The McDowell Family - CHRIST THE KING SCHOOL
Story by Erin Foley
"The teachers at Christ the King are committed not only to the children's academic growth, but are exceptional role models guiding them in their spiritual growth." -- Lisa McDowell, Christ the King parent


The McDowell Family, Christ the King School


Lisa McDowell's father set an example she will never forget.

"My father has had two primary cancers and was given a five percent chance of survival over a decade ago. Watching him deal with his 'cross' was eye-opening. He never worried for himself -- more praying for my mother and her friends -- that they would have the strength to support her in her time of need."

She admired this same attribute in her husband Chris' mother, who also faced chronic illness, but relied heavily on God to see her through.

Lisa took these examples to heart. As the wife of a busy physician and mother to four children, she could easily claim that her plate is full. Instead, she fills her day not only doing things for her family, but volunteering at church and school, as well. Experience has taught her that this is how parents set a good example for their children.

"We are firm believers that our children will do as we do, and they are always watching! That is why we are so heavily involved in volunteering through the parish and school" she says.

School board chair, capital campaign, long-range planning committee, room mom, art outreach, PTO, field trip volunteer, scout group leader, substitute teacher, Vacation Bible School…these are just some of the volunteer activities that Lisa and Chris participate in.

The McDowells were married in 1999 in Michigan, where Lisa grew up. She has a Masters degree in Physicians Assistant Studies from Finch University/Chicago Medical School, and worked in the field of gastroenterology at SIU School of Medicine and N. Chicago Veterans Hospital before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Chris is from Quincy, Illinois. He earned his Masters degree in Medical Education from the University of Illinois, and went on to medical school at Southern Illinois University, followed by a residency in Indianapolis. He works at SIU School of Medicine as Program Director for the Emergency Medicine Residency, as well as clinically in the Memorial Medical Center Emergency Department as Medical Director for the Center for Learning and Innovation.

The McDowell children all attend Christ the King School. Stephen (age eleven, fifth grade) has been enrolled since kindergarten. He enjoys history and playing on the school basketball team. Andrew (age ten, fourth grade) likes religion and is involved with Cub Scouts. Abby (age seven, second grade) favors science. She is a member of the school's Junior Lego Robotics League and is active in her second grade Brownie troop. Jacob (age five, preschool) enjoys seeing all his friends at school. Outside of school, the kids are involved in baseball, soccer, basketball, flag football, piano, dance, softball and volleyball.

The McDowell family has been in the Christ the King parish for seven years. In addition to previously mentioned volunteer activities, they have been involved in numerous other committees and events over the years. Last year, Lisa coordinated Andrew's Cub Scout den and Abby's Brownie troop to carry out a beautification project in the highly visible carport area of the school, with funds provided by Cub Scout popcorn sales.

The strong focus on Catholic faith is among the reasons Lisa and Chris send their children to Christ the King.

"The teachers at Christ the King are committed not only to the children's academic growth, but are exceptional role models guiding them in their spiritual growth. The strong academic curriculum and preparation for high school and beyond is highly important to us as well" Lisa says.

She thinks of Christ the King as a "community within a community" where people share the same goals and beliefs. She is grateful for the friends she's met there, particularly the parents of her children's friends.

"We send our children to Catholic school because, among other reasons, we want their eyes and ears to always be open to God's presence in their lives" says Lisa.

Many years ago, she experienced this presence in a profound way when she and Chris visited Northern Michigan with her parents shortly after her father's cancer diagnosis. They drove into a small town where they often attend church on Sundays while vacationing in the area. They remained after Mass to pray, and were soon joined by a man and woman they had never met, who offered to pray with them. That simple act of kindness provided great comfort, particularly to Lisa's mother, and Lisa felt that something very special had happened that day.

"We received a sense of peace…and a glimpse of hope. That, for me was a moment when God reached out to our family in a time of great need and showed His compassion" she said.

Fast forward to the present, and one could safely say their prayers continue to be answered. Lisa's dad defied the odds of a bleak cancer prognosis and recently visited Springfield to attend the First Communion celebration for his granddaughter Abby.

Michigan remains a place where the McDowells regularly return and look forward to summer vacations where they unplug -- no XBox, TV, etc. They kayak, hike, fish, bike and hang around the campfire on the beach at Lake Michigan.

"It's our annual benchmark, where we pause, catch our breath, look at how the past year went and think about how to make the next year better. It's kind of like New Year's might be to some people, but in August" says Lisa.

With determination and faith, they will turn their August resolutions into a solid plan of action for the new school year. Work will get done, camaraderie enjoyed, lessons learned, friendships strengthened, but most important, the family tradition of setting good examples will carry on.

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St. Aloysius
Blessed Sacrament
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