When I was approaching my 75th birthday, having completed nine years of service at the Catholic Student Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, I discerned that it was time to be more of a Mary and less of a Martha. (I joked–a little irreverently— that in our Catholic Church it’s mandatory for Bishops to submit their resignation to the Holy Father on the day of their 75th birthday. I, on the other hand, would resign without any prompting from Canon Law!)
My ministry years as a Sister of Notre Dame have evolved into three distinct phases: 36 years as a high school and college teacher; 23 years as a university campus minister and nine years
as a ministry volunteer.
When I retired, I requested and received approval from the community to remain in Florida and to seek out suitable and meaningful volunteer ministries. Registering at my new parish, St. Michael the Archangel in Clearwater, I indicated on the form that my primary interest was “Vocation Discernment,” something I had had a lot of experience in from my days as a campus minister. It didn’t take long for the Pastor to invite me to head up a Vocation Enrichment Team in the parish. Now, after eight years, I’m happy to report that we’re going strong—overseeing the weekly day of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a Holy Hour concluding with Benediction. We also distribute photo prayer cards of our Diocesan Seminarians, sponsor an annual summer bowling party with seminarians and young adults. We offer retreats and workshops led by Sr. Kelley Rush, our SND Vocation Director. Each year we try to align our efforts with a different Diocesan program such as Focus 11 for 6th graders; ReFocus for Catholic high school 9th graders and Theology on Tap for Young Adults. Our next projects will happen in the Fall when we offer a Spirit Day of prayer and sports for our Altar Servers and a “Nun Run” for high school and college women.
I’m currently completing my second term on the Parish Council. For three years now a subcommittee of the Council has offered “Catholics Come Home,” a warm and welcoming Lenten series to invite “away” Catholics to return to the practice of their faith. It’s our parish’s way of responding to the Gospel Imperative to evangelize the whole world.
A prized interest of mine is that of our flourishing SND Associate program. I help with the formation of candidates and participate each month in a faith sharing group in St. Petersburg. And every year as the Feast of the Visitation draws near, I join with other Associates and SND’s to plan the special Mass, Covenant Renewal and High Tea to celebrate their Patronal Feast.
My newest volunteer ministry is that of serving as the Spiritual Adviser for Our Lady of the Way District of the Diocesan Catholic Council of Women. It gives me an opportunity to support and work with dedicated Catholic Women, helping them advance causes important to contemporary women of faith. This group shares our Notre Dame corporate stance to work against the evil of Human Trafficking. This ministry has taken me to our State Capitol to learn about the moral and ethical issues facing our state and to filter them through the wisdom of our Church’s teachings.
So, at 84 years old, I’m still finding new and varied ways to go out to all the world to witness God’s goodness.