By Anne Marie Amacher
CLINTON — Although many religious Sisters spent a portion of their careers in teaching or school administration, many today have spread their wings and help others in a variety of ways. As part of National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14), The Catholic Messenger followed some members of religious communities in the Diocese of Davenport. Last week we followed a Sister of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. This week, we follow Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton.
Down memory lane
Sister Kathy Sadler works with residents of The Alverno who reside in the memory wing. These are people with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory loss issues.
This is a second career for Sr. Sadler, who worked in retail for 30 years before entering religious life. When she entered, she looked at available options for ministry and decided to try activity director with senior citizens. She went through training and has worked for 17 years at various sites in Illinois and Iowa.
Each day at the Alverno she gathers residents into the bird room for activities to keep their minds stimulated. The day begins with prayer, followed by tossing a beach ball to residents around the table. The rest of the activities vary, but include arts and crafts, trivia, card or dice games, simple cooking and baking, scrapbooking and singing.
During The Catholic Messenger’s visit to the Alverno on Feb. 28, residents were making decorations. Sr. Sadler asked what holiday was coming up. One resident guessed Christmas. Another one said Valentine’s Day. Someone else said Easter. “What’s between Valentine’s and Easter,” she asked, before answering “St. Patrick’s Day.” The big paper shamrocks the residents were making that morning would decorate rooms and doors of the Alverno that afternoon.
Sister Theresa Judge was busy keeping score during a college women’s basketball tournament in Durgin Center at Ashford University. In addition to scorekeeping — something she’s been doing for 40 years — she also teaches English at the university.
She arrived at what was then Mount St. Clare College to serve as a resident director, athletic director and more. She decided to take up scorekeeping and still does it “the old-fashioned way. I write it all down with a pencil and paper,” Sr. Judge said as she finished tallying numbers during halftime Feb. 28. Fellow scorekeepers around her mostly enter their information into computers.
Sister Martinelle Bonnell is an academic coach for at-risk students at Ashford. “I love my work,” she said as her final student left her office before spring break. Sr. Bonnell, known by many as “Dr. B,” said the skills she gained from years of teaching and counseling help. And since Ashford bought the university, she has a much more diverse and international student population to work with. “I bring my experience to them and they teach me, too.”
Waunita Sullivan, associate director of student affairs, said Sr. Bonnell has a “bond with her students. She helps them explore different options for degrees and careers. She encourages them. It’s a win-win for the students and campus.”
Sr. Bonnell said, “The Clinton Franciscans taught us to be ourselves. We are each our own individual.”
Although not a Clinton Franciscan, Sister Nancy Miller is a Dubuque Franciscan working at the Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking. During a meeting Feb. 28, she and coworkers Laura Anderson and Lori Freudenberg were discussing speakers and special events that relate to or are sponsored by their group.
Sr. Miller discussed social media and Anderson pulled up public service announcements on her computer. Anderson sends out electronic action alerts, stories on various issues and how to contact members of Congress with a simple click of a computer button. “She does the research for you,” Sr. Miller observed.
Sr. Miller said Franciscan spirituality helps with finding the right relationship, networking and collaboration. “We take our topics to the public and urge ways to support nonviolence.”
During lunch, Sister Joan Theiss shared her experiences of teaching and finance work during her 60 years with the Franciscan Sisters. Today she is involved in music, liturgy, gardening at the Canticle, and helps with switchboard duties.
Sister Jane McCarthy taught and worked in parish ministry for 30 years and is currently the Hispanic minister at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton. She began learning Spanish and working in Hispanic ministry when she was in the Chicago area. She then worked at St. James Parish in Washington before coming to Prince of Peace in 2008.
Sister Pauline Logsdon taught in schools, worked in Peru for 10 years where she helped set up catechism classes and start up parishes, and has taught in the Bahamas. Since retiring, she has started a book club at the Canticle, is part of a theology club, and writes thank-you notes on behalf of the Sisters.
The Sisters are glad to share the skills they have learned through their work and ministry with others.