When Robert Mitkus attended a seminar on the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” he experienced an insight as he wrote a mission statement for his life.
“I wrote paragraphs about my mission, and I narrowed it down to two words: ‘To serve,’” said Mitkus.
Mitkus has brought that mission of service to every aspect of his life, particularly in his home parish of St. Mary of the Lakes, Medford, where he was honored recently with the distinction of being the Parishioner of the Year.
Mitkus, president of the parish’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference, was honored by Msgr. James Dubell, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes, at the parish’s annual appreciation dinner for volunteers earlier this year.
Msgr. Dubell described Mitkus as “a real leader in our St. Vincent de Paul unit. He is always present, intelligent and hard-working. He helps to make good and big decisions in the parish and is spiritual.
“In addition to service to the needy, he takes on management of the place,” he added. “The society influences the whole parish… and activates it to work with other communities. It helps us reach out to other faiths.”
Mitkus has brought a lifetime of spiritual and professional experience to the parish he and his wife Mary Ann have called home since 1973. The Philadelphia native was educated in Catholic schools from elementary school through college, which rooted his faith and identity, something he also sought for his three children. Mitkus was delighted to say that sons Robert and Timothy and daughter Teresa Ann are graduates of Loyola University in Baltimore, Md.
After graduating from Philadelphia’s La Salle University, Mitkus found his life’s work with the newly-established Environmental Protection Agency, where he became one of the charter members of the Mid-Atlantic region. He served as director and division director for the EPA before retiring after 37 years of service.
He reflected that the mission to serve others leavened every aspect of his life, including his 30-years in active duty and the reserves of the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm and served as commander of the civil officers brigade.
“We used our skills to put nations back together,” Mitkus said. “I was in Kosovo and Iran, where we rebuilt after bombings and reopened schools.”
Nine years ago, a friend invited Mitkus to join the board of the parish conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an organization devoted to serving the poor. In 2005 he became president of the conference, whose 140 volunteers run a pantry and also interview and visit guests seeking assistance in paying their rent or energy bills. The society services the needy in four communities in Burlington County; Medford, Pemberton, Browns Mills, and Moorestown.
Mitkus credits the society’s success at St. Mary’s to Msgr. Dubell’s leadership and support.
“Our pastor fully supports the society and speaks about it at Mass. We have an excellent relationship with our pastor and parish, our community and its staff,” he said.
After he received his award at the appreciation dinner, Mitkus told his fellow parishioners, “ I accept this plaque on behalf of our volunteers and the poor we serve.”
While the dinner has been a parish tradition for 17 years, Msgr. Dubell established the award five years ago to recognize an outstanding parishioner for their service and leadership. More than 300 parishioners attended this year’s celebration at the Indian Springs Country Club in Marlton.[[In-content Ad]]