Don MacLeod long admired his wife Judi’s dedication, devotion and determination but hearing her accomplishments still brought a wave of emotion that was not entirely unexpected when she was recently recognized posthumously as the recipient of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Respect Life Award.
“Personally, I haven't made it through a Mass without tears since she passed – this was no exception,” MacLeod said. “Hearing her list of achievements and what she did in life to earn this honor did get the streams going. Going up to the dais and receiving the icon of Mary from the archbishop, while physically easy, was mentally draining. I was grateful for the mask which helped hide my overall expressions from the crowd in attendance.”
Each year, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati recognizes a person who embodies the call to “proclaim that human life is a precious gift from God; that each person who receives this gift has responsibilities toward God, self, and others; and that society, through its laws and social institutions, must protect and nurture life at every stage of its existence.”
Judi MacLeod – who passed away in September after a cardiac incident – was the longtime director of Chaminade Julienne’s Cuvilly program. But it was more than an administrative position, it was a passion for the 1988 CJ graduate.
Judi dedicated her professional career to students with disabilities, founding Cuvilly, the only Catholic high school full-inclusion special education program in the Dayton area, in 1999. With her words and actions, she provided consistent support, advocacy, and encouragement for thousands of students with various disabilities during her tenure.
The impact of her work was felt by school staff and administrators as well as students and their families.
“Her example of acceptance, and meeting the students where they were, inspired many at CJ to do the same,” said John Marshall, former CJ principal and current director of development.
She firmly believed that all people with disabilities have God-given gifts and value, and they should be given every opportunity to live life to their potential to serve God and others. She lived those words as, in addition to supporting her students’ academic journey, she also supported their social and spiritual lives by serving as the bowling team coach and director of the Hands in Harmony sign language choir.
“She helped hundreds of teachers and thousands of students understand the beauty of having students with special needs included at CJ,” principal Greg Mueller said. “That is the lasting legacy and gift that Judi brought to CJ.”
CJ parent Carolyn Krug was one of those who nominated Judi for the award.
“I had the pleasure of being on two Archdiocese volunteer committees with Judi for the past couple of years that work to help people with disabilities feel more belonging in the Church through our parishes,” Krug said. “I was honored to know and nominate Judi and I’m hoping that this award spreads more awareness of the work she has done and inspires others to continue her work of serving those with disabilities and challenges.”
Judi’s inspiration extended well beyond the CJ community. Her active role in helping students find their purpose prepared them for life beyond CJ and increased their self-esteem and self-confidence. That dedication was admired by many in the CJ community, the Dayton community and the Archdiocese.
“Judi meant a great deal to me, I saw her as an incredible mentor and learned so much from her in the time that we worked together,” said Noelle Collis-DeVito, associate director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Office for Persons with Disabilities.
While the honor was appreciated by Don, his sons, and their close family, he knows that Judi didn’t need recognition or accolades.
“Judi has always been worthy of receiving these kinds of awards, but this sort of recognition was always outside her comfort zone,” he said. “She truly did what she did to help others.”BLESSING OF THE ICON AT CJ
January 28, 2022
This morning, the Chaminade Julienne community dedicated its time for morning prayer in recognition of Judi MacLeod to commemorate her recognition by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati as recipient of the Respect Life Award. The community extended their arms in blessing the icon:
God of all life,
Your Son Jesus came that all might have life, and have it to the full.
We know that everyone is made in your beautiful and holy image,
and that all life is precious and sacred.
We thank you for those who remind us of our call
to respect and protect all life.
Today, we remember Ms. J.
and the special way that she celebrated the diversity of abilities in our community
and how she rejoiced in all your sons and daughters.
Daily, she reminded us that we are all beautiful
and her memory calls us to do the same.
Through the intercession of Mary,
Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Mother of Life-itself,
we ask that you bless + this icon and all who look upon it.
May we uphold the dignity of every person.
May we have the courage to promote and defend all life.
May we rejoice in the beautiful life that surrounds us each day.
We make this prayer through the intercession
of St. Julie and Blessed Chaminade,
and in the name of Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life.