“We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”
For those who are uninitiated, this absolute gem of a line is delivered by Jedi Master Yoda to Luke Skywalker in arguably his darkest moment of the Star Wars series. After everything Luke worked for was destroyed by his nephew, he exiles himself, marinating in his failure, cutting himself off from the Force, and allowing himself to be consumed with bitterness and doubt. It is in that moment; Luke’s time of greatest need, Yoda returns (in ghost form) to remind him that failure is an essential part of life. “The greatest teacher, failure is!” Yoda admonishes, as he reminds Luke to “pass on what he has learned.”
This scene has always tugged on my heart strings (as someone who grew up on Star Wars, how could Luke and Yoda reuniting not make one emotional?) but has taken on a new resonance in the weeks and months after I found out I was going to be a father. “We are what they grow beyond” rings in my head like an alarm as I prepare for the arrival of my daughter in December. Will she pick up my bad habits? Will she hate the things that I like? Will I be able to “pass on” our Catholic faith? What does that even look like, in 2022?
Make no mistake, my wife and I are awaiting this moment in joy, but it is still hard to not be struck by the sheer awesomeness of the responsibility of fatherhood. Not the physical day to day responsibilities of sleep schedules, changing diapers, and all-nighters, but the spiritual, existential questions: what have I learned that I should “pass on” to her? Am I ready to see what she looks like when “she grows beyond” me, as Yoda says? What happens if I fail? For six months, my mind has been dominated by a maelstrom of thoughts, doubts, concerns, hopes, and dreams. Am I ready to be what my parents were/are to me: mentors, guides, careful stewards of my development and my heart?
Since I didn’t have the ghost of Jedi Master Yoda to walk me through all of this. I turned to great the mentors of my life, some of whom I have come to know and love because of my work at the Diocese of Bridgeport. As they walked with me through what life was going to look like after the baby was born, I was shocked when God began to place a particular feeling on my heart in relation to my job, which I have loved: “It is time to move on, you are needed elsewhere.”
I guess this is my long-winded way of saying that, after eight wonderful years here at the Diocese of Bridgeport, (and a lengthy discernment) I am moving on to another job.
When I was hired as “Social Media Leader” by Bishop Frank at the age of 22, my world looked very different. I was still living at my parent’s house in Stamford (I am a native son of the Diocese!), I was single, fresh out of college, with very little work experience. Bishop Frank was new to the Diocese, having just convened the Synod of 2014, and knew that to reach more of the faithful, the Diocese needed to modernize its communications. Confident though I was, I remember sharing with him my greatest fear: failure, and I will never forget what he said:
“Failure isn’t making a typo or posting the wrong size picture. Failure is not sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.”
I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish together at the Diocese: from bringing 300 young adults to Poland in 2016 for World Youth Day, to using digital media as a means of communicating to the diocese in an open, accountable, and fully transparent way on issues of sexual abuse, to broadcasting Mass live from an empty Cathedral during Triduum 2020 to tens of thousands of people. None of it would be possible without the trust, guidance, and mentorship of Bishop Frank, Brian (my boss) and others throughout the Curia. Nor would it have been possible without you – the thousands of people every day that trusted me enough to share with you the good news of the Diocese. Thank you for your likes, comments, shares, (and criticisms) – I hope I served you well.
As I move on to a new challenge, I have spent time reflecting on the great mentors I have had throughout this journey. They have seen me graduate with my Masters, travel the world for the first time, meet my wife, buy a house, navigate a pandemic, and prepare for the birth of a child. And again, I return to the quote from Yoda: We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. And far be it from me to ever correct the Jedi Master himself, but I would offer a mentee’s response:
We are who you help us become. That is the joy of all students.
Thank you to all who, in these past eight years, helped me grow as a coworker, a man, a disciple, and as a witness to the Gospel. Thank you for giving me the space to fail and to learn. It has been the honor of a lifetime to work and to serve the Diocese that I grew up in, and the Diocese that I love.
Director of Digital Media
Editor’s Note: John will be taking a job at FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities) as their Associate Director of Communications. Since the job is remote, he will remain in Milford with his wife and dog as they expect their first child, a daughter.