“Growing up in an American,” says Angela Seegal, “Italian in a family of eight, concepts like ‘sharing,’ ‘making it go further,’ ‘taking only what you need,’ were always part of my vernacular. My parents both came from humble beginnings, and made the conscience decision to raise my siblings and I to care for one another and the people around us. Faith and our relationship with God were also central to the ways in which we were taught to consider our lives and those around us.”
I don’t think a Sunday went by, when we weren’t woken from our slumber by my father throwing open the shades and screaming at the top of his lungs…. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” He always wanted us to remember that every day was gift from God – one that we should treasure and be spent love and caring for God’ people.
As a young girl, being with others and caring for their needs was something that became a central theme in my life. Whether it was when I was making dinner, cleaning the house, or sharing a hairbrush – care and love of other was vital to a life well spent. It was one special night however; that I can remember that making that commitment to care for all God’s people was so pivotal.
As we typically did, Sunday night was filled with prepping for school, showers and Sunday night TV. We would gather around the TV and watch the rundown for the night. There was one show in particular “Punky Brewster” that was programmed on that night. The show’s premise was about an orphan child who was taken in by an elderly man – and the lessons about life they taught one another. In this particular episode, a social worker threatened to take Punky from Henry, as she thought Henry was an unfit parental figure. I remember being so perplexed by the situation. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that Henry loved and cared for Punky. If people wanted to help, why couldn’t they – with no judgment, and no stipulations. In my own way, and in my young mind, I began to ask the Vincentian question…”What must be done?”
From that moment, caring for others and asking others around me consider the same questions became part of my purpose. As I spent my high school and college days, I was driven by the very fact that those in need needed someone to be their voice and their advocate. They needed someone in their world to remind them – “This was the day the Lord has made…” and that their place in the world was very much needed.
After graduating from college, I chose to do a year of service through the Vincentian Service Corp – East and its here where Vincent began to touch my life. I began to learn about a man who challenged those around him to think about others, to recognize the worth and value in all human life. It is Vincent and Louise’s legacy that formed my own capabilities and skills. It is in this year that I began to realize, I needed to spend my life ALWAYS considering “What must be done….” and in that ask others to consider the same.
Now as a mommy of three, I don’t necessarily annoy my kids with early Sunday morning wake-up calls the way my dad did (although my children might beg to differ), but we do spend our family time reflecting and praying about the many ways God moves in our lives. Recognizing our blessings and responsibilities we have to give back and care for those who need to be cared for – to live a reality that… “If this is the day the Lord has made – what must be done so that all people can rejoice in it?”
Angela Seegel is Director of Vincentian Service for the Department of Campus Ministry at St. John’s University.