March 14, 2017 — Although National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8 – 14) closes today, Women’s History Month continues through the remainder of March — and the women honored by various Jesuits below could certainly be counted among those making history, in small but deeply meaningful ways.
We asked Jesuits to reflect on the religious sisters they’ve worked with and gotten to know, and the volume of responses was so high that this story became a three-part series. Read part one and part two.
Fr. Patrick Gilger, SJ, is in special studies at the New School in New York City. Sr. Delina Marbaniang works with the Jesuits of the Kohima Region in India.
|Sr. Delina Marbaniang, left, and Sr. Albina
Sr. Delina I remember particularly. Delina Marbaniang is her name. She is full of life, or that’s how I remember her. Full of life with a bright smile in her wide face, fire and joy coming off her in sharp angles at each movement. She had a beautiful singing voice. Clear and thin. I remember that, one day, she let another Jesuit and I accompany her on her ministry.
This meant that she took us walking through miles and miles of jungle, singing hymns off and on to pass the time, to a remote village where she had been long at work, organizing a micro-finance community loan agency with the women of the village. When we arrived, we went swiftly toward a building set against the side of a small hill, the front a small cleared field and the back surrounded by jungle trees. No one was yet inside the tin-roofed building — a one-room schoolhouse? — but rough wooden benches lined the walls and a carved table was in the middle, dirty and wet from the day’s rain leaking through.
I tried to help her get ready a bit, but mostly I remember sitting in the corner on one of the benches as women arrived — some alone, some holding babies in cloth slings around their backs, some holding the hands of their daughters. All the while Delina bustled about the room in preparation — pulling mimeographed papers from her satchel, smiling at the women as they came in, kissing a toddler’s hand to make her laugh, and pulling huge, dark green leaves from the tree outside to clean the wet dirt from the carved table.
She was all energy, all joy and conviction and attention. And she was pouring all of it out onto these good women — pouring herself out to convince them to trust one another in this new thing, to help them believe that they could accomplish this together.
I sat in the corner and watched her as she spoke, passed out the papers she had brought, as she listened. I remember thinking: no one will ever know she is doing this. I remember thinking that this is what good news looks like.”
Br. Larry Huck, SJ, is working at the Colegio San Ignacio De Loyola in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The late Sr. Anna Maria Richards, SSF, was a Sister of the Holy Family in New Orleans.
|Sr. Anna Maria Richards, SSF
Before I entered the novitiate, I went to see her and she took me to one of the nuns in their infirmary and asked her to bless me. Part of her ministry was to raise money for her order, which meant for many years she worked during the month before Christmas helping to make fruitcakes, which they sold to raise money for the order. On August 15, 1995, she surprised me by making the 2 ½ hour trip from New Orleans to Grand Coteau, Louisiana, to attend my first vow Mass. I was deeply touched that she made the time, knowing her health was not the best, to attend the Mass.
She passed away on December 6, 2000. Her and many of the sisters’ prayers for me during the novitiate helped me to embrace and live out my vocation as a Jesuit brother. I am deeply grateful to have known such a simple yet holy woman and many others in her order. May God continue to bless the good work that these sisters do for the poor and needy of New Orleans through their work and through their prayers.”
Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, is the president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. Sr. Margaret Frank, SSJ, and Sr. Ann Marie Joint, SSJ, are Sisters of St. Joseph.
Chris Ryan, SJ, is studying theology at the Boston College School of Theology
and Ministry. Sr. Kathryn Press, ASCJ, and Sr. Kelsey Ann Shaver, ASCJ, are
Sisters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
From left: Sr. Kathryn Press, ASCJ at her first vow ceremony; Fr. Chris Ryan, SJ; and Sr. Kelsey Ann Shaver, ASCJ.
“There are two sisters, both in formation with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whom I deeply admire and appreciate: Sr. Kathryn Press, ASCJ, and Sr. Kelsey Ann Shaver, ASCJ. I met both of them in classes during my philosophy studies at Saint Louis University, and as our friendships developed, they shared with me their stories of feeling called to religious life.
Sr. Kathryn Press is currently a novice teaching at an urban grade school that the order has run for nearly 80 years, and Sr. Kelsey Ann Shaver was recently sent with three elder sisters to plant a new community in Ireland to provide outreach to the local church.
Both are from Midwestern states; one was a cradle Catholic in a medium-sized city, the other had grown up Baptist in a small town, and eventually asked me to be her RCIA sponsor. Both experienced skepticism and some resistance from their families as they grew clearer in their conviction that they were called to become sisters.
I'm impressed by how each drew on their lived experience of Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality to discern and pursue a calling to an order that, like the Jesuits, strives to balance community and apostolate, contemplation and action. I'm inspired by their willingness to go to where their superiors desire their gifts to be cultivated and shared. I'm grateful for the mutual support and encouragement we offer one another through handwritten letters and the occasional visit.
These two sisters, dear friends with whom I have been blessed to share the journey of formation in religious life, embody the richness of religious life in the church, men and women heeding a call to accompany the people of God, to be fishers of people, to be close to Christ's flock ... even in a land with an abundance of sheep!”
Fr. Erik Oland, SJ, is the provincial of the Jesuits of French Canada. Sr. Karen Doyle is a Sister of St. Joseph.
Garrett Gundlach, SJ, is a high school campus minister and spiritual formation teacher at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
|Garrett Gundlach, SJ
I especially appreciated the sisters who, inspired by their own work in the transformative art of listening, created a student club called Peer Helpers. We Peer Helpers built community on a formational weekend that trained us in the important work of compassionate listening, and these skills — and the opportunities to share them with my classmates as a peer counselor — strengthened my desire and confidence in choosing a helping profession. I have since completed a Master of Social Work in mental health counseling and migration studies, pursuing these same skills in another important area.
The sisters of St. Cat’s were a persistent
source of security, compassion and inspiration for their simplicity and
dedication. It is safe to say that the seeds of my vocation were not only found
but also watered in my years at St. Cat’s, no doubt thanks to the witness and
explicit support of the sisters there. Whenever I return home, I love visiting
the Siena Center (headquarters of the Racine Dominicans) to see old friends and
pray with them; I also love visiting and volunteering at their Eco-Justice
Center, a radically life-giving community of farming, animal husbandry,
sustainable living, environmental education and prayer.”
Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.