Union US – Sisters Rejoice in 70 Years of Dedication

18 Aug, 2020

1947 was a very good year! Nine young women traveled from Ireland to Sacred Heart Convent in Fargo, North Dakota. Six companions have preceded Sisters Pauline Egan, Agatha Lucey and Olivia Sculley to heaven. These three (remaining) women continue their original zest for life and adventure as they celebrate 70 years of vowed life.  Their presence and inspiration continue to bless the community each day. Congratulations, Sisters! We are so glad you are here!

Sister Pauline considers that her years of experiences and ministry as an x-ray and lab technician in the community’s hospitals were an excellent preparation for her future ministries. Her glorious joys, and badges of honor are her many years in the mission fields of Zambia, Zaire, and Swaziland, Africa, and her work with the poor and elderly in Mississippi. Pauline’s sense of the poverty and the sufferings of those in need prompted her to see that wells were dug, that food was gathered and distributed, and that home visits were made to the needy and elderly in the mountains. She faced up to community leaders that she considered were not doing enough, instigated small business ventures for women to earn money and to raise the status of women. She strived to increase their leadership skills to encourage more participation in political affairs.

“They were such fine people; I didn’t know I could be so happy!”

Today she lives quietly and prayerfully at the convent, but still has eagle eyes and a poignant heart for justice and benefits for the poor. In the midst of this pandemic she is a positive force often posing the gentle question, “Where is our faith?” and the reminder, “God is in today. All will be well.”

Sister Agatha fondly recalls her mother’s observation, “If the Lord calls you, you obey.” This empowered her to emulate Nano’s commitment to serve in Christ’s name, “Serving the Lord is my life’s focus and gives me great joy!” Starting out as a housekeeper at the bishop’s house, Sister Agatha quickly moved on to nurse’s training and spent 30 years of ministry in the community’s hospitals. Then, for 28 years, she shared this same expertise, commitment and dedication with the elderly as assistant director of Riverview Place, Fargo, a retirement facility of the Sisters’ ministry to the elderly.  Bringing her compassion, care and dedication to those in need, she endeared herself by brightening the hearts and lives the residents and of everyone whose lives she touched. “Personalizing one’s ministry is so important,” she says. Without hesitation the CEO of Riverview Place once remarked, “She is a servant angel in the flesh.”

Today Sister Agatha continues her presence and mindset of being there for others, but she also relishes the time for reflection and getting to know and understand herself and community relationships better. “There is so much to learn as we age. The call to religious life was a great gift. I have received so much more than I ever gave.” Her great love for beauty shows itself in her stunning flower arrangements displayed in the chapel and around the house.

Sister Olivia took the path of an educator. As teacher, principal, friend and confidant, students and parents were individual and personal. It has been noted that she seems to remember every student and family she ever met. She always acted (and still does!) out of a fundamental respect and love for people. In her kind, gentle and firm and compassionate way she makes everyone feel comfortable and secure. It is inconceivable to think that she has ever raised her voice. Her honesty, patience and kindness made her desirable and effective in her 25 years in leadership roles.

In 1990 Sister Olivia joined the pastoral team on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation at Eagle Butte, South Dakota. As usual, the stress and focus were on pastoral care. Criss-crossing the flatlands to visit parishioners, calling families together for catechesis, and gathering the people for celebration of the word and receiving Communion, once more, made her greatly loved.

The time came for rest and quiet which she is now experiencing at the Villa Maria Nursing Home. The pandemic disallows us from seeing her, but her presence is still so very much felt here.

They all agree, “In this time of the pandemic we often think of Nano and the fire within she must have had. To be so alone and still have done so much! Each day we do what we can—sometimes feeling alone. Looking back, we realize that we too had that fire within to have given so joyfully. Praise the Lord!”

-Article by Sister Jan Ihli.  Photographs by Sister Josephine Brennan