‘One nun can make a difference’

The June 24 welcome dinner for the 2015 Catholic Media Conference in Buffalo, New  York, combined three worlds: journalism, Catholicism and Buffalo.

It began with a tribute to the late Tim Russert, a well-respected journalist who was the longtime moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” who was equally proud of his Catholic faith and his hometown of Buffalo.

Mercy Sister Lucille Socciarelli (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Mercy Sister Lucille Socciarelli at CMC in Buffalo, N.Y. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

And maybe no one was more proud of Russert, who died in 2008, than Mercy Sister Mary Lucille Socciarelli, his seventh-grade teacher at St. Bonaventure School in Buffalo,  who once told him: “Timmy, we have to find a way to channel your excess energy,” and named him editor of the school’s newspaper. Russert credited Sister Lucille with inspiring him to become a journalist and later established the Sister Mary Lucille Outstanding Teacher Award to honor teachers for the impact they have on students’ lives.

Sister Lucille, who goes by Sister Lucy, coincidentally just moved back to South Buffalo and was a special guest at the Catholic Media Conference. She told the group how much she treasured her friendship with Russert and how the city was so proud of him.

She also said Russert had told her, with a twist on the famous inauguration speech of President John F. Kennedy: “One nun can make a difference and you did.”

The former teacher proudly wore a Buffalo Bills pin and laughed and nodded in agreement with the introductory remarks about her given by Mark Zimmermann, editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese.

He told the attendees that Sister Lucille was highlighted in chapter nine of Russert’s book about his father, “Big Russ & Me”: Russert wrote that Sister Lucille was chatty, had a great sense of humor, liked popular culture and even sometimes played baseball with her students, swinging the bat, and “rounding first base with her black habit and rosary beads flying in the wind.” He also said he and his friends thought the nun was “the coolest teacher we had ever met.”

Zimmermann pointed out that when Russert  famously wrote “Florida, Florida, Florida” on his dry erase board in the early morning hours following Election Day 2000, one viewer later sent him a note about his penmanship — Sister Lucille.

She told Catholic News Service after the welcome dinner — where she received a standing ovation and was greeted by a number of reporters who waited in line to talk to her — that the problem with the famous Florida writing wasn’t that Russert didn’t write in cursive, because she said that was even worse.

More on Russert,  Sister Lucille and another Catholic teacher of Russert’s can be found here.

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