Sisters in Faith

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

May 5, 2009

 

Faith brings different women together in community and a family of faith.

 

            What makes two women sisters?

            Blood relationship, of course, makes one type of sisters.

            But the faith can also make women sisters.

            Recently my parish took our catechumens and candidates on retreat at a camp run by two nuns. I was reminded of how the sisterhood of faith is a wonderful thing and a great gift to the Church and the world.

            Our retreat was at Camp Maria, a youth camp that sits at the water’s edge on Breton Bay along the wide part of the Potomac River, just before it spills into Chesapeake Bay. It is a spectacular spot with an ancient Catholic country. That area was settled by English Catholics in 1635.

            Two Sisters of Charity of Nazareth run the camp, Sister Rose and Sister Angela. They are part of the group of sisters founded by Mother Catherine Spaulding who was born nearby in 1793.

            Sister Rose and Sister Mary Angela are about as different as two women could be. They are from different countries, cultures, races, backgrounds, education and age. Yet they still call each other sister.

            Sister Rose Johnson, SCN, was born in 1962 in Belize, the only English speaking country in Central America. She was the 6th of nine children in a family of African descent. She speaks English with the pleasant lilt of the Caribbean. Growing up she never knew winter in her tropical home.

            Sister Rose came to New Jersey twenty years ago to go to college. As a girl she had met nuns in Belize, a heavily Catholic country. Although she was attracted to their life, she put the idea out of her mind. But she says, “What you resist will persist.”  The idea of becoming a nun never left her.

            Nine years ago she took her final vows as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth.

            Sister Mary Angela took a zigzag path which brought her back to where she began. She was born in 1936, just a few miles away from where she works today.

            At age 18, she entered the convent, but left after nine years. She returned home to the tobacco fields and fishing villages of Southern Maryland. She married a widower, James Hicks, who already had seven children. At age 27 she was wife and instant mother to seven. They had three more children.

            To support 10 children, they did farming, fishing and ran a bar. For many years Sister Angela was the bartender.

            Like me, she has heard a lot of confessions. She just couldn’t give absolution.

            At age 43, Mary Angela was widowed. She still had children at home. When they were grown, she decided to go back to the convent and took final vows in 1991 at the age of 55.

            Her zigzagging was not done yet. When she was 64, she left to be a missionary in Botswana in Africa where she stayed five years. Now she has come full circle back home to just a few miles from where she was born and raised a family.

            Isn’t the imagination of God wonderful? Who else would have paired these two in making a life and community together.

            These two women, from different countries, cultures, ages and race, form a religious community, a mini family of faith. They call each other “Sister.” I think its wonderful.

            What makes for strong bonds? Sister Rose and Sister Angela know. It is faith.  

            In Matthew’s gospel Jesus asks, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? … Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister and mother.”

            Faith makes us family.

            Sr. Rose and Sr. Angela are living proof. We need more like them.