s Message – November 2013

I write this at the end of a glorious weekend at the U, one of the most meaningful since I have been a member of the congregation. I spent Friday night and Saturday at the board retreat in Murray Grove. Sunday morning was spent in celebration for the advent of marriage equality in New Jersey, welcoming new members, and a special welcome to members of the Orange congregation who were gracious enough to accept our invitation to worship. Surprisingly, to me, all the activity has caused me to focus on people close to me and I experienced an epiphany that caused me to make a deeper personal connection with my family.

I got to spend some time this weekend with my older sister, Filomena. On Saturday afternoon after the retreat, she and I took my 10-year-old niece Amelia and a friend to Six Flags Great Adventure.  Observing them during our outing, it occurred to me just how special she really is.  My brother-in-law is on permanent disability.  My sister’s goal in life is not to shield her daughter from their circumstances, but to ensure that her daughter does not have any less of a childhood experience because of it.  She works full-time as well as a lot of overtime to make ends meet, and even then isn’t always successful.  But she makes sure Amelia has what she needs, and that she has all the fun that a carefree 10-year old should have.  Filomena is also extraordinarily kind to Amelia’s friends.  She is fully invested in her husband, taking him to doctors’ appointments in Philadelphia taking pains to thoroughly understand his condition and participating in his treatment.  She is tired and worries all the time, but she accepts her life and doesn’t complain.  She keeps herself in phenomenal shape, she tells me so that she can keep up with her daughter, but in reality she takes care of herself so that she can take care of the people she loves.

My sister is the best person I know.  She will probably never get the recognition she deserves.  But she has responded to adversity by becoming her truest, best self.  She lives a life of pure grace.  We two are wired differently.  Our relationship has at times suffered because of a lack of appreciation for those differences.  The total experience of this weekend, of strength triumphing over adversity, taught me to value her more for all she is.  For that, I am so very grateful.

Teresa DeSousa
President, Board of Trustees