The bulletin boards of our lives


In my house in Omaha, I have a spare bedroom which serves as my office, for writing, for my work with Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, for doing household business. A cozy place for me and my “stuff.”

One of the first things I wanted for my office was a bulletin board. Call me a 13-year-old if you will, but I like a place where I can pin up little reminders, mementos, favorite pictures. I think my husband was happy to buy me one, because it meant I would not be punching 95 holes in the freshly painted walls but would confine my frequent redesigns to one well-mounted board.

A bulletin board is like a mini-archaeological dig into a person’s life and values. A good bulletin board — or maybe it’s your refrigerator door, or for those organized types, a scrapbook — should change often. It should be organic and evolving.

So what’s on my bulletin board? Lots of family pictures, of course, from various occasions and years, some of them of little folks long grown. Those never fail to tug at my heartstrings.

Here’s a picture of me with Sister Helen Prejean’s arm around me, and another with a Notre Dame Sister when we had an anti-death penalty table at a Catholic pro-life conference. One great thing about having your own bulletin board is that you only display pictures that are flattering to you, and the older I get the harder those are to find.

Owing to my Catholic imagination, there are at least two small crucifixes of varying design, and three angels, one from a little girl whom I taught in preschool years ago. Here’s a holy card of Jesuit saints, and a small list of the year’s copy deadlines for the Catholic Anchor.

And here’s a new addition that means a lot to me: a picture of Frans van der Lugt, the 76-year-old Jesuit who was murdered in Homs, Syria, simply for his beautiful and enduring witness to the suffering Christian and Muslim people of that besieged city. His picture reminds me to pray to this new Catholic martyr. The associate pastor at my parish, Jesuit Father Paddy Gilger, just did a piece about Father van der Lugt at America Magazine.

On my bulletin board there’s a promotional card for “The Urban Abbey,” a fantastic project of the local Methodists. They have a coffee shop and religious bookstore in Omaha’s popular Old Market District, and on Sunday nights they offer worship services there, attracting many who have otherwise abandoned church. Fair trade coffee, plenty of books and homemade goodies from Methodist ladies — what’s not to love?

Here’s a brochure for Father Edward Flanagan, the Irish immigrant who founded Boys Town and is now being promoted for sainthood. This reminds me to pay a call at his tomb, just a few minutes from my house.

Hanging from the bottom of the board: invitations, flyers, retreats.

My bulletin board reminds me of what’s important in my life. The pictures, offering a progression of my life with husband, kids, friends and relatives, reminds me of meaning when life seems pointless. Father van der Lugt’s picture makes me proud to be part of the communion of saints and reminds me to pray to him. The crucifix continually asks me what I’m doing for Christ.

Occasionally, I redesign my board so it doesn’t become rote. I add and subtract.

So here’s to the scrapbooks, the refrigerators doors or the bulletin boards of our lives. And remember: may your pictures all be flattering!


The writer is formerly from Anchorage. She now lives in Omaha, Neb.

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