The oldest of five siblings I was born in Milwaukee, WI to a very faith-filled family. The first six years of my life I was an only child until my sister Vickey was born. At the age of 7 we moved from Milwaukee to the Fox River Valley, Appleton, to be exact. Here my sister Jenny and brothers, Bob and Kevin were born.
My early childhood years were filled with many family gatherings. Our aunts and uncles and cousins gathered often at my Grandma Wendt’s. Grandma and I were very close and I remember spending many vacations with her in her apartment in Milwaukee. She lived one block from Washington Park, the home of the Milwaukee Zoo. Many a summer day I went to the zoo after Grandma and me returned from the noon Mass at the Church of the Gesu which was located near Marquette University. We traveled to the Gesu on the street car. It was wonderful fun. We also attended the famous Milwaukee Braves baseball games at the County Stadium. I remember how the stadium was constructed by the Veteran’s Home so that the retired and disabled veterans could watch the games right from their front lawn.
Music was always a part of my life. My mother made sure that we had the latest musicals so that we would learn to appreciate music, drama and the arts. We learned from my parents how to be thrifty. My mother could make a dollar stretch. How, I don’t know but she did.
Though college and education were stressed in my home, we also were made to take book keeping and typing in high school. My mom always stressed that everyone needed to know how to do their own typing and how to keep their finances. We also were taught how to maintain a house, property and creation.
I always loved school and was encouraged to study and join into the activities. My favorite years were in high school. I was taught by the Racine Dominicans at a parish high school. I owe much to the Dominicans.
In second grade I felt called to become a sister. I thought it was to the Racine Dominicans. In 8th grade I wanted to enter the aspirancy program of the Dominicans. My mother would not allow a 13-year-old to make such a move. She told me that if I had a vocation it would be there after high school or college. She encouraged me to enjoy high school and college and then decide. I will always be grateful that she would not allow me to enter in high school. I was too young and needed to mature. So, I enjoyed every part of high school and excelled in drama, music, English and French.
During my high school years the Vatican II changes began. It was an exciting time to be in high school and be part of the first liturgical reforms—like guitar Masses. Our religion classes changed from the old forms to learning Catholic Social Teaching.
My high school and college years were during a volatile time in our country and Church. In October of my freshman year, Pope John XXIII died and in November, President Kennedy was assassinated. In my senior year Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were assassinated. On my high school graduation day Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. These events were especially difficult for a teen. All that we hoped for was taken away so violently. The only thing we could believe was that we had to keep up the movements and reforms. So college found me more involved in political reforms, the anti-war movement and the Civil Rights movement.
The call to religious life waned in high school and my first two years of college. I attended Dominican College in Racine, WI, and was very involved in the social issues of the day: the Vietnam War and Civil Rights. The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college I volunteered with the Glenmary Sisters in Waynesboro, GA. This was my first experience of the south and my first cross-cultural experience. Another volunteer and myself assisted the Sisters in opening the first integrated institution ever in the county, a day care center for poor children. I taught in the first integrated Title I summer program and was placed with the African American teachers. I thought this was wonderful and didn’t realize that it was because I was a Yankee Catholic College student. It was the first time I experienced my Catholicism in a Baptist culture. I came from a diocese that was 98% Catholic to one that was less than 1%. It was the first time I had personal experience with the KKK. The whole experience changed my life forever and the call to religious life returned…I entered the Glenmary Sisters in January 1971.
Candidacy was in St. Louis and consisted of finishing my degree in English and getting classes in philosophy and theology at St. Louis University. The novitiate was 2 years and included the 30-day Ignation Retreat. In the summers we were sent out to open missions in the rural south and ran bible schools, camps and other works. I made first vows on May 5, 1973 and was sent on my first full-time mission to Appalachia which consisted of 6 counties in eastern Kentucky. Before final profession on August 6, 1977 I completed my masters in spiritual theology from St. Louis University.
In November 2002 I began the transition from the Glenmary Sisters to the SCN Congregation. From that time until the formal transfer of my perpetual vows from Glenmary to the SCNs on March 18, 2006, I was graced with immersing myself into the history, spirituality and mission of the community. From 2003-2006 I was the Director of the SCN Lay Mission Volunteer Program as part of the Office of Congregational Advancement Team. Developing this new ministry in the SCN Family was a special joy as it allowed me to meet and work with many SCNs and Associates across both provinces from all 5 countries. During these years we sponsored two mission immersion trips to Belize and processed and sent short-term volunteers to Appalachia, Botswana and India.
I ministered as a campus minister, religious ed coordinator and teacher, pastoral associate, radio evangelist, coordinator of music and administrator of social service agencies in Appalachia, Georgia, Texas, Alabama and Kentucky.
My mission time in Appalachia, eastern Kentucky, transformed me into a true cross-cultural minister. Though located in the U.S., Appalachia was labeled the 3rd world of the U.S. And, that it is. It was wonderful.
The most meaningful experience in mission for me was the five years I served as a prison chaplain at Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville.. I was one of six volunteer chaplains that worked on death row. This experience changed my life in so many ways, most importantly, it gave me a deeper respect and reverence for all life—that all people are God’s and we may not take their lives from them. I also learned how important it is to choose life, not death, in all my decisions. In my heart is a special place for the imprisoned and I know that I will be called to this ministry again in some way.
As a member of the U.S. Catholic Mission Association Board, I was asked to be a U.S. representative at the first Mission Congress of the Americas. This was held in Parana, Argentina. I also had short mission experiences in Mexico and Nicaragua and on the border of the U.S. and Mexico.
The fondest memories I have of my life in community for the sake of mission both in Glenmary and the SCNs are of the many people God has allowed me to meet and encounter. Forming relationships of all kinds is the basis of all ministries for me.
God, prayer, family, community and the people of the missions and ministries in which I had/have the privilege to serve kept/keep me alive and challenged to continue to walk the walk with others in community and ministry.
On June 12 I was hired as the new President of Presentation Academy in Louisville, effective on August 1, 2006. So, now I am in the midst of ending my time here at OCA and moving into the Louisville area.
My hobbies are reading or listening to audio books while driving. I also love to bike and walk. Music remains my greatest love as well as dabbling in watercolor painting.
I have worked with local Appalachians in mineral rights against coal companies as well as land reclamation after strip mining. For the last 15 years I have fought for prison reform and am on the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
I have struggled with indigenous and different cultures in regard to Church regulations on worship and prayer—as well as for the rights of women and persons of color in our Church and society.
For over 20 years I have worked with mission sending organizations to develop a missiology that is inclusive and not exclusive of all persons and cultures. Part of this struggle has been to unite domestic and international mission so that mission is seen and experienced as relational—what one does in one’s own country affects the global and vice-versa.
The saying, “Wherever one SCN is, we all are” really came to mean something to me when I facilitated the mission immersions to Belize. So many counted on the SCNs to lead the way and I was able to assist in this process and invite others to join our SCN Family.