Makin’ it real at Holy Angels

| Julie Pfitzinger - For The Catholic Spirit | February 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

Founding order brings slice of CSJ life to academy

St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Mary Lamski, second from left, talks with Academy of Holy Angels juniors Hannah Shea, left, Taylor Lemke and Emily Hoeppner Jan. 26 at the school. CSJ sisters and consociates came to the school to talk about their life as CSJs and the history of their order, which included the founding of Holy Angels. Also talking with these three girls was consociate Mary Louise Menikheim. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Mary Lamski began her recent conversation with four students at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield in this way: “Ask me any question.”

The junior girls, students in a Christian non-violence class taught by Paul Ruhland, came prepared to ask Sister Mary about everything from her call to vocation (which she said she first heard at the age of 8 ) to the many ways she has served God over the years, including her involvement in the peace movement during the 1960s in Chicago and her experience living in Jerusalem in the 1980s.

As part of the trimester-long course, students in both Ruhland’s and Lisa Murphy’s classes, have had the opportunity to meet in small groups with either a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet or a CSJ consociate, a layperson who supports the sisters in their mission, actively participating alongside them in works of justice, community prayer or volunteering in their ministries.

Teaching through living

The connection between the CSJ order and Holy Angels is a longstanding one — the school was founded by the St. Joseph Sisters in 1877. According to Murphy, the real-life examples of the lives of the sisters today, especially surrounding the topic of non-violence, are valuable teaching tools.

“In our class, we talk about peacemakers like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi,” she said. “The sisters are also peacemakers, always working for peace and non-violence, and they have such a connection to our school, so these conversations are very interesting for the students.”

Mary Louise Menikheim is a consociate of the CSJs who told the students she took on that role not long after moving to the Twin Cities area several years ago.

“I was searching for a community where I could have real companionship in terms of social justice,” said Menikheim, who previously worked in the Des Moines, Iowa, diocese in the social justice office and also has a particular interest in restorative justice. “The sisters are so loyal to the teaching of Jesus, but they aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions. They challenge the system.”

Taylor Lemke asked Sister Mary about the role non-violence plays in the mission and spirituality of the CSJs, prompting her to recall an experience she and several others shared while living and working as a peaceful presence in a Chicago ghetto during the Vietnam war era.

“I was one of 22 sisters living there at the time, using a large classroom as a dorm room,” she said. “People in the community knew us. One evening, rocks came flying through our windows, but fortunately no one was badly hurt.”

She also talked about the years she spent living in Israel during the 1980s, working as a tour guide at the Via Dolorosa, where sometimes as many as 2,000 visitors a day would come to the site.

“The Old City of Jerusalem is about as big as a six-block radius from the Hub,” said Sister Mary, in reference to the Richfield shopping center located across the street from AHA. “I spent time working with people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish and Muslim — on issues of peace and non-violence.”

Peace work draws laity

Jim and Mary Anne Seaton of Eagan have been consociates of the CSJs since 2003. Mary Anne was first interested in participating in the program after learning about it from her CSJ spiritual director. Soon, Jim, a retired deacon, also found himself drawn to the sisters and their work.

“When I heard about all the justice issues the sisters are involved in, I really got caught up in it,” he said. “I grew up in a man’s world — active duty military, member of the clergy — and as a consociate, I’ve learned that women do things in a kinder, more equitable fashion.”

When asked by junior Sarah Pupkes how she sees God now that she has been serving as a CSJ consociate, Mary Anne told the students, “My vision of God really grew and I also see God more in Jim.”

“You continue to grow in your ability to love God and your neighbor without distinction, which is the mission of the sisters,” said Jim. “Before we became consociates, life was more rushed for us and we were going in many different directions.  Now, I think we are more in tune with the needs of other people.”

Sister Mary also shared some of her wisdom with the students surrounding their own faith journeys.

“Ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is God calling me to do in my life,’” she said. “Think about the gifts you’ve been given and the ways you can share those gifts with others.”

According to Emily Hoeppner, those are big topics to consider.  “That’s a lot to do in four years,” she said with a laugh.

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Category: From Age to Age