Sister Betty Gits joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet just after high school. After her first vows, she set out to teach elementary and junior high school for the next 21 years. After that, she worked in parishes in the archdiocese and the New Ulm diocese, mostly ministering to the sick and elderly.
At age 70, she returned to her hometown of Minneota to volunteer at the parish and the local nursing home. Even after returning to the Provincial House in St. Paul, she visited the war veterans at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis once a week.
“I always wanted to be a social worker, but the degree wasn’t offered at St. Kate’s,” Sister Betty said about her history of ministering to those in need. “A person gets more than they give. It’s such a rewarding thing when you get to know these people. It’s wonderful.”
Sister Betty’s work and the work of hundreds of sisters like her does not go unappreciated.
For the past 45 years, the Fridley Knights of Columbus Council 4381 has been sponsoring Nuns’ Appreciation Day. The event began as a way to show the sisters in the Twin Cities area how much their work is valued.
“It’s just a pleasure to wait on these ladies who dedicate their lives to helping others, and to see the smiles on their faces and all the good feelings that come out of it,” said Linus Ulfig, chair of the committee planning the March 24 event.
“The nuns really like this because it gives them a chance to get together,” Ulfig said. “I think for some of them it’s the only time they see each other.”
Each year, between 65 and 70 sisters come to socialize, play games like cribbage and bingo and share a meal together.
“We see sisters from other communities that we may be acquainted with but don’t get to see very often,” said Sister Mary Ellen Ward, also a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who has been attending the event for more than 20 years. “It’s just very enjoyable,” she said.
“I like to support the Knights of Columbus; they have done so much good over the years,” Sister Betty said. “They’ve been awfully good to us sisters.”
In the beginning, the sisters went bowling or snowmobiling, said Mickey Rooney, who started the event in the late 1960s and was in charge of planning until Ulfig took over four years ago.
“I just wanted to get the sisters from different communities together,” he said. “I started by taking the sisters from Holy Cross in Minneapolis and the sisters from Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights bowling.”
The sisters enjoyed it so much that it became an annual event. “It’s such a fun thing. I’ve made lots of friends,” Sister Betty said. “I also get to see old friends. The only other time we see each other is if we go on retreat or something.”
“We get more joy out of giving than receiving,” Rooney said. “I think we get more out of it than they do.”
The event includes an informal, picnic-style meal. “We hear that they don’t want a formal dinner, they get that all of the time,” Ulfig said. “We prepare hamburgers, with lots of fried onions and chips.”
When the sisters bless the Knights and others who prepare the meal and plan the day, “they all hold up their hands and say, ‘May the blessing of the Lord be upon you,’” Rooney said.