Long before Jozef Mycielski came back to work at Ampleforth as Director of Fundraising, he used to return to the valley at regular intervals in order, so he puts it, to ‘reboot my hard drive.’
Joe, now a boyish-looking 36 year-old, left Ampleforth in 1990, although even as an 18 year-old, hungry for the wider world, he was aware that the thread was not being severed, merely laid aside. After a gap year in Africa and Italy, he studied at the City Business School and then found a job in shipping which took him eventually to the Gulf States.
Nevertheless, he still managed to return to Ampleforth from time to time, for the camaraderie of sporting events and to renew and deepen his friendship with particular monks, whose compassion and understanding had made such an impression on him as a schoolboy.
This had begun when he first arrived at Ampleforth, very homesick, and his housemaster had invited Joe to join him every afternoon for a chat. ‘It was a year before I was able to stop making that daily visit,’ he says.
The connection was strengthened when he came back from the Gulf to join a London PR and marketing company, whose managing director was the sister of a former head boy of Ampleforth. With clients such as Piaggio & Vespa, Faber-Castell and Hugo Boss, the job was an important career move. ‘I was in my twenties,’ he says, ‘committed to making money, living in London, looking for excitement and adventure. And yet…I felt there was something missing from my life.’
Then he was contacted out of the blue by a ‘lifer’ from Wormwood Scrubs, wanting one of Joe’s clients to sponsor a charity fundraising event run by prisoners and prison officers. Joe took up the challenge and became personally involved in setting up the triathlon at the Scrubs, which ran for five years and raised over £100,000 for children’s causes. It proved a turning point for him. He quit the world of agency PR and, for the next few years, worked for children’s charities as a fundraiser and communications director.
Eventually he heard about the vacancy at Ampleforth, and knew at once that, although it would mean giving up his life in London, he would take the job if it was offered. It was and he did, though in this respect he is unusual. Strong as it is for many Old Amplefordians, the thread stops short of drawing them back to pursue their careers where they were once taught!
Today Joe reflects that Ampleforth has always been where he feels most himself, the place where his compass is pointing due north. It’s where he has consistently found stability and clarity of thought, in the company of people he would trust with his life.
There is a strong sense of continuity that flows from Ampleforth, he believes; of being part of a community governed by a set of rules that have been around for 1500 years. ‘There’s a confidence that comes from the simplicity of the Benedictine tradition, from being among people who cut straight to the really important things in life,’ he concludes. ‘And I know the compass will always be with me, helping me to cope with whatever lies ahead.’