Vicki’s Journey

My life has been devoted to families. Families not only form who we are as children, but their ongoing support and love is critical and elemental, especially in times of challenge.

I grew up in Lansing, Michigan, with wonderful parents who had a penchant for all kinds of music. For most of my childhood, Dad was the choir director and Mom the organist at our local church. Dad worked for General Motors, ensuring we were financially comfortable. My parents instilled in me and my four siblings a love for life, art, and the beauty of nature. We learned to respect others, and believed that we could be anything we wanted to in life, if we only applied ourselves.

Having attended Catholic school from elementary grades through junior high, I was inspired at age fifteen to leave my hometown to attend the private girls’ Mt. Nazareth Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My goal was to become a teacher and a nun. After high school, I formally entered the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, a community dedicated to family ministry.

I attended Mt. Mercy College (now Carlow University), majoring in English and secondary education. I taught English and Journalism to girls at the academy for several years, until dwindling enrollment threatened its closure in 1971. My superiors asked me to stay on and conduct research to determine how the needs of our neighborhood might be met through an alternative use of our facility. My recommendations transformed the academy into a community center, complete with a child care program, family enrichment retreats, and a multitude of support services. As co-director of the newly repurposed “Mt. Nazareth Family Center,” I had the opportunity to develop programs and workshops with the goal of enriching family life, thus fulfilling a personal passion, as well as the mission of my Order.

My religious community encouraged and sponsored me to attend graduate studies at St. Paul University, Ottawa, Ontario, from 1974-77. I received two master degrees, one in pastoral care of the family, the other in marital counseling. In 1980, I was invited to return to my hometown in Lansing, to initiate an experimental program for Catholic Charities. This position of Parish Outreach Coordinator involved developing a variety of social services to meet the needs of parish families throughout their life cycle. I expanded this new effort in my home diocese, assisting staff in other churches to develop similar service programs.

At age 35, I left my religious community. I was hired to do family counseling and family life education at Lansing Catholic Charities. In 1984, I founded a new office for Catholic Charities in Livingston County, which I directed for nine and a half wonderful years. While living and working in this county, I met my husband-to-be and “Renaissance Man,” Felix. This university professor won my heart by quoting Shakespeare, and showing me how to eat moo shu pork. I married at age 41.

My mother and I

My mother and I

In 1994, we moved to South Florida where I took a position as Director of Broward County Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Miami, eventually becoming their Chief Operations Officer. During my thirteen years with this agency, I also became the caregiver for my parents, as their health was predictably failing with age. My Mom was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia in 2000. My father passed away in an unforeseen health emergency in 2003. My mother succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease in 2006.

In 2007, after thirty-six years of focus on family counseling, education, and administration, I flirted with retirement. That didn’t last for long. I applied for a position at Food For The Poor, an international relief and development organization working with the poorest of the poor. I accepted a position as Director of the Speakers Bureau. For the next five and a half years, I oversaw a department of clergy and staff whose purpose was to preach throughout churches in the US, and to work with schools, colleges, and community groups, raising needed funds to help break the cycle of poverty among families in Caribbean countries.

Fully retired since October, 2012, I’m currently focused on self publishing a memoir about my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, and the resulting challenges of caregiving. My husband and I still live in South Florida. For fun, we travel all over the world. I grow orchids, and garden in our certified wildlife habitat backyard, sing in a barbershop women’s chorus, and write children’s poetry. I am working on a children’s book based on a recent trip to Peru.

As you can tell by my biography, the care of the family has been my vocation and passion! My hope in developing this website and blog is that it will benefit family caregivers who have tremendous responsibility and challenges, but also tremendous joys and privilege, in caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s.

Past Professional Qualifications

  • Certified Social Worker, State of Michigan
  • Certified Family Life Educator
  • Certified Fund Raising Executive