📔 Reaching for Heaven

As a student at LMU in the '70s, I looked for a part-time job. I saw a posting for a gym teacher and CYO coach at St. Augustine School in Culver City. I liked sports–maybe this was something I could do.


When I arrived at St. Augustine’s during lunch, the army of kids grades 1 to 8 on the playground overwhelmed me. They were loud and active. Some of the junior high boys had mustaches! There was no way someone like me just a few years older with no teaching experience could handle this job.


Walking down the hallway to the principal’s office for the interview, I decided to high-tail it back to my car and do a quick getaway back to LMU. However, the door near the office was locked with a chain and I didn’t have a way out. As I reversed course, the principal, Sr. Sheila Marie, intercepted me. She told me that “my team” was waiting for me in an upstairs classroom. They had already missed a game because they didn’t have a coach. I spent that year at St. Augustine’s School.


Looking back at my life nearly fifty years later, I realize St. Augustine and his mom, St. Monica, had something up their sleeves. After I graduated from LMU in 1979 and couldn’t find a job in my chosen field of journalism in that first summer, I decided to call on my one year of coaching experience and apply for a job like I had at St. Augustine’s. I ended up submitting for an opportunity at St. Monica Elementary School. I was hired on my twenty-second birthday in September. I only expected to stay around until I found a “real job,” but I ended up working at St. Monica for fourteen years. I transitioned from a coach to a teacher to a DRE while going back to school to get a teacher’s credential and graduate degree in religious education.



While the interplay in these events between Augustine and Monica won’t be known for certain until the other side of eternity, I do know that a resident thirty-nine year old priest I met in my first days around the school has had a direct influence in my life. Father Lloyd Torgerson cornered me one day after two years of coaching as he backed out of the garage and told me that I should be “doing more.” He arranged for me to be hired as the school’s fifth grade teacher. He stepped in with other career help at other stages after that. When I told him at the end of the fourteen years I was looking for a job in publishing, Monsignor Lloyd walked me around the LA Religious Ed Congress exhibitor’s hall and introduced me to the publishing reps he knew. Along the way he also married my wife Lisa and me and baptized our children.


I’m now in my late sixties and have been an editor at Ave Maria Press at Notre Dame in Indiana for the past thirty-one years. I’ve also written a book especially for people my age: Reaching for Heaven: 14 Spiritual Goals as You Grow Older. I write about how looking back at our own memories and ways we practiced our faith throughout our lives can be perfected as we grow closer to the time of our meeting with Jesus. My memories are filled with those wonderful years I spent at St. Monica. I am grateful to have St. Monica, St. Augustine, and Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson as all-time friends and mentors.


Michael Amodei is a former parishioner and teacher. His new book, “Reaching for Heaven,” is now available at Holy Grounds and features an endorsement from Monsignor on the cover. Pick up your copy today!



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