Salvatorian Sister Barbara Reynolds has a whirlwind travel itinerary this summer. Some stops will place her in a familiar role as teacher, but she’ll be doing her share of study too. From September to May, she’s a professor of mathematics and computer science at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.
Sr. Barbara departs Milwaukee on June 25 headed for Washington, D.C. There she’ll spend a week at Georgetown University with the Clavius Mathematical
Research Group. Clavius is an international group of Catholic mathematicians that first came together in the summer of 1963. Sr. Barbara has been a member since 1985. Each summer Clavius members spend three weeks together, doing mathematical research while sharing work, prayer, and recreation.
From there, Sr. Barbara will head to Horrem, Germany near Cologne for a weeklong immersion in the German language. She explains, “I studied German in college and in graduate school, but last summer it was clear to me that my conversational German was quite rusty from lack of use. The preferred language for many Sisters in our Mother Mary Study Group is German, so I asked for this opportunity to improve my skills in German. Sr. Klara Maria, the Provincial in Germany, has invited me to stay at the Provincial house in Horrem, and arranged for Sr. Felizitas, a retired teacher, to be my mentor and tutor for the week. She will help me make best use of this limited time to focus on improving my conversational German — and perhaps improve my reading of German, too.”
Sr. Barbara will then move on to our Salvatorian Motherhouse in Rome, to join the Mother Mary Study Group. This international committee of Salvatorian Sisters is appointed by the Generalate to study the life and times of our Founders, particularly Mother Mary. Committee members write about what they learn, and over the years, quite a few volumes in the “Studia de Historia Salvatoriana” (SHS) have been published and distributed to Salvatorians around the world.
Sr. Barbara says, “In the Motherhouse archives, we have access to original source material, much of which is in German. Being in Rome, we also have easy access to Tivoli, where our Congregation was founded and Mother Mary first established the novitiate. Our Founders, Mother Mary and Father Jordan, both lived in Rome for many years. Last year, I especially appreciated the opportunity to walk around many of the places where they lived and walked. Of course, the Rome that the Founders lived in was quite different from present day Rome, so I’m learning to see under the present and into the past.”
Last year was Sr. Barbara’s first year to work with the Mother Mary Study Group, which comprises Salvatorian Sisters from Germany, Brazil, South Tyrol and Poland. This mathematician by training says studying history is a stretch for her. She’s discovered that the questions, methods, and source materials for studying history are different than those used for studying math. “I’ve always been interested in history, particularly stories of people and how they’ve lived. I find my work with the Mother Mary Study Group very interesting and it stretches my scholarship. It’s at once challenging and exciting!”
Next stop Poland, where Sr. Barbara will don her teacher’s hat – but in English as a Second Language (ESL) — not math. “When Sr. Beverly asked if I’d be willing to travel to Poland this year to teach English and to assess their needs, I said ‘yes!’ English is one of the languages of our Congregation along with German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French and Polish. At the latest General Chapter in 2012, members passed a resolution that all of the Sisters would make an effort to learn a language of the Congregation other than their mother tongue, to facilitate communication among the units.”
Sr. Barbara says word spread among unit superiors about how helpful the summer ESL program has been for our Sisters in Africa. Poland’s Provincial Superior Sr. Marta asked if someone could come to Poland to help with English literacy.
Sr. Barbara shares a bit of history, saying, “My understanding is that when Poland was behind the Iron Curtain, everyone studied Russian and/or English in school, so that many of the older Sisters in Poland have at least studied English in secondary school. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, they tend to be studying German in high school, so that the younger sisters know German better than English. I’m sure that my understanding of this situation will be much better after I’ve been with the Sisters in Poland.”
While Sr. Barbara is excited about her first opportunity to visit Poland, she says a part of her heart is in Tanzania, where she has led our English Language Immersion program for African Sisters in summers 2011 through 2015. “I love Africa and really enjoyed working with our Sisters in Tanzania. Given the opportunity, I would like to go back. But I’ve learned to live one year, one adventure at a time!”