Leaving a Legacy for Social Justice

Trading new toys for God's work

Lois Mills doesn’t need to see the world to recognize the places where it is broken.

Homelessness. Economic injustice. Poverty. Prejudice. For Lois, these are the tragedies that afflict the world, not the vision loss that left her blind at a young age.

“I think about the homeless, diabetic man who used to spend every night huddled by St. James Cathedral, where he felt the safest,” said Lois, a longtime parishioner at the Cathedral. “He would come to Mass every morning.”

The Christian vision of a more just and equitable society led Lois to include St. James Cathedral in her will. The terms stipulate that the bulk of the gift will be used to support the Cathedral’s partnership with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a lay Catholic organization that reaches out to the needy and suffering.

“I consider myself a steward of what I have. It is not mine, I am just in charge of it, to redistribute to the causes I care about. So they can go on even when I’m not here,” Lois said.

From their location in downtown Orlando, St. James Cathedral provides St. Vincent de Paul with workspace where volunteers meet with some of the city’s most disadvantaged residents and assess their needs. The organization is then able to help with groceries, medicine, utilities or other necessities.

“I am very much a social justice person,” Lois explained. “I wanted to leave my possessions where they could provide the most assistance to the poor.”

A native of New Jersey, Lois earned her master’s degree at Catholic University in Washington, D.C and returned to New Jersey to teach history and English at St. Dominic Academy in Jersey City. She and her husband, Luther, spent time in D.C. and Puerto Rico before settling in Central Florida in 1967.

Luther would pass away only a few years later, leaving Lois to find a new means of support and a new channel for her considerable energy.

The answer came from an unlikely source.

“After my husband passed away, someone read me an article written by a prisoner in a Florida work release program who was looking for a pen pal. It was a real eye opener. Everything changed. Within a couple of years I had taken up poverty law.”

After completing coursework to become a paralegal, Lois built a 15-year career with the Orlando Legal Aid Society. She ran the intake office, connecting low-income families with the legal help they needed to secure employment, obtain housing, or resolve custody issues.

It was an ideal fit for her commitment to Catholic social teaching, which calls upon every Christian to protect the God-given rights and freedoms of all people, especially those who have been rejected by mainstream society.

Now retired, Lois continues to find fulfillment in humanitarian causes, including her volunteer work at St. James Cathedral. Through her planned gift to the Church, that dedication will endure well past her lifetime.

In recognition of her legacy plans, Lois – accompanied by her seeing-eye dog, Rita - was one of 20 men and women who were welcomed into the Vivos Christi Society by Bishop John Noonan during the 2014 Induction Ceremony in September.

For more information on how to make a gift to a parish or other ministry of the Diocese of Orlando through your will or other estate plans, please visit www.cfocf.org/plannedgiving or contact Casey Schroder at 407-246-4802.

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