Care for the Earth: A Green Transformation in Albany

January 4, 2022

Sister Bea with bricks from the Albany Provincial House demolition site.

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.

Care for the Earth: Master Gardener

December 7, 2021

As part of their afternoon in the garden, Sister Janet and her friend Maxwell read “Diary of a Worm” to learn the importance of worms in the composting process.

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.

Care for the Earth: Gardening as a Community

November 23, 2021

Sister Kay Burton (in broad-brimmed hat) with garden volunteers.

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.

Care for the Earth: Every Individual Makes a Difference

November 16, 2021

Sister Mary Rita with her bamboo paper towels and reusable water bottle.

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 Finds a Way to Serve Unsheltered Neighbors

September 23, 2021
Sister Lois MacGillivray volunteering at her parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Pantry.

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.”

Building a Bridge for Immigrants

June 4, 2021

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.”

IPJC Honors Linda Haydock, SNJM with Thea Bowman Award

May 11, 2021

Sister Linda speaks at IPJC’s virtual spring benefit.

The Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center has established an award in the name of pioneering educator Sister Thea Bowman, and Holy Names Sister Linda Haydock is the first recipient.

At the center’s spring benefit event on May 2, IPJC Board chair John Hickman recalled how Sister Linda, the center’s founding executive director, led the organization for over 25 years “to speak truth to power with love in chanceries and boardrooms (and) gathered youth in community and women on the margins to act for social change.”

When IPJC had its second convocation in 2001, Sister Thea, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, was part of its celebration of significant women in Catholic history. They were, Hickman said, “women who have shared their dreams for our church, trusted their vision, tended their faith and lit the fire of transformation.” He added, “We raised up Thea Bowman, a voice for justice and racial understanding. Tonight, we raise up and honor Sister Linda Haydock, a voice for justice who believes and lives, ‘If you dream it, you can do it!’”

Sister Linda gave the keynote address at the spring benefit, and Holy Names Sister Mary Rita Rohde joined with Franciscan Sister Pat Millen to open the virtual gathering with prayer. A recording of the event is available on YouTube.

In the 1980s, Sister Linda brought Sister Thea to Holy Names Academy in Seattle to meet and inspire her students. The students learned about her influential work to advance the education and life of black Catholics in a society dominated by white-controlled institutions and frequently racist attitudes. Sister Thea became a national presence as a teacher, preacher and powerful voice for multiculturalism and educational opportunities for disadvantaged Black people. Global Sisters Report published this story about her legacy in 2015.

Holy Names Sister Helps Select NETWORK’s New Leader

April 23, 2021

Catherine Ferguson, SNJM speaking at the NETWORK leadership blessing ceremony.

Over the past decade or so, Catholic Sisters have become more visible in the U. S. political arena under the leadership of NETWORK and Sister Simone Campbell. When Sister Simone announced plans last year to retire from her position as executive director, a search committee led by Holy Names Sister Catherine Ferguson stepped up to identify who should lead NETWORK into its next stage.

The search ultimately led to Mary J. Novak becoming the organization’s new executive director this month. Sister Catherine, who has served on NETWORK’s board since 2018, says the process provided a good opportunity to articulate and affirm the values that mobilize members.

Sister Catherine says the search committee recognized the likelihood that a lay person would end up succeeding Sister Simone simply because there are fewer Catholic Sisters now. The committee’s primary focus was therefore on NETWORK’s core leadership needs – strategic vision, commitment to Catholic Social Justice teachings with a desire to work for an anti-racist system, a personal passion for mission and connections with politically influential people in Washington, D.C.

In addition to strong relationships built during many years of working among Catholic Sisters and Jesuits, Novak has been deeply involved in restorative justice. She was the founding Board Chair of Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), and helped it become an influential advocate for ending the death penalty and promoting restorative justice. An attorney who has worked on behalf of men on California’s death row, she also has served the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and has made a lifetime commitment as an Associate of the Congregation of St. Joseph.

There were certainly moments of wondering during the months of evaluating candidates, Sister Catherine said. “You have to ask, can we ever find someone who can possibly carry on? I think we’ve done a good job. Mary has great Catholic knowledge and commitment, and she’s very collaborative with staff so she can build on their strengths.” Another member of the NETWORK board wrote a prayer to use in the process, which includes this line: “We are seekers, searchers, dreamers and hopers. We are discerning together Your paths and the ways You are calling us to co-create and re-create your gap-mending vision of wholeness. We grow from the foundation laid by previous leaders of NETWORK, women who blazed new trails and took us to new heights.”

One way people can join in the work of growing that foundation is to join NETWORK and encourage friends and neighbors to do the same, Sister Catherine said. She also invites all to participate in upcoming NETWORK webinars to prepare for a kick-off rally and Virtual Lobby Day scheduled for May 11-12. Click here to learn more about how to prepare and participate.

Sisters Statement About the Derek Chauvin Verdict

April 20, 2021

As we reflect on the guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, our thoughts turn to the Black communities who have for so long struggled to secure equal protection of the law, safety for their families and respect for their humanity. As Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, we pray that this verdict will move our fractured society closer to healing.

We pray for George Floyd and his grieving family and community. We also pray for police officers and their families, and for the thousands of people who have engaged in peaceful protests against police killings of people of color in the U.S. Our prayer is that all may be free from the daily threat of violence, and that all may know the sacred value of their lives. In the days to come, as people respond to the news of this verdict, we urge nonviolence and a focus on our shared humanity.

Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary
U.S.-Ontario Province Leadership Team

Maureen Delaney, SNJM

Diane Enos, SNJM

Marcia Frideger, SNJM

Carol Higgins, SNJM

Linda Patrick, SNJM

Mary Slater, SNJM


Sisters Denounce Atlanta Shooting and Violence Against Asian Americans

March 23, 2021

As the leadership team of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, U.S.-Ontario Province, we respond with heartbroken prayer and outrage to the fatal shooting of eight people in Atlanta, GA on March 16. Once again, communities are left to grapple with grief and shattered peace, while families are left with irreparable losses and aching hearts. This outburst of violence brings echoes of the dehumanizing public statements that have so often targeted people of Asian heritage, especially during the past year. It also reminds us that almost unfettered access to guns in the U.S. continues to cost precious lives.

We unite our voices with those who demand an end to the immoral discrimination and violence against Asian people and other communities of color. A public statement from Ramona Convent Secondary School leaders Sister Kathleen Callaway and Jacqueline Quiñones Sienkowski, JD identifies the terrible toll of this embedded racism in our society: “It’s important to remind ourselves that racism impacts communities in distinct ways, but it impacts all of us profoundly. From anti-Asian violence to the horrific pandemic death toll in Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities, to the white supremacist insurrection at the Capitol, structural racism impacts all of us. Violence, hatred, and racial slurs directed toward any group are unacceptable.”

We applaud the bishops and other faith leaders who have swiftly condemned bigotry and violence towards Asian Americans. Some of the public statements that we welcome and support include:

  • Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM, Conv.: “We must, as a Christian family of faith, speak up against any aggression and we must be active in our pursuit to end racism and discrimination of every kind.”
  • Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich: “It is incumbent on all Christians, all Americans, to resist subtle and overt acts of bigotry, to build up the common good through acts of love for all our neighbors, near and far.”
  • Pax Christi: “Charleston. Pittsburgh. Atlanta. Once more we have seen what appears to be the devastating result of racial hatred and our nation’s inability to address gun violence.”

We renew our pledge to continue our efforts to bring about sane corporate policies and legislation to eliminate easy access to deadly weapons that have been used countless times by those motivated by hatred. We are committed to respecting human life and dignity, and to active collaboration with those who seek justice and peace for all people.

Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary
U.S.-Ontario Province Leadership Team

Maureen Delaney, SNJM

Diane Enos, SNJM

Marcia Frideger, SNJM

Carol Higgins, SNJM

Linda Patrick, SNJM

Mary Slater, SNJM