From West Point to the Monastery – One Woman’s Journey to Fulfillment

Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa

Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa made her final monastic profession on August 31, 2013 at the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration monastery in Clyde, Missouri – becoming the first ever West Point Graduate to do so. Take a moment to let the substance of that statement sink in.

On that day, Nancy Rose Gucwa took her final vows to become a nun, to become a Benedictine Sister. Doing so confirmed her life-time commitment of devotion to Christ and all of the Benedictine Sisters.  Very few people are strong enough in their faith to accept the calling to live a religious life. Sister Nancy Rose was strong enough, humble enough, and devout enough to do so.

There’s more to the opening statement. Nancy Rose Gucwa is a West Point graduate, an alumnus of the United States Military Academy. She entered the Academy in 1976, the year the United States was celebrating its 200th year as a country. That year was also significant because it marked the first ever class to include females. In a freshman class totaling 1,400 cadets, there were only 119 females, of which only 62 graduated. Graduating in 1980 with an engineering degree, Nancy was commissioned as a second lieutenant, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C. – becoming first a paratrooper and then a jump master.

Thirty-seven years passed from the time Nancy first entered West Point until she took her final vows.

On the surface, this may seem to be an fictitious  story – some will suspect that it is a movie script. Neither is the case.

Nancy Rose Gucwa, one of six siblings, grew up in Staten Island, New York. She attended St. Patrick’s school during her elementary years, before attending and graduating from Susan Wagner high school. Her sister described her as the ‘pioneer’ of the family – always the one to try new things. It was that spirit which attracted her to West Point. She saw it as an adventure and a challenge – deeply attracted to the school’s mission to develop character and build leaders.

West Point was anything but easy. The challenge is great enough for any cadet, but the path was even more difficult for female students. For her part, Nancy Rose refused to be affected by the taunts that “women can’t do it”. Instead, she used that as motivation. Her determination and her love of God saw her through her West Point years. She went on to achieve the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during a twenty-year military career, including active duty and reserve service.

Once her five-year active duty obligation was met, she moved to New York. There she began a career in the private sector, working in the field of banking and finance. That career led her to St. Louis and the position of Chief Operating Officer at a financial institution. Coinciding with that move, Nancy Rose began to feel a calling for a deeper relationship with God. She began going on spiritual retreats, which led to her decision to commit to a religious life.

Graduating West Point, a successful military career ending as a Lt. Colonel, transitioning to civilian life becoming COO of a public corporation, ultimately becoming a nun – a devoted servant of Christ all resulted from one common factor – Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa is a fearless brand.

Fearless Brands are able to leverage their passion and skills in a variety of ways

Sister Nancy Rose’s journey may appear to be a series of unrelated engagements – in fact, it’s anything but. Common throughout her life has been embracing new experiences, accepting – even seeking out – challenges, and being of service. What has been different is how Sister Nancy Rose applied those characteristics.

Brands evolve. People evolve. Purpose evolves. Sister Nancy Rose evolved. She continued to hone her skills, adding more throughout her life. At the same time, she continued to gain insight into the emotional and spiritual aspects of her life. With guidance from friends, a priest, a career coach, and self-reflection, Nancy Rose became able to follow her heart. That led her to Clyde, MO, the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration monastery, and the discovery of her true life’s purpose.

What can we learn from a West Point graduate and Benedictine sister? Quite a bit actually:

Be a pioneer – Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa’s sister used the word pioneer to describe her. We can all be pioneers. How? It’s actually rather simple – be curious, remain teachable, seek new adventures, question the status quo, and be diligent. Why? Because by being a pioneer we grow, we learn, we discover new things about ourselves, we evolve, we find our life’s true calling.

Be of service – As Bob Burg (co-author of The Go-Giver) says; “Shifting our focus from getting to giving is not just a nice way to live, it’s a financially profitable way to live.” Serving others will lead us to our best life, our greatest satisfaction. Serving came naturally to Nancy Rose both as a soldier and as a sister. In the military she was serving her country. In the monastery, she is serving her God.

Follow your heart – Follow my heart? Yes. It’s not the norm for most of us – but it’s been proven time and again to be the key to happiness. That’s certainly the case for Sister Nancy Rose. It’s the same for you and for me. If we aren’t able to satisfy our inner most purpose, we won’t achieve our greatest happiness. This one is difficult for most, but follow Gucwa’s example as she went through West Point – develop a keen sense of commitment and sacrifice. Be determined. Be open to understanding your deepest feelings. Follow your heart.

Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa’s story is certainly unique and diverse – more so than most of us will ever experience. However, we can experience the same satisfaction in our lives that she has in hers. We can achieve results we might not have expected – results that come from building a fearless brand. I have to be honest, that’s why my company’s name is Branding for Results.

Friday's Fearless Brand Personal Branding

Coach, International Speaker and Thought Partner - Bill’s mission is to add value to the world – one brand at a time. Bill guides individuals and companies alike in building what he refers to as a ‘fearless brand’. This is the process of discovering, embracing and delivering their greatest value – which allows them to realize greater profit. Read More

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