Loyola Magazine

Led by the Spirit: a reflection on the gift of mentorship

Two people sitting in front of a large, colorful, stained glass window talking and smiling
Photo credits: Jim Burger

For the past 37 years, George P. Miller, ’76, has overseen Loyola’s liturgies and directed the Chapel Choir. The longtime associate director of Campus Ministry, who retired in August, has also mentored countless Loyola students in pastoral music and liturgical service through an internship program he started in the mid-1990s.

About a dozen of Miller’s former interns serve as professional pastoral musicians, with many more volunteering in parish ministry. The skills students learn through the experience, however, can be applied in myriad other ways.

Miller recalls working with Justin Doo, ’21, during the second semester of Doo’s first year at Loyola. Doo was training to be a sacristan, and one area of focus of their weekly mentoring sessions was what Miller calls, “assertiveness training.” Miller watched as his mentee gained confidence through the experience. “As a sacristan, you need to work through times when the sky’s falling all around you, but nobody can know it because they’re all looking to you to sort of calm the waters,” Miller says.

A lot of times, it’s just offering an open ear and saying, ‘I don’t have all the answers, but if you want to talk about it, this is what I think.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when classes shifted to remote learning, Doo recalls how devastated students were. Miller sent interns an email acknowledging their pain and promising to help them “pivot” from one experience to another.

Through that time, Miller watched Doo grow as a student leader. “We asked Justin and his crew to do the impossible,” he says. And they came through, creating an online faith community that supported students through the pandemic.

As a mentor, Miller offered support and encouragement, while also insisting on professional excellence—a standard Doo has embraced in his life after Loyola while continuing to practice his Catholic faith.

“George encouraged us to think about what part of our faith resonates for each of us,” says Doo, who graduated as an interdisciplinary major in biology and psychology and now works as a research assistant at Boston Children’s Hospital. “That led to me realizing my spirituality was rooted in the life of Christ and the Gospels. I don’t know if that type of reflection would have happened if I wasn’t encouraged by George to do that kind of thinking.”

Mentorship is a two-way partnership, Miller says, with mentees taking the lead on what guidance they need. That has sometimes included addressing topics such as time management, conflict resolution, or other areas of student life.

“A lot of times, it’s just offering an open ear and saying, ‘I don’t have all the answers, but if you want to talk about it, this is what I think,’” says Miller, who has maintained friendships with many former mentees, including Doo.

He has enjoyed seeing Doo achieve so much both at Loyola and after graduation, including his appointment to Loyola’s Board of Trustees.

“Those are moments where you can sit back and feel like a proud papa,” Miller says.

On Another Note

One of George Miller’s mentees, Laura McCormack, ’17, has joined Loyola to succeed Miller as the University’s new associate director for liturgy and music.