Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Linda Weigel - Teacher, Colleague, and Friend

Story by Daniel Miller

adjunct (noun): a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part

She team-taught only one course here.  Her title was Adjunct Professor of Canon Law.  Yet adjunct seems such an inadequate way to portray Ms. Linda Weigel's role at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary.

Linda Weigel

Linda Showman (left) and Linda Weigel preparing to line up for the procession to the Abbey Church for the 2012 graduation ceremonies.  Photo by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB.

"For the amount of time we paid her for, she probably did twice as much work," Dr. Seymour House said.

Weigel was more than supplementary.  Her death from a heart attack on March 1 created a professional void and deep sadness.

"She cherished this association.  Linda felt a certain bond with Mount Angel and was committed to helping it flourish," Ms. Linda Showman said.  "She came to serve on committees, go to faculty meetings, attend dinners.  She felt a part of this place."

Weigel worked in a variety of roles in the Portland Archdiocese, becoming one of the first lay female pastoral associates and one of the first lay students at Mount Angel Seminary, obtaining her licentiate degree in canon law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada, and investing much time at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Lafayette and at Mount Angel Seminary.

"Linda was born in Silverton, she was brought up in this diocese, she went to [Oregon State University].  She served in church positions her entire adult life," Deacon Owen Cummings said.  "Linda knew everybody, especially the clergy in view of her work in Canon Law.  She spent many years in strong, collaborative ministry."

Colleagues and students remember Weigel for her love of stories, which delighted her to hear or tell.

"She could tell a good story for sure and really put a spin on it that would have you rolling in the aisles. She really appreciated the absurdities of life," Ms. Showman said.

Storytelling also made for engaging classroom sessions.

"Her stories gave life and put a picture in your mind about the way things work," Deacon John Marshall said.  "They were based on her experience, on her eyewitness.  It was also based on her work in parishes as a pastoral associate.  She wanted us to appreciate canon law and to be able to follow it and not view it as an impediment.  She was lively and made the study of canon law somewhat exciting."

Students appreciated her take on a difficult subject - her speciality in canon law and work at the Archdiocesan Tribunal Office meant dealing with end-of-marriage issues and annulment questions from people likely at a low point.  Weigel had a reputation for using grace and humor to approach tricky situations and personalities.

Aside from her work, Weigel embraced a good conversation over a glass of white wine or gin and tonic.

"She was the animating soul of faculty social gatherings," Deacon Cummings said.

Linda Weigel in the pink hat with her colleagues Mark Woolman, Kathy Akiyama, and Etsuko Sisley during the Seminary Beach Bash and Tie-Dye Party at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

At one such gathering after the installation of previous Abbot Nathan Zodrow, OSB, in 2001, the faculty gathered to toast and share some wine, Dr. House said.  As Abbot Nathan showed off his new amethyst ring, Weigel approached.  She admired the ring, House said, and then with a wink asked, "Did you get the earrings to match?"

Faculty saw another side of Weigel in the unglamorous but essential committee work she assumed as part of the seminary's accreditation and self-study that ended in 2012.

"She had an interesting way, a balanced way of offering critique when needed and also support," said Ms. Kathy Akiyama, who co-chaired the self-study with Weigel.  "She had a kind of fairness about her.  It's not like she would cheerlead people indiscriminately.  If critique needed to be given, she would give it in a skillful, courteous way."

During breaks from the grind of study, Weigel recognized the need for amusement.  She was the ringleader for chair races down the hallway in Annunciation.  Ms. Akiyama and Mr. Mark Woolman marveled at Weigel's ability to scurry ahead.

"She just had a way of scooting her chair along," Ms. Akiyama said.

In addition to her motor skills, Weigel possessed adeptness with the English language.

"Language is a little poorer at her passing," Monsignor Patrick Brennan said at Weigel's funeral Mass.

Fr. Paul Thomas, OSB, recalled an entire set of terms Weigel invented: "She had a sense of humor and great wit.  She had somewhat of her own language, a whole set of Weigelisms."

For instance, if Weigel felt like eating Asian food, she would say she was feeling "moo-goo-guy-panish,"  Fr. Paul Peri said. Or if she was in a good mood, she might say she was "tip-toppish."  Weigel seemingly nicknamed everyone, but the nicknames were restricted to Weigel's charm.  No one else could get away with using them.  A list of Weigelisms can be found at the end of this article.

In the classroom, around the committee table, at the Tribunal, or on a friend's patio with a Tanqueray gin and tonic in hand, Weigel forged friendships that lasted.  Fr. Thomas identified this as her defining characteristic in the homily he gave as part of the Holy Mass of Suffrage for Weigel on March 12.

"Communion with Christ and the desire to lead others toward friendship with Christ was the core of Linda's life," he said in the homily.

Fr. Peri succinctly described Weigel's social network.

She knew everybody!" he said.

In her many years working at parishes and the Tribunal, perhaps no one crossed paths with Weigel professionally more than Msgr. Brennan, the pastor at St. Mary's Cathedral in Portland and previous president-rector of Mount Angel Seminary.  He summarized the affection for Weigel shared by the community of Mount Angel Seminary and the archdiocese.

"She was probably the funniest person I had ever met.  That's what originally established our friendship was that we had the same sense of humor," Msgr. Brennan said.  "She attracted all sorts of people and was accepting of all sorts of people.  She became something much bigger.  She became a friend and a professional woman in the church who loved the church and gave her life to it despite the freckles and imperfections.  Her death leaves a big gap in the archdiocese because of so many friends and all the work she did over all those years, her gift to be with people, love of life, and laughter."

The people interviewed for this story offered more wonderful quotations about Linda Weigel than would fit into the story itself.  Those quotations are below:

"The stories are legion.  She was a storyteller." - Deacon Owen Cummings

"In her teaching, she really taught with the mind of the church.  She was able to apply the law with a pastoral sensitivity." - Fr. Paul Thomas, OSB

"Her personality was such that she enlivened the class.  She would have lots of stories to make what she was teaching applicable to pastoral situations.  She had a sense of humor and great wit." - Fr. Paul Thomas

"It was said at her vigil that she was the most reverent-irreverent person we knew.  She had a very deep faith, she was devoted to the church, and she had a keen wit." - Ms. Linda Showman

"I don't want to reduce her to some party girl.  There's a danger in that.  She cherished time with friends.  You were celebrating when you were with Linda.  Even when you were having a serious conversation it was all going to come out joy in the end." - Ms. Linda Showman

"Even though she had taught this stuff a hundred times, she always spent time going over it and preparing.  She thought, 'Let's make sure we do it right.'  That's why she was so good at the marriage tribunal.  She was compassionate, she wanted to help people, she wanted to make sure things were done right." - Ms. Linda Showman

"A full-time woman in lay ministry was very rare.  She basically wrote the job description for that.  She became a model for pastoral associates after her.  She did everything a parochial vicar did except for sacraments.  She started RCIA, visited the sick, helped with liturgical planning." - Msgr. Patrick Brennan

"She was able to create a desire to see the value of canon law and how it would make us more effective ministers to those we serve.  If we don't follow the law, it can cause harm to those we serve." - Deacon John Marshall

"She was very upbeat.  She was very outgoing.  She liked people, and she loved the church.  She wanted only the best for the church.  She like to go to a party.  She was very loquacious.  She loved to chit and chat." - Fr. Paul Peri

"She was very, very generous with her time and her commitment to the school." - Fr. Paul Peri

"Everybody stopped in her office.  She always knew what was going on." - Fr. Paul Peri

"She had a way of being on everybody's side while still pushing forward the agenda." - Dr. Seymour House

"I think she saw her work here as a vocation, not just a job." - Ms. Kathy Akiyama

"Whatever she did she saw it as a collegial activity.  I think she is one of those people who saw building friendships as part of being productive." - Ms Kathy Akiyama

"She was consistent with our idea of communio, or ethos.  She had that Benedictine charism of greeting the stranger.  She wasn't just saying things to be nice." - Ms. Kathy Akiyama

"She used quaint phrases like something your aunt would say.  Linda had a way of bringing back a kind of way of manners that you don't often hear.  Maybe she had a local colloquial hospitality that I associate with Portland.  When people talk about Portland, they talk about friendliness.  She embodied that with the down home spirit she had." - Ms. Kathy Akiyama

Weigelisms:

Mumptious: Something akin to pompousness.  As in "Could our waiter be more mumptious?"

Himself or herself: The odd use of a pronoun indicating someone thinks too highly of themselves.  As in, "Himself came into my office yesterday."

The Glock: The Glockenspiel Restaurant in downtown Mount Angel, a favorite eatery at the end of a working day on the hilltop.

The Mad: An adjective attached to someone who is a little eccentric but mostly normal.  As in, "You can chalk that one up to the Mad Daniel."

Ten: An indicator of enthusiasm or excessiveness.  As in, "Was your dinner delicious?" "Oh, it was ten delicious."  Or, "Was that weird?"  "It was ten weird."

Tip-toppish:  A way of expressing satisfaction at the moment.  As in, "How are you?"  "I'm tip-toppish."

Moo-goo-guy-pannish: A phrase to use when Asian food sounds good for dinner.  As in, "What do you want to eat?" "I'm feeling moo-goo-guy-pannish."

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