As Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, we pray for healing in the wake of lives lost or shattered by the ghastly mass shooting in Buffalo, NY on May 14. We grieve for each victim, and for the United States, a nation torn by racial fears and divisions that have, again and again, resulted in the nightmare of deadly gun violence.
We call on people everywhere, especially those in positions of political leadership, to turn away from the sins of racism and violence. It is abhorrent that another Black community has been subjected to trauma and loss by a person proclaiming white supremacist views. We must completely reject baseless claims about “replacement theory” and fear-based conspiracies. As a society, we must learn to live in peace with one another, with respect for our common humanity and reverence for the gift of life.
Art has always been a part of Sister Pat’s life. Her beloved elementary school art teacher inspired Sister Pat to enroll in painting classes for three years at Holy Names Academy in Seattle. In college, she continued her education in a variety of art classes at Marylhurst College, including calligraphy taught by Sister Loyola Mary.
As an elementary and middle school teacher, Sister Pat loved teaching art to her students. They looked forward to Fridays, which she designated as a special day to foster their creative spirits.
After serving in leadership of the Holy Names community for 10 years, Sister Pat took a one-year sabbatical, during which she explored oil painting at Wenatchee Community College. In 2005, at the age of 81, she retired and started devoting more time to watercolor painting. Her works made a welcome addition to the annual Fall Bazaar and fundraising events.
Today, at 98, Sister Pat appreciates beauty in the world around her retirement community in Spokane, WA.
There is much to be grateful for because of the life of Sister Kay Burton. Sister Kay died on March 18, surrounded by the prayers of her Holy Names Sisters and the countless friends she made during more than three decades of ministry in the Mississippi Delta.
Near the end of her life, Sister Kay realized she’d have to leave Jonestown, Mississippi to return to Washington state, where she was lovingly cared for by family members and the Sisters in her last days. But Jonestown never stopped being home to her. It’s the place where she lived, loved, taught and built beginning in the late 1970s. Before her departure, Sister Kay visited with residents of Jonestown so they could say goodbye and thank her for her transformative work with children, teens, families and the town itself.
“Sister Kay loved being in Jonestown with the local people,” said Sister Maureen Delaney, leader of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary U.S.-Ontario Province. “She loved developing enriching programs with and for the children, teens and families, and they in turn enriched her life with their love and friendship.”
Sister Kay first came to the Delta in 1979 to teach summer school at Immaculate Conception in Clarksdale. She, along with several other Sisters of the Holy Names from the West Coast, came to love the warmth and dedication to community among the people they met. During the couple of years that Sister Kay stayed in Clarksdale, she got to know the family of a student from Jonestown. The child’s family urged her to come to Jonestown to help students there who were struggling with their lessons.
It was a perfect match for Sister Kay’s energetic and visionary talents. She had already spent years developing peace education and anti-racism programs as an inner-city teacher and administrator in Seattle, Washington. However, her Holy Names community called her to a leadership role in 1983, and that five-year commitment had to come first. But she purchased a house in Jonestown and continued to support the ministries of the other Sisters who went to Mississippi to teach — including Sisters Rose Monica Rabdau, Mildred Hein, Anne Skok and Teresa Shields.
“I will be forever grateful that Sister Kay chose me to live and minister in Jonestown for 32 years,” said Sister Teresa. “My life has been changed for the better.”
As soon as her term in leadership ended, Sister Kay drove to Mississippi in a van named “Old Yeller,” bought a second house and immediately started remodeling it to make appropriate space for tutoring. She reached out to the community to find out what people wanted, which led her to organize garden projects, softball teams, life skills classes and GED programs. A major emphasis for her was music — despite not being a musician herself, she recruited others to come to Jonestown to teach music, including Dolores Fields Mason, who passed away earlier this month. The result was joyful singing at annual Christmas celebrations and Black history presentations, as well as piano recitals and other wonderful gatherings.
Her successful volunteer recruitment campaigns led to innumerable home repair and Habitat for Humanity projects to benefit Jonestown residents. Volunteers also helped upgrade facilities for basketball, baseball and track, as well as creating a playground for younger children. Sister Kay also took young people from Jonestown on trips to meet Sisters and other people involved in service work in places ranging from the Native American community in Wapato, Washington to the Holy Names convents in Lesotho, Africa.
As difficult as it was for Sister Kay to say goodbye to a place she loved so dearly, she knew that God’s faithful presence in the Mississippi Delta would continue through the many ministries she and the other Sisters brought to reality.
Memorial gifts may be made to Sisters of the Holy Names Ministry Fund, PO Box 398, Marylhurst, OR, 97036 or online here.
For Sister Marilyn Nunemaker of Portland, OR, art is a spiritual path, a creative engagement with God, particularly through the splendor of nature. “With my art,” she says, “I want to give God glory with nature.”
Her primary subject is landscape, ranging from her own backyard awash in color to broad forest and mountain vistas and beachscapes drawn from her extensive hiking trips.
Wherever she goes, Sister Marilyn brings a camera so she can record images she might later use as inspiration for a painting. Her primary medium is pastels, which have the intensity of color that she feels captures the vibrancy of what she is painting. They are messy but forgiving, she says, and you can make a mistake or change your mind and adjust it. Essential to art for her is intention, of looking deeply into the subject, noticing change and nuance.
In her ministry as an educator, art has always been an important component. She worked with middle schoolers for 23 years and with adult learners for an additional 23 years as a GED instructor at Portland Community College, and art always infused her teaching strategies. Across all disciplines, she relied on art to enliven and vitalize learning.
Through the making of art, Sister Marilyn has a ready avenue to God, and it gives her a sense of joy to freely share it with others.
In 2018, a committee of Sisters and community members discussed options for the former New York Province’s Provincial House in Albany. It was no longer used regularly by the Sisters or the Academy of the Holy Names-Albany that shares the campus. The aged water and power systems, plus pervasive asbestos fireproofing, made construction or renovation options costly and ultimately, they decided that the best choice was to return the grounds to green space.
During the next year, the 85,000-square-foot building was emptied of furnishings. Heating and water systems, hundreds of lockers, lights and built-ins were dismantled and carefully removed. All the items were recycled, donated or sold to area public and parish schools, minority and small businesses, charities and families. One of the chief project objectives was to recycle, reuse or re-purpose everything possible to minimize environmental impacts. For example, crushing the building’s bricks and cinder blocks kept them out of landfills and has provided 85% of the fill material needed for the future green space.
Preparations have reached the last stages, with plans to sift out any remaining bits of recyclable material, begin site contouring, add topsoil and seeding, and install a few lights and guardrails. Soon the adjacent school campus will have a limited-access extension of the natural woods along its border.
This summer, Sister Janet Marcisz spent time at her local county fair with the garden club of Eugene, OR, which sponsored a booth providing flowers and containers to fairgoers wishing to explore flower arranging.
Gardening has always been important to Sister Janet, providing a close, heart-filling connection to the beauty of our planet. After 38 years of classroom teaching, she trained as an Oregon State University Master Gardener as a new facet of her ministry as an educator. In this way she continues teaching God’s love for us in the gift of Creation.
While the pandemic curtailed her in-person master gardener activities, she continues her own education and helps gardeners by sharing best practices via Zoom workshops.
Pandemic safety measures have also limited her work with the Lane County Literacy Council, which gives away books and encourages parents to read to their children. However, the council is still collecting books –accumulating garages full – and devising ways to distribute them, including visiting local parks with armloads full.
Sister Janet looks forward to when she can again dig in the dirt with novice gardeners and read to children tales of wonder and the splendor of our incredible planet Earth.
For the past 32 years, Sister Kay Burton has ministered in Jonestown, MS. A part of her message has been the importance of helping others, both through her own involvement and by training volunteers.
Through Sister Kay’s encouragement, adults and youth of Jonestown have come together to create a wonderful Community Garden. While taking care of the earth by nurturing the land, the gardeners benefit from better access to food, enhanced nutrition, increased physical activity and improved mental health.
In the summer of 2021, the Community Garden produced cabbage, squash, green beans, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelons. Forty tomato plants grew quickly, loaded with blossoms that produced fruit from April through mid-September. The volunteers enjoy and share their summer harvest while happily anticipating their next crop, as they now sow seeds for winter greens.
Sister Mary Rita Rohde embodies the SNJM commitment to caring for the Earth. “For me, it’s a moral issue,” she says. “We need to be morally responsible for generations to come.”
When asked for two actions people can take to make a difference, she quickly identified eliminating the use of plastics and not eating beef.
She knows it’s not easy to be plastic-free, but when she goes shopping in her town of Sunnyside, WA, she chooses bar soap instead of liquid, brings mesh or paper bags for produce and avoids buying water or other drinks in plastic bottles.
Regarding beef, Sister Mary Rita explains that there are two related concerns: the methane that cows produce, which adds to the planet’s greenhouse gas problem, and the destruction of trees in order to provide grazing land for cows, especially in the Amazon region. When you consider that it takes more than 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, the environmental impact becomes even more significant. She notes that good alternatives are available that make it easier to eliminate beef from your diet.
“Our interconnectedness with all of creation means that the actions of every individual matter,” Sister Mary Rita concluded.
Sister Lois MacGillivray’s journey – including years as an educator, a researcher and the director at the Holy Names Sisters’ Villa Maria del Mar Retreat Center – is a story of making connections and impacting lives. Today, Sister Lois makes connections as she seeks to meet the needs of people who are homeless in the Santa Cruz, CA area.
When she arrived in Santa Cruz, she learned that a serious issue in the community was the number of people who were unsheltered. With a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, she studied local efforts to find affordable housing for unsheltered individuals and families and interviewed formerly homeless people to learn how they found permanent housing placements.
During this time, Sister Lois began volunteering with the St. Vincent de Paul Pantry at her parish. The Pantry serves a diverse group of people providing cereal, protein, milk, staples, fresh vegetables and fruits.
Collaborating with the Association of Faith Communities in Santa Cruz, Sister Lois secured an SNJM ministry grant to support Footbridge Services Warming Center in Santa Cruz. Besides shelter and food, the Warming Center provides many basic elements that are critical to unhoused people, such as a safe organized place to store belongings, do laundry, take showers, charge devices, receive clothes/blankets/hygiene items, etc. The Warming Center is open twice daily, seven days a week. This Grant from the Sisters has expanded the Center’s ability to serve people without limits on the number of persons served or qualification of a person’s need.
In addition to these projects, Sister Lois will be an ESL tutor for a local woman who aspires to attend community college. She brings communion to the home-bound on behalf of her parish. During the COVID year, she worked with Marge Webb, a benefactor of the Sisters and programs at Villa Maria del Mar, to organize a gathering in a local park to pray the rosary each Friday morning. Sister is also a spiritual director.
Sister Lois says “This is a blessed time in my life. I am driven by the effort to go out, to serve people on the margins in ways that I can do now.”
Sister Susan Wells, while working in Washington’s Skagit Valley north of Seattle, witnessed the needs of the immigrant community every day. She got involved with Immigrant Resources and Immediate Support (IRIS), serving on its Community Advisory Board and volunteering. She saw first-hand the positive difference the organization made for people who need help.
Last spring, with Sister Susan’s recommendation, the Sisters of the Holy Names provided a grant to IRIS to fund the Immigrant Bridge Support program. The goal of the program is to provide immediate assistance to immigrants facing a temporary crisis. Many of the IRIS clients are women and children fleeing violence in their countries of origin. Some are recent arrivals; others have been in the U.S. for a longer period of time but are experiencing a temporary economic crisis, such as a job loss or medical issues.
COVID-19 has made struggles for immigrants even more significant, causing lost income, loss of childcare and health emergencies. SNJM funding provided assistance with rent, food and household needs for more than 60 people.
One asylum-seeking mother and her three children, including a baby with Down syndrome and a heart condition, could not find housing. Local shelters were at capacity due to COVID restrictions. IRIS, thanks to SNJM support, provided interim housing and a bridge to a better future. The family moved into their own apartment in January 2021.
The SNJM Immigrant and Refugee grant program is made possible by benefactors who want to “welcome the stranger” by caring for newcomers to our country. Sister Susan said, “I am excited by our SNJM collaboration with IRIS and to see firsthand how that collaboration is providing urgently needed resources for our immigrant sisters and brothers.”