Whose Feet Will We Wash?

Sister Patricia Simpson, OSF
February 20, 2020
March 6, 2020
Sister Patricia Simpson, OSF
February 20, 2020
March 6, 2020

By Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF  

 I am a television and video scriptwriter-filmmaker-producer who works in the video production unit of a reputed firm.

Most people really don’t understand what that means. Sometimes I can’t even define my job myself, for after all these years, the position keeps evolving. However, it’s even harder to explain to others what I really DO all day.

Last week, for instance:

  • I drove 644 miles over three days to meet with clients in two different states ( a leadership team of three Sisters and then one bishop) about two projects—one just beginning and one almost completed;
  • I booked a male voice-over artist to read 33 narration segments for an ABC documentary and negotiated with him to reduce his regular $1800 fee by 2/3 since this is a religious project (he agreed!);
  • I booked an editor in the Chicago suburbs to work on a short 5- minute video we can’t complete in-house due to staff scheduling conflicts;
  • Three hours later, I opened an e-mail saying the 5-minute video budget hadn’t been approved and thus the project was “indefinitely on hold;”
  • I called back the (disappointed) Chicago editor to cancel;
  • I participated in a Skype video conference call with two gentlemen–one in New York, one in Germany—to negotiate another potential project;
  • I wrote 5 short video scripts intended for a prestigious spring gala dinner in Washington, DC for a fellow-producer under deadline duress ;
  • I directed, over the phone, a Native American voiceover actor reading a script from a Los Angeles studio while a sound engineer in Las Vegas recorded him and later emailed the performance to me in an audio file;
  • I researched crew airfares, van rentals and motel costs in 6 different cities in order to create a working budget for another new project.

This is a snapshot of what “typical producer work” entails. However, I

was also called to attend to other (no less important) scenarios:

  • I bought and delivered early-morning coffee and doughnuts for the crew and talent of a fellow-producer’s minivan commercial shoot on my way into work;
  • I finally put away actors’ Indian costumes, eagle feather headbands, and rawhide ties from a summer dance re-enactment;
  • I made a Costco run for institutional-size office “paper products” since we were out of napkins and toilet tissue;
  • I cleaned the office lunchroom microwave that looked like it might be harboring the Ebola virus;
  • I (cheerfully) answered the front door multiple times for the US Post Office, FedEx, Amazon, UPS, and the random people who cannot find 415 Monroe Street—the building right next to ours;
  • I listened to a colleague describe his wife’s trauma with her mother’s diagnosis of dementia and admission to a nursing home even as the family was deeply immersed in the hospice death vigil for her father;
  • I listened to the pain and frustration of a producer friend out of work and desperate for employment.

I suspect your own ministry and life follow similar patterns—perhaps not in the details, but in the spirit of the above. You don’t need to work in television to recognize them.

We all face a similar grocery list of daily events—routine and unexpected, exciting and mundane, rewarding and painful– that presents itself fresh to us every day. What is ours to do? To respond with humility and fidelity, showing up and serving as we are needed.

St. Basil the Great asks:

If I live alone, whose feet will I wash? How will a person show humility if he has no one before whom to show himself humble? What chance of showing compassion, when cut off from the fellowship of others? The Lord washed the disciples’ feet. Whose feet will you wash?


Sister Judith Ann Zielinski

Sr. Ann Marie Emon

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski has found a ministry telling stories, in which she communicates how others contribute to the greater good. She serves as the Director of Faith & Values Programming at NewGroup Media, in South Bend, Indiana, a position she has held since 2002.

She is a writer and producer of multiple broadcast and non-broadcast programs, that have taken place nationally as well as internationally.

In 2018, Sr. Judy celebrates her 50th Jubilee as a Sylvania Franciscan.

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4 years ago


Brigid O'Shea Merriman, OSF
4 years ago

Dear Judy, I just finished reading your blog and while chuckling over it, tears also came to my eyes. You are gifted in so many ways, and among them are the thoughtfulness, patience, and compassion to give others. I marvel that you manage to integrate the being and doing of your lived ministry. Wishing you continued energy; every blessing.

Maira Pacelli
4 years ago

Judy, thanks for sharing all that your ministry entails. It was an eye-opener! You are pulled in many directions but you meet all the situations with a joyful Franciscan heart. Thank you for representing us so well.

4 years ago

Whew. I wanted to go home and take a nap after I read your blog!!! Great work of trying to show us what your job entails, yet I bet that it is only a fraction of what it really contains. Good work Judy

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