Jesuits Celebrate Catholic Sisters

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, on Sr. Delina Marbaniang

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
“These are two sisters, Sr. Delina and Sr. Albina respectively, from northeast India who work with the Jesuits of the Kohima Region. I got to know them in 2005 when I visited the region. 

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, on Sr. Anna Maria Richards, SSF

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
“Sr. Anna Maria Richards, SSF, had many ministries throughout her life as a Sister of the Holy Family. When I knew her, she was in charge of the maintenance and care of the Mother House grounds for the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans. I would go over and do electrical work for her. However, I came to find out she also begged for food for the poor and elderly that her order would feed. Her love and care for all she met was infectious. Thus, all one wanted to do was help her in any way they could. She took care of more than the grounds of the motherhouse. She took care to feed people, spiritually and physically.

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, on Sisters Margaret Frank, SSJ, and Ann Marie Joint, SSJ

 

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.

Fr. Chris Ryan, SJ, on Sr. Kathryn Press, ASCJ, and Sr. Kelsey Ann Shaver, ASCJ

Fr. 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, on Sr. Karen Doyle

 

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, on the sisters at St. Catherine’s High School in Racine, Wisconsin

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
“The sisters at St. Catherine’s High School in Racine, Wisconsin, were a tremendous living symbol of God’s love and care in my life. Sisters served as guidance counselors, teachers and administrators at the school — highly professional servants of our families and us as students, young people discerning God’s call in our diverse lives.

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.”

Next, read part one or part two of this series.

Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.




Jesuits Celebrate Catholic Sisters - Part 1

Jesuits Celebrate Catholic Sisters - Part 2
Publications
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 6/12/17

America 5/29/17

America 5/15/17




Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland
Nestled in the urban landscape of Parma, Ohio, the Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland is “a place of peace in the forest.”