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Dedicated servant said 'yes' daily to God's call

Earlier this year, our community lost a steadfast proponent of Catholic education and a role model of Christian living. Tessie O. Edwards, teacher, mentor, advocate, relationship- builder, life-long learner, visionary, left a legacy that will continue to impact our community for generations.

We are all called to be disciples, but we must make the choice to respond as stewards and use our God-given gifts to build his kingdom. Tessie Edwards said "yes" to that call every day. Her life built God's kingdom in profound ways.

This Sunday's readings speak to this calling and to God's promise to be with us in our efforts just as he was with Amos in the first reading and with the apostles in Mark's gospel. Psalm 85 also reminds us "The Lord himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before him, and prepare the way of his steps."

Tessie's "yes" to God was rooted in a deep and life-giving faith. She was unreservedly confident she was doing God's work. This gave her the courage to walk into any room and invite all around her to join her cause. She brought people together to inspire good and important work, including efforts that helped the marginalized build better lives for themselves.

One particular program, the Black Student Catholic Scholarship Fund (BSCSF), has helped many young people in our community imagine and achieve great things. After retiring from teaching in Catholic schools for 46 years, Tessie played a key role on the Archdiocese of Omaha's Implementation Team of the National Black Catholic Pastoral Plan. The plan made the values-based education of black youth a high priority. In response, Tessie guided the establishment of the BSCSF in 1994.

Since then, 105 students of limited or moderate means have been given the opportunity to attend a Catholic high school in Omaha. They are awarded scholarships of 50 percent or more of the cost, and committed mentors offer essential support and guidance.This spring, the 100th student recipient earned the Tessie Edwards Memorial Scholarship.

Critical to the success of BSCSF are the demanding academic and moral expectations placed on the students. Students are held accountable to these standards in order to retain their scholarship. This hallmark was a Tessie mandate. She knew this was crucial for the students' life-long success and their drive to reach high.

Tessie, the picture of grace and dignity, called all of us around her to similar heights. Being in her presence caused one to stand taller, speak more respectfully, listen more intently, recall our blessings more frequently and act more justly. Her firm, confident and gracious manner inspired many.

Through the continued work of the BSCSF, through the lives of its graduates who will matriculate into the world as beautiful citizens and through the efforts of the many Catholic schools and service organizations she impacted, Tessie O. Edward's legacy will produce immeasurable gifts and will continue to firmly and graciously invite us to say "yes" to God's call.

Shannan Brommer is the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. She can be reached at smbrommer@archomaha.org.

TO LEARN MORE

For more information about the Black Student Catholic Scholarship Fund, visit www.bscsf.net.

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