Friday, April 20, 2012


Friday greetings.

Today I am thinking about how grateful I am for:

Sister James Cecilia, SND, my first grade teacher, who somehow cradled and taught and admonished and loved 53 of us scared little Catholic kids in 1964.

Sister Della William, SND, my second and third grade teacher, who encouraged me to take my first piano lessons. She also taught me that visiting the elderly in nursing homes was the right thing to to: "Boys and girls, what we did today at the Francis Street Nursing Home is what Catholics do."

Sister Julie Maria, SND, my very first piano teacher (75 cents per one-hour lesson), who helped me fall in love with music and showed faith in a growing piano student.

Sister Leo Marie, SND (now Sister Rita Raboin, SND, working for decades now helping the poor in Brazil), my fifth grade teacher, who taught me a prayer that I still pray every day: "Be pleased, O God, to deliver them; look down, O God, to help them. Turn back the evil men and make them ashamed for hurting your people. Your people are poor and cry to you. O God, protect them. Amen."

Sister Helen Donald, SND, who, in sixth grade, chided the rest of the class for bullying a certain boy in her class.

Sister Mary Rose of the Sacred Heart, SND, who, as my seventh grade teacher, let us take breaks from our studies as she took the time to read contemporary novels to us.

Sister Ellen Julie Flanagan, SND, who tried her best to show us how drugs could ruin our young lives by starting the "Smart Teen" program in our school.

Sister Marie Behan, with whom I traveled the challenging journey of CPE at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts; she taught me that I could believe in myself even in the darkest days; Marie died a few years ago and I wept and wept at the loss.

Sister Mary Ellen Plummer, OP, who walked into the first immersion pool built in a Catholic Church in the Diocese of Orlando as the two of us showed people what baptism could really look like.

Sister Alice Michael of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, for an unparalled dedication to teaching young and old alike the potential and beauty of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Sister Donna Steffen, who taught me so much about what spiritual discernment is.

Sister George Francis Riseling, SNJM, who simply loved her students at so many schools where she was principal.

Sister Elaine Kecer, OP, who, when asked why she had joined the parish liturgy committee, always said "The liturgy is my life."

Sister Mary Fran Fleischacker, OP, who walked with me through my doctoral program and continues to inspire so many through her love of music and liturgy.

Sister Rosa Monique Pena, OP, whose Cuban smile can light up a room and whose expertise in catechesis has formed thousands upon thousand of catechists who teach with vigor and conviction the truths of the Catholic faith.

Sister Ann, my colleague at Saint Mary Magdalen in Altamonte Springs, Florida, who lived with cancer and showed us what courage meant in her last days.

Sister Carleen Maly, OP, who taught me how important clear communication and the setting of achievable goals and objectives can help a parish (and a publishing company!) grow.

Sister Joyce Rohlik, who loved the elderly more than anyone else I have known.

Sister Nancy Swift, my liturgy professor at the seminary, who taught me to love what is at the heart of my Catholic faith.

Sister Joan Thomas, OP, whose friendship has meant so much to me and to so many and whose smile and gentle manner can transform even the hardest of hearts or the toughest of days.

Sister Mary Jean Ryan, former CEO of SSM Healthcare in Saint Louis, whose leadership has inspired me beyond measure; she taught me more about servant leadership than anyone or any book ever could; she embodies it.

Sister Barb Rastatter, PBVM, the pastoral associate at my parish of Saint James, who lights up my life every single time I see her; she not only ministers to the forgotten and cast away; she becomes their friends. And then has to mourn their loss and does it so deeply and so genuinely.

Some living, some gone beyond the grave. Some are still religious sisters, some are not.

Just so grateful to them.

Please take the time to comment yourself;  to enter the names of those women religious who come to your mind immediately and name a way that they influenced your life.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Jennifer said...

Sister Mary Elizabeth, who ran "the religion center" at my grade school, after many of the sisters who had taught there had retired. She offered weekly supplemental classes on the Catholic faith and I remember her classroom being a warm and welcoming place. She taught me about servant leadership when she invited me to help her clean the holy water fonts and other special areas of the church, and her belief in miracles made me believe in them too.

All of the Resurrection sisters who built and ran my high school and also are known in Chicago for their work in healthcare and elder care. They taught me from the first moment of "freshmen initiation" that Catholic women are strong, smart, capable, and can change the world for the better.

And, echoing one of yours, Jerry: Sr. Joan Thomas, OP, who I had the pleasure of working with for several years. Her positive attitude, good humor, compassion, and joy make me want to be very much like her when I grow up.

Amy Smith said...

I am who I am today because of Sr. Marie Kuryvial (OSF?), my 7th and 8th grade English teacher. She instilled in me a love of writing and showed me what it meant to be a good teacher: having high expectations and loving each student for what he/she brought to the class. Sr. Marie passed away about 10 years ago, and I still think of her often.

I also have fond memories of Sr. Marietta Murphy, my first rector at Badin Hall at the university of Notre Dame. She was a tiny woman with a HUGE heart!!

Anonymous said...

Much of who I am comes from all of the Sisters of St Anne who helped form me as a Catholic and educated me. Special thanks to Sr Marie Emily who always encouraged me to go deeper into the meaning of Catholic teachings, scripture, liturgy and other faith matters. I took her advice often over the years and I believe my faith and my life are better because of it.

Siobhan said...

I was very priveleged to work with Sr Margaret Andre Waechter, CSC, a wonderful liturgist and musician with a LOT of energy and a very generous spirit. She was also a very practical woman.

Gregg said...

Sr.Kathy Harmon, who is an excellent musician and scholar. She knows how to bring the best out of people, welcoming where they are and inviting them to grow.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful to the Francisan Sisters who taught me about faith, Jesus and the compassion needed to thy neighbor aas thyself...

I will continue to ptay for them and all women religious.

Catherine said...

I am grateful to the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul who taught me to celebrate God's love every day.
To Kathryn LaFleur SP who nurtured in me a love for words, speaking, and writing.
I am grateful to the School Sisters of Notre Dame who embranced living a life of service rooted in joy.
In Ontario Canada we owe our Women Religious immeasurable gratitude for their work in founding, financing and supporting our Catholic agencies, Hospitals and Catholic school system.

FJH3 said...

I appreciate and fondly recall the IHM sisters who taught me in grade school in a Detroit suburb. I remember the convent next door to the school, and their glorious full habits, as well as the modified versions they sported around my seventh or eighth grade year. I pray that their representatives to the LCWR encourage a humble discernment of the reform being called for by the CDF.

FJH 3rd said...

I fondly remember the IHM sisters who taught me at a grade school in suburban Detroit. I remember their warm smiles, firm, loving discipline in the classroom, their glorious full habits, later modified.

I pray that the IHM sisters, and all involved with the LCWR, will humbly discern the correctives offered by the CDF, and work toward the much needed renewal of the Conference.

Michaeleen said...

Sister Judy, My amazing spiritual diector who honors me as a thinking Catholic.
Sister Del Marie who nurtured my budding adolescent faith.
Sister M Theodore who taught me service.
Allof the above a SSND's
Sister Joan Chittister who inspires me
Sister Irene Nowell, scripture scholar par excellenceand amzing teacher.

Charles G said...

Gee, it's nice all of you had such wonderful connections with women religious. In my 20 plus years in the Church, I have hardly ever come across a single nun, habited or otherwise. They are simply not present anywhere, no matter what parish I go to or what Catholic activities I attend. You are perfectly entitled to be grateful to sisters you know, but it is an objective fact that the orders that followed the so-called "Spirit of Vatican II" and who, in the words of one of the LCWR annual presentations, want to "move beyond the Church, beyond Christ and beyond the Eucharist" are rapidly disappearing. Sorry I can't join in the collective sentiment here. I am on the contrary very resentful that the great witness of committed Catholic religious life and spirituality has been essentially decimated by those who would follow the world's preferred ideologies rather than Christ. The leadership of these orders have a lot to answer for.

Anonymous said...

charles It is not the "so-called spirit of Vatican II." It is the teaching of Vatican II Check with Pope benedicts statement.

Rev. Gene Vavrick said...

At this difficult time for Women Religious, I am so very grateful for the sisters who helped me grow in faith over my 55 years: teachers, colleagues, parishioners, and all of them friends. I especially recall friends like Sr. Jean Lenz, OSF and Sr. Regina Coll, SSJ at Notre Dame U.; Sr. Eleanor McCann, RSM, a colleague in liturgy; Sr. Sandra DiMasi, SSJ, a classmate and colleague in Liturgical Studies; Sr. Kathleen Hughes RSCJ, the best of teachers in the Sacred Liturgy....and so many others who have formed me as the priest that I am.
At this painful time for our sisters, let us pray that the peace of the Lord will again reign in the hearts of all.

FJH 3rd said...

Lots of talk here and elsewhere about the pain the sisters are experiencing. Usually, in my experience, the greatest pain comes with the realization that I have done wrong. As Charles G notes above, some of the leaders of these congregations have gone seriously off track and the CDF is, with great charity it seems to me, striving to get them back on a truly Catholic course. Certainly not ALL congregations or their leaders have gone astray, but enough have to warrant this effort. It is really no different than the visitation and reform of the seminaries a decade or so ago. I find it interesting that some of these sisters and their defenders can't take this assessment in the spirit with which it is presented. I guess reform is only good when it is someone ELSE being reformed.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful to the Sisters of Providence who shared their faith with me at St Andre School in Chicago and to the School Sisters of St Francis at Alvernia High School. I can remember all of their names, even after 50 some years. Sisters have also been important in my adult faith journey, especially Sr Rita Dubois IHM, Trinitarian sisters Chris Wiltrakis, Terry Bretnauer,and Therese Francis, as well as the entire Benedtine community in Cullman AL and Sr. Leanne Welch PBVM.

Anonymous said...

Charles G., I'm sincerely sorry you haven't had the chance to get to know any religious sisters and haven't experienced firsthand their lived witness of faith. I really think you've missed out (through no fault of your own), and as time goes on, next generations will probably miss out too. It is sad to me that your only impression of sisters seems to come from recent articles about a reform of LCWR. I hope that reading the comments here has given you the chance to set your resentment aside for a little while to focus on the positive contributions women religious have made to our Church.

Denise Anderson said...

Sister Mary Walker OSB was a theology professor in my undergrad at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota and the most formative person in my spiritual life. She had a huge vision for God's activity in daily life, in people, and in the world. Her teaching completely changed how I thought about God.

Three axioms were often woven within all her courses - 1) There is always a little more gray than there is black and white, 2) Nobody has a corner on God, and 3) Everyone has a little piece of the truth.

Some students called her Sr. Mary Sky Walker, because she was so out there at times, but her insights and seeing as God sees changed my whole life.

I would have missed out on much grace since then, if I had missed out on her teaching. I will always be grateful for her gracious wisdom.

FJH 3rd said...


The theologian's sentiment that "everyone has a little piece of the truth" is pretty telling. The point of this whole assessment of LCRW, it seems to me, is that LCRW seems to not appreciate that the Church possesses the FULLNESS of the truth. They seem to have encouraged their members to go out and seek their own "truth".

Anonymous said...

I am greatful for the Sisters of Providence and cherish my times that I have visited St Mary of the Woods, IN. Someone at a company dinner tonight suggested that it is all about the money. When the Vatican led their interrogation a few years ago, it was suspect that they wanted to see how they could ge their hands on their money. Now, I'm guessing that they could use this latest attack to withhold money meant for them from the Collection for the Retired Religious.

Mike Novak said...

I want to thank a number of Caldwell Dominicans who taught at my grade school and so cheerfully embraced and communicated the changes that came with Vatican II: Sister Josephine Bartholomew, Sister Rose Michael, Sister Jeanne, Sister Eileen Byrne, Sister Letitia.
Sisters I knew in college who helped to form in me a more mature spirituality and helped me to learn more about human relations and liturgy: Sister Mary Himens, Sister Mary Kay Liston.
Sisters with whom I have worked and ministered over the years--treasured mentors and colleagues, including Jane Kane OSF, Bernardine Karge OP, Barbara Hansen OP, and others too many to mention here.
And finally a word of gratitude to women who left their orders but who still carried forward their charisms, including but not limited to Sandy Cahill, Ann Celeen Dohms, and Mary Feeley.
Good, holy, and great women all. Thank you.
And I echo Fr. Vavrick's sentiment: At this painful time for our sisters, let us pray that the peace of the Lord will again reign in the hearts of all.

Kathie said...

I am very grateful to have been mentored by the many Sisters of Providence at Guerin H.S. as well as St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Saint Mother Theodore has a place of honor in my office as well. I hold all religious sisters dear in my heart and applaud their outreaching faith and spirit. They are truly an inspiration to us all.