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Center for Action and Contemplation

In Appreciation of Vanessa Guerin, Managing Editor of the Mendicant  

February 14th, 2024
In Appreciation of Vanessa Guerin, Managing Editor of the Mendicant  

CAC staff member Paul Swanson started a staff meeting recently with a reflection about the dynamic tension between being an amateur and being a professional when working on something we deeply care about. The word “amateur” originated from the French and Italian in the eighteenth century to mean “one who loves” or “one who is devoted.” The amateur devotes themselves to an activity or a craft, not because they have to do it, but because they want to do it and feel called to do it. The amateur embodies passion, joy, freedom, and a community mindset. The amateur says, “I love what I do, whether I am paid for it or not.”

On the other hand, the professional has expectations of performance and results. They are exemplified by the drive for excellence and devote themselves to an activity with expertise and proficiency. The professional embodies the confidence, speed, and effectiveness that come from experience and mastery. The professional can say, “I’m proud of the job I do and the contribution I make to the mission and the team.”

As you will read in her wonderful reflection, Vanessa Guerin, the Managing Editor of the Mendicant and longest-serving member of CAC’s team, is moving through the “open door” to new adventures after twenty years of service. Vanessa joined the team when it was far smaller and more volunteer-driven than it is today. Vanessa loves to remind us that when she started at CAC, everyone on the staff made the same wage, “And it was $13.64 per hour!” That small but mighty team accomplished an enormous amount, with everyone holding one, two, three, or sometimes even more functional responsibilities at the same time. So many of the opportunities that CAC has today were made possible by the foundation built by Vanessa and this committed and passionate team.

Vanessa has been a key part of the growth of CAC’s impact through many transitions these past few years, including the launch of our CONSPIRE conference series, the expansion of CAC’s programs, the development of CAC Publications and the literary journal Oneing, and much more. There are many of us, myself included, who will need to step into new areas of responsibility in light of Vanessa’s transition.

By stepping back from his active leadership duties last year, Fr. Richard showed us that this mission and work are not dependent on any one person, even the founder. Otherwise, it can’t be sustainable and impactful for future generations. At the same time, while we are not dependent on any one individual, all individuals play profound roles.

In that spirit, I want to thank and appreciate Vanessa for all that she has done for this organization and community. She represents the best of the dynamic tension that Paul Swanson describes:

Someone who works with the spirit and love of an amateur and the commitment and responsibility of a professional. One might even call this . . . the responsibility of love.

Love and blessings to you and your next adventure, Vanessa!

Ben Keesey

Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships

This reflection appears in the Winter 2024 issue of the Mendicant, our quarterly donor newsletter.

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