The following quote from the Hobbit describes my Journey as an Ursuline Sister.

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

(The Hobbit: J.R.R. Tolkiein) p.300

I started traveling this road when I was in the 4th grade in St. Dominic’s school in Youngstown. The moment wasn’t dramatic. It came to me one day as I sat in the 4th grade classroom that someday I would become a nun. It was a feeling deep inside of me. Yes. I was positively sure that I would be a nun. My parents didn’t know about this until I was in high school. My mother was very unhappy. My father liked the idea. After much discussion my parents and I reached a compromise. My mother said, if I would go to the Ursulines in Youngstown where our family lived, then I could go tomorrow. I took that as a sign from God that I was doing the right thing. God was really calling me to become a nun and live my life as a religious.

June 1956 I graduated from Ursuline High School in Youngstown. September 9, 1956 I entered the Ursuline Sisters in Youngstown. In 2007,  I celebrated 50 years as an Ursuline Sister.

When I was in high school I knew that I wanted to be a classroom teacher. Perhaps an English teacher. I wasn’t surprised when those of us who entered together started right away going to Youngstown State University for education courses. I thought that was natural. I didn’t realize that teaching is what we did as our Ministry. Ursulines were known to be teachers. Many people at that time put entering a religious community and teaching in the same category. Living religious life is a Way of Life/Teaching is a career choice. If I was married I would be living out the gospel message as a married woman.

Teaching would be my career.

Entering religious life wasn’t too different from living at home. The authority in my life switched from parents to a superior. Instead of two sisters I had 200. My days were divided between prayer, study for college courses and learning what it meant to live as and become an Ursuline Sister in a religious community. Time passed quickly and then it was 1959 and I was taking the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. That year marked the first time that I lived the life of a vowed religious. It was also the year that I began teaching and ministry in the church. This September of 2011 I celebrate 52 years of service to the church.

During the next 30 years I taught everything from 2nd grade through Senior in High School. I received a BS in Ed from Youngstown State, and an M.A. in Education with a specialization in Reading from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Later on I received state certification from Ohio to teach English by taking courses at Youngstown State. While teaching at Ursuline High School I took courses from Ursuline College in Cleveland that helped me to update my faith. I was certified to teach religion in the Youngstown Diocese. It laid the foundation for my work here at St. Hilary as a Pastoral Minister.These words from St. Angela, the founder of our community began to speak to me:

Do Something…Get Moving… Be Confident… Risk new things… Stick with it… Get on your knees…

Then be ready for Big Surprises!

After my mother died in 1982 I found myself getting drawn into parish work at St. Columba Cathedral in Youngstown. Bringing the Eucharist to my mother while she was sick helped me to feel comfortable ministering to the elderly. On Easter Sunday in 1982 she told me that I was her Easter Sunday. The associate pastor at the Cathedral asked me if I would teach some classes to the RCIA. I did and found that I could still build the kingdom but in a different way: working with adults who were the parents of children.

 

 

I taught for 30 years; 15 in grade schools and 15 in high school. In 1990 I decided to hang up the role of teaching in a classroom; I went to Loyola University in Chicago on a Sabbatical to prepare for work as a Pastoral Minister. The professors remarked, 30 years of teaching, what a resource for becoming a pastoral minister.

Do Something…Get Moving… Be Confident… Risk new things… Stick with it… Get on your knees…

Then be ready for Big Surprises!

While in Chicago I started to look for a job and to make a long story short through Fr. Koegel who was the pastor of St. Hilary, I came here to Akron. I began my journey here at St. Hilary in August of 1991. I have grown into many roles. I’ve learned things that they don’t teach in college courses or text books.

I began as a volunteer coordinator for parish groups. This grew through the years to being a Spiritual Director for the Joy Renewal; coordinator for baptisms, which includes teaching the parent classes, contact person for Stewardship weekend, coordinating the efforts of the Eucharistic ministers to the Homebound parishioners in 8 nursing homes and residences and in private homes. All of my life experience as well as the opportunities for education has become a resource for the ministries I am involved with at St. Hilary. In 2005, the Lord asked me to take on my own family ministry; my sister Loretta was diagnosed with front lobe dementia. Ministry to families was part of the ministry of St. Angela.

 

 

My community, the Ursuline Sisters in Youngstown is comprised of 52 people. If you think of that number as a total then it seems very small. But consider this…at one time our community served the Youngstown Diocese as teachers in the parish schools. Today we still have this ministry; but we’ve expanded into a program for mothers who are struggling to get off welfare, an aids ministry, a prison ministry: yes some are pastoral ministers and directors of religious education. The ministries have brought us into contact with many people who are on many different journeys. Faith and the call to build the kingdom came in the Sacrament of Baptism. Call to all ministry comes from the sacrament of baptism; we are anointed for service. There will always be people who are called to make the building of the kingdom by walking with the Lord as the central focus of their lives. It is a grace.

 

 

Matthew says it this way in Chapter 19 vs. 11-12, This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God had given it. For there are different reasons why someone cannot marry; some, because they were born that way; others because someone made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. This is the passage where I found myself when I was 25 years in religious life.

 

When I think of religious life I think of an overgrown plant or bush. Throughout the experiences of Vatican II; cultural experiences, and just plain changes in society; it got pruned. Plants that are cut back are not destroyed but come back being much stronger. They have a richer color. Yes, religious life has changed since the 1950’s; it lost some of it’s old leaves but new ones are growing in its place. You and I; the prayers we pray for vocations are the water which the plant needs. The call is out there; just pray that the people who receive the call to live a vowed life will respond with a yes. Thus they will become a new branch on the plant.

Do Something…Get Moving… Be Confident… Risk new things… Stick with it… Get on your knees…

Then be ready for Big Surprises!

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  1. Dear Sr. Marlene,
    Thank you for sharing your journey in religious life. I very much enjoyed reading the post and am blessed by knowing you. The website states that the post was written by Sr. Terese Ann, and you are not identified by name….is that how you wanted it to be?
    Peace, love and prayers,
    Jackie

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