Sister Mary Kristin Battles, superior general of the Sisters of Notre Dame, and member of the California province, shares with us highlights of her month in California at Notre Dame Center this past July.
Community life at Notre Dame Center (NDC) as always is buzzing with activity and no less so this summer as I experienced during my four week stay. Highlights of my stay included touring the renovated parts of NDC, welcoming special guests General Assistant Sister Mary Sreeja from Rome and Rev. Godfrey Tuhairwe from Uganda, participating in the celebration of Jubilee, and traveling with 45 other SNDs from California to Columbus, Ohio, for a national gathering of 430 SNDs from across the nation.
Touring the newly renovated parts of NDC was the first joy that awaited me on arrival from Rome. Thanks to donors like you, the assisted living wing was moved downstairs where it is safer for our older sisters. The lounge and dining areas have been made more accessible, and reconfiguration of the serving area provides space for wheelchairs and walkers. Smaller dining tables make it easier for sisters to converse at mealtimes. A new bedroom wing upstairs has increased the overall living space.
A highlight of July was Jubilee, celebrated at Saint Julie Billart Parish in Newbury Park with a reception following at the La Reina High School and Middle School cafeteria. The day was one of great thanksgiving for the lives and ministries of Sister Mary Therese Kirstein (65 years), Sister Antoinette Marie Moon and Sister Mary Bernadette Pendola (50 years), and Sister Rose Marie Tulacz (40 years). Reflecting on their vast experiences in their combined 205 years of service is inspiring. Sister Mary Therese served many years in education as a teacher and also as a school administrator in Ohio and then here in California. Sister Antoinette Marie has been in ministry as a teacher and administrator, in Africa as a formation director in Uganda, and in Rome in service to our international congregation. Sister Mary Bernadette spent much of her life as a teacher, administrator and then a nurse. In addition Sister was a missionary nurse in India and in Africa. Sister Rose Marie began her ministry as a teacher and then transitioned into full time ministry in the arts. Over twenty years ago she began Notre Dame Creations, a ministry of specialized photography. Through this ministry she raised large amounts of money for our missions in East Africa. Today, Sister also does retreat work and gives many spiritual workshops and talks. Each of our Jubilarians has given incredible witness through lives which have faithfully incarnated the love of our good and provident God.
Sister Mary Sreeja, a member of our general government team in Rome, joined me in California. Sister is a native of India and is mission coordinator for our congregation. Sister Mary Sreeja visited for ten days and in that time was able to participate in Jubilee, visit each of our convents, visit our sponsored ministries such as LAMP and CAST and become acquainted with the wonderful work that Many Mansions does in Thousand Oaks. She briefly toured La Reina High School and Middle School and saw Notre Dame Academy Elementary and High School. Sisters took Sister Mary Sreeja to a mission, the beach, the space shuttle, and the Reagan Library. Sister had a whirlwind experience of California culture and enjoyed every minute!
The next joyful occasion was welcoming Rev. Godfrey Tuhairwe from Hoima Diocese, Uganda, East Africa. Father is the pastor at Ugandan Martyrs Parish in Buseesa, Uganda where we have Saint Julie Model Primary Boarding School and Notre Dame Academy Senior Secondary School. He was accepted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to give mission talks in three parishes this summer. During his time in California Father resided at NDC. He is building a much needed new parish church in Buseesa to accommodate growing parish membership. This is Father’s second summer with us and he now claims NDC as his second home.
A once in a lifetime experience occurred for 430 Sisters of Notre Dame this summer from July 23-26. That was a meeting of the majority of sisters from the four American provinces in Columbus, Ohio. Forty-five sisters from the California province attended this meeting. It provided the opportunity for sisters from across the nation to meet together and talk about the future of our lives and ministries in the United States. We listened, dialogued and reflected on how the Holy Spirit might be calling us to address the needs of the culture we are living in and move forward in the most relevant way. This gathering furthered our commitment to take up the invitation of Pope Francis to men and women religious to Wake up the World with the Gospel message.
In community when gathered together for an assembly we often say “God is Good, all the time!” followed up by the response “All the time, God is Good!” Sharing life with the sisters at NDC and all their lay collaborators and Associates this summer proved once again that this proclamation of praise is true.
This article was featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Vision & Challenge.