Barbara Lamsen Speech

Sisters of St. Mary, November 16, 2013

The sisters theme for this celebration of 150 years in this country is “Gratitude for the Past, Hope for the Present and Vision for the Future”. Like Cathy, (who just spoke) I also have a long history with the sisters and there is no question they significantly impacted my life from the time I was born. I have an old black and white snapshot of me as a small child in the 1950’s on my mother’s hip in the parking lot of OLV standing beside one of the sisters in her long flowing black habit. And even before I was born my mother went to OLV College, then later my older sisters went to OLV high school, and even later I went to OLV elementary and Nolan high school. I also spent about 9 years with the sisters as a member of their community. But I only say all this to lend some credibility to what I say because this celebration is not about me, it is about the Sisters of St. Mary and all they have done and all they continue to do.

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I don’t live with the sisters or share their lives on a daily or consistent basis but I’d like to tell you what I know about them. I know, of course, that they have a long, productive history in which hundreds of Sisters of St. Mary have played a crucial role. I know they are grateful for where they’ve been and the gifts they have received as a group and as individuals.

But these sisters don’t live in the past - they live in the present. And what exactly does hope for the present mean? I had to reflect on that a little bit as I was preparing my thoughts for today. For most of us, we hope we get that job we want, we hope the baby is a boy, or we hope that our grandchild turns out ok. But for the sisters, their hope for the present is not just hoping for good things for themselves, but hope for the poor and disadvantaged, hope for an end to violence, and hope for the promotion of social justice. They hope that all people will embrace the Word of God and share in his Grace. And their hope is not just talk but it is action, doing what God compels them to do, which means making changes when they need to change. For example, in the past, the sisters were primarily a teaching community, now they respond to the needs of the church and our community through diverse ministries such as teaching religious education, parish work, working in a religious retreat center and bookstore, or teaching English as a second language. They don’t live separate from the community at large as they once did, they live in it. And, they do so joyfully, sharing their own gifts and talents with anyone they come in contact with…They continue to choose to live a simple life, not one of power and prestige; they choose poverty, not palaces. They do more than express their hope, they live it.

The Present. Living in the Present is not always easy. Their average age is now about 76 years and many are retired so a lot of what they do now is through me and you – the people whose lives they have touched, the people who share in the holiness that we once attributed only to them. They need us now to help them carry that message of hope for the people of God that they have instilled in us.

The Future - And what is their vision for the future? We usually think of vision singularly – it’s about a particular item or event in the future – something we would like to achieve or accomplish. But what about the vast open space of the future and all that it may hold for the sisters? Well, the sisters face challenges – they face the many of the challenges of life that we all face. I am sure that most or all of you know that they have very little income because fewer and fewer of the sisters can work and the cost of taking care of their elderly is expensive. Even so, their vision for the future is still very much alive. Their vision now includes a house of formation established last year for new members of their community so that they can learn to live the charism and mission of the Sister of St. Mary of Namur. Our sisters here have also developed the means to provide anyone the opportunity to share in their life in the church through their Oblate and Associate programs. Another of their visions for the communities they once helped establish in Africa. They want to help them become self-sustaining rather than dependent on American and European missionaries to bring goods and services, and the Word of God. They are forging relationships of equality with those provinces to help them become financially self-supporting. To this end, for example, they recently helped do this by bringing Sister Esperance here from Rwanda to learn English, a necessary tool for growth and development in her county. And in my final words here is my hope for you, Sisters of St. Mary. I hope you continue to inspire, to share your beliefs, and demonstrate commitment to all that is good. And I ask that you continue to pray for me and for all of us here celebrating with you today. Congratulations on a job well done.

Barbara Lamsens

Cathy Landon’s Speech

I can kind of remember the first time I was introduced to the Sisters of St. Mary. It was 1952, and my mother Dr. Catherine Carlton took me up to meet Sister Mary Bridget and to tell her that they needed to “take me” into first grade at OLV. Sister replied that I was too young at 5 to be in first grade. My mother disagreed and they “took me”. Thus, unbeknown to me, I started my “life journey” with these nuns.

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I remember Sister Winifred, my first and second grade teacher and how I loved her. She obviously introduced me to learning with her kindness, but she expected much. We were in the “old” building for first grade, then we all moved over to the “new” building for second grade – WOW.

I remember Sister Mary, my first piano teacher at school. God bless her for having to listen to whatever I banged out on the piano. While I had no talent or no rhythm, she did teach me the value of practice and of hard work in my life. And I can read notes.

I remember Mother Devota, who now lives at OLV Center. She was very important when I was in grade school, (she was a VIP, but I didn’t know why) and she came to visit OLV. We learned some special songs to perform for her, and had to be on our best behavior. In fact we learned songs for every occasion at school, thanks to Sister Jane Marie, and I always say you can tell the Catholic educated people at Mass because, when the choir sings the “old and Latin songs” they don’t have to use a hymnal.

I remember Sister Marie Josephine, my freshman teacher before we moved to Nolan. My mother had told me she was tough and scary, so I was prepared for her. But my mom was wrong. I can still remember today the many things that Sister Marie Josephine said to us.

  1. You back into heaven with your eyes on hell
  2. Judge how your date treats his mother, he will treat you the same way
  3. You are always in control
  4. Make sure he has the manners to open a car door for you
  5. President and Mrs. Kennedy didn’t have the best marriage because, when exiting a plane, he doesn’t take her arm or help her down the stairs (To this day, with the films marking the 50thanniversary of Dallas, I still notice that every time)

I remember Sister Eleanor, my senior homeroom teacher. I respect her for being tough and fair. Several times I got in some “minor” trouble, and got caught, (I still don’t go to silent retreats), and I knew I let her down. But her kindness out-shown her anger. God Bless her.

And so I thought that my life involving the nuns was over. Little did I know that God must have had some more plans for us.

Although I thought of “my nuns” often, it was not until about 10 years ago a group of us started the Auxiliary of the Sisters of St. Mary. We hoped to plan a couple of events during the year to get together and perhaps raise a little money for ‘extras” – retile bathrooms, security lighting, buying new kitchen equipment etc.

But I started thinking of what more I could do. I attend Good Shepherd Catholic Community in Colleyville, where a large majority of our parishioners are from the Midwest and the East Coast of the United States. They may not know the Sisters of St. Mary, but they did have some order of nuns that educated them and were part of their lives. So I introduced our Sisters to my friends in Colleyville, asking them to let my nuns take the place of their nuns in their lives. And it’s been a great match up! We at Good Shepherd raise money for them, have a continuing Food Pantry drive, have designated all proceeds from our Festival of Tables go to the Sisters, do an Angel Tree for them at Christmas, and just this week took a “field trip” to OLV Center to visit and bring lunch for them.

I now have met Sister Mary Helen, who I never crossed paths with before, but also renewed friendships with Sister Mary Elaine and Sister Mary Francis, my 7th grade teacher, who still talks to me. I respect the Joy I find at OLV when I am there…in the love of the Lord and in helping others. I am blessed, and I know we all feel this way.

Several years ago, when my mother died and Sister St. John did the rosary for her, something happened to me that I can’t explain. I am not a speaker, and really don’t like to speak in public. But while listening to those who chose to speak that evening, I was all of a sudden drawn to get up and say something. Maybe it was God, I don’t know. But what I said was…”My parents adopted me as an infant, and I never told them “thank you” for that, and for allowing me to be educated by the Sisters of St. Mary.”

Linda Petry: Reflections

As I walk the halls of Our Lady of Victory Catholic School, I am in awe of the many years of former students, families, teachers and administrators who have dedicated their efforts to our school Community. I am very humbled to be the Principal at OLV and walk in the steps of the many who have come before me. It is an accumulation of their efforts that have led OLV to where we are today and where the school is heading in the future.

The one constant in our school community is the spirit and continued support of the Sisters of Saint Mary. The Sisters are OLV. They are the foundation of the OLV community, leading us by their dedication and devotion to the Catholic Church and living the word of the Gospels. From their beginning in 1910 to current 2015, the Sisters of Saint Mary’s continued presence and support is crucial to breathing life into the OLV Community and to our continued existence.

With a staff dedicated to the Sisters, I am blessed to continue the OLV mission of spreading the Gospel, delivering a Catholic education for our Community, building honorable and faithful citizens, and extending the faith and love of God.