Margaret Spiller, SNJM (RIP 2/6/16)
Grayce Ross, SNJM
I was born and raised in the island community of Alameda, CA. I was the third child and the first daughter of 5 children of M. Austin Ross and Elenora Fennelly. My first big family celebration was my baptism 15 days later at St. Philip Neri Church. From then on, much of my faith life centered around this parish until I entered the convent at the age of 21. Our extended family always celebrated significant sacraments with huge parties. Relatives from both sides of the family—Ross and Fennelly—lived in close proximity to one another. In fact, my mom and dad’s family homes were only 6 blocks apart. My folks met at a choir picnic.
My brothers and I attended St. Joseph’s Grammar School. My young sisters attended St. Philip Neri’s. Much of the time away from school was spent taking advantage of the excellent parks and recreation department offerings like sports, arts, crafts, and teen club activities as well as scouting programs. The beginning of honing leadership skills.
Vacations were spent on the Sacramento Delta either on a friend’s boat or better yet one built by our own dad. Our boat was moored a block away from our house by the High St. Bridge which is only a short cruise down the estuary to San Francisco Bay and up to the Delta.
My brothers and I attended Bishop O’Dowd High School, a coeducational institution within the Diocese of Oakland. The wonderful faculty of Archdiocesan priests including John Cummins as a young priest, and Adrian Dominicans always provided a holistic approach to keep things balanced.
It was during my years at Holy Names College that I really blossomed as a young adult. Studies were still a challenge but I discovered the artistic and social side of myself. I was in student leadership and in the early days of campus ministry. It was in this environment that my vocation to religious life was solidified. The Sisters of the Holy Names were loving and caring both in the classroom and outside. They loved life and loved God.
In order to finance my tuition, I entered the workforce at the Bank of America Erma Center and worked nights with a great group of college students. This was fun!
By my third year of college, the deep silent invitation to religious life became a reality. I entered the Sisters of the Holy Names in August 1963. Formation years and Vatican II were most influential for my own personal spiritual growth. Years of study in theology and spirituality blended with the new “Spirit” of Vatican II brought about a new and enhanced identity of about self and God. These years also brought about a realization of creativity in prayer and a depth of love in my relationship with God.
First profession of vows brought my first “formal” assignment to serve as secretary to the Provincial Superior. These eight months of service were truly a gift. Working with and for Sister William Marie and the Provincial Council brought me much confidence and happiness. These truly loving and holy women mentored me and shared with me, in their own quiet way, what it meant to be of service, especially during this time of excitement and challenge after Vatican II.
A pivotal spiritual experience for me was participation in a 30-day directed retreat in the summer of 1973. Though young in religious life, the call to do so was strong and deep. After 30 days, I emerged with a renewed spirit and a deeper relationship with my God. Art became a prayer form and spiritual direction a life-long process.
After receiving my MBA in 1975, I served in the Business Office at HNU for eight years. I found great hope for the future in the students as well as the mission of Holy Names. I enjoyed helping with Campus Ministry and living among the students in the Residence Hall as well as answering Sr. Ethel’s plea that I share my knowledge of business by teaching one class in the newly formed department.
Before moving on to become Manager at the Villa in Los Gatos in 1983, I was fortunate to be able to make another 30-day retreat. During this retreat a new prayer form emerged. I choreographed and danced what I entitled “Return to the God of Love.” The image of dancing with God is a strong one for me. Having completed the task at hand in two years, I was free to move on to something new and different.
The years 1985-1993 saw me in a Financial Administration position in either St. Joseph College Seminary or St. Patrick’s Theologate. Assisting the seminary communities in the understanding of their financial realities was truly a challenge. An unexpected gift was that I was asked to serve on the formation faculty and as a spiritual director. It was here that I began my humble experience as a Spiritual Director. Also, sale of property at St. Patrick’s saw me at City Council meetings all too often. But the sale was finally successful and helped endow the property into the future. With the sale behind us I moved on…
…to Idaho, I went to serve as Director of Nazareth Retreat Ctr. Bishop Brown knew me at Good Shepherd when he served as Superintendent of Schools in Monterey and I taught at Good Shepherd and more so from work at the seminaries. He also asked me to consider a couple of other positions along the way which I agreed to only after being assured of proper assistance from capable staff and membership in the professional organizations that supported the field. I loved Idaho and the somewhat less stressful atmosphere and easier pace of life but it was time after 13 years to come home.
Back in California, I found myself doing some development work at St. Lawrence; serving at Villa Maria del Mar; training as a hospice volunteer and now involved in volunteer work as needed especially within community endeavors but also a couple of parishes.
I enjoy making “Grayce” cards and arranging flowers both of which seem to bring JOY to the individual recipients and once in a while, if you are lucky, you may see me dancing with God.