In late May, Salvatorian General Superior Sister Edith Bramberger came to the U.S. from Rome along with Sister Marion Etzel, who also serves on the international leadership team, or Generalate. In this blog post, they reflect on their experiences with our sisters’ communities across the country.
We arrived from Rome two days before Memorial Day. Two days later, we started our visitation with a meeting with the provincial team. We then enjoyed a hearty Memorial Day holiday, complete with the joy of being together at SSR, a good party and time to informally visit with the sisters of the Milwaukee area. Warm greetings we received upon our arrival will be long remembered!
In order to understand the reality of the USA sisters who live and minister in various settings and their different experiences of Salvatorian Family, we began our journey. Arriving in Huntsville, Ala. we learned about the heritage of the parish and your many years of service in the Deep South where Catholics are few. We learned about the importance of the Salvatorian Family in the lives of the sisters and also about the Catholic school where the sisters have served for many years. Here, Sisters Joan Wagner and Jean Marie Hauk live with the fact that they will leave next year after more than 60 years of service. We appreciate their deliberate decision to let go, knowing that their many friends will miss their presence. The sisters are planning ahead so that all opportunities will be taken to say farewell with grace and peace.
Traveling westward to Phoenix, we immediately felt the spirituality of the desert. Sisters Georgene Faust and Leticia Regala prepared well for our visit and presented us with lists of their ministries. Some of these ministries include assisting people who are uninsured or underinsured with their medical needs, prison ministry and assisting deportees from Mexico. Our sisters remain close to the people and engage in a variety of spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
In Tucson, we visited Jordan Ministry and Southwest Medical Aid, Salvatorian Family ministries that have evolved in the last twenty years. Sisters Liz Christensen, Bernice Smith and Jane Eschweiler have served in various ways including spiritual direction and administrative tasks, among other works. We also enjoyed a social event with Lay Salvatorians and women religious from other communities who are well-known to our sisters in Tucson. We celebrated Trinity Sunday at the Salvatorian parish Most Holy Trinity.
In Sacramento, Calif., we saw the continuing efforts to promote awareness of anti human trafficking at Divine Savior Catholic Church, a Salvatorian parish. Also, the anti human trafficking newsletter, legislative efforts, and leadership in the national organization U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, thanks to Sisters Sheila Novak and Jean Schafer. We enjoyed another wonderful social event with members of the other branches of the Salvatorian Family. At that event, we also met the married couple who, after discernment, were departing for their new ministry at the Southwest Medical Aid in Tucson.
Next, we had the privilege of visiting Sisseton, S.D. where we experienced a new outreach of the USA province. The Kateri Initiative honors the newly named saint of North American indigenous peoples. As part of this initiative, Sister Rita Vogelsang provides pastoral services at the nearby Tekakwitha Nursing Home, and Sister Patrice teaches students with special needs at the indigenous school on the nearby Indian reservation, helping them build skills for employment in this very poor part of the country.
Later we had the chance to become acquainted with province-sponsored institutions. First, we visited Divine Savior Healthcare, this year celebrating 100 years in Portage, Wis. We were amazed to see the two newest buildings in the complex, Tivoli residential facility and La Vita wellness center. At Tivoli, residents receive quality health care during their final years of life in a setting befitting our Salvatorian core values and the local Portage community.
Another sponsored institution, Hadley Terrace Senior Apartments, shows the collaboration between government housing agencies and the Salvatorian Sisters. We saw the poverty of this urban Milwaukee neighborhood, and the bare earth of the site that held many memories for our sisters as the original Motherhouse. Thanks to the hospitality of Sister Karlyn Cauley who resides there, we also met the staff who serve the men and women living at Hadley Terrace,
We also toured Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA) High School in Milwaukee, located next to your provincial headquarters. We especially enjoyed seeing the latest school addition, a commons area that displays the history of Divine Savior High School, Holy Angels Academy and DSHA. We visited the new wellness center, gymnasium, chapel, campus ministry office and new classrooms. Going up to the third floor, we viewed the impressive SDS Art Gallery’s ever-changing and creative works of art.
Throughout our entire visit, we witnessed the ministry and hospitality at Salvatorian Sisters Residence and the newly-improved St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus. The professional and loving care for your elder sisters is clearly evident and helps to add strength and vigor in their final years of life. Their concern about world affairs (Congo is a recent example) and their daily prayer affirm that they enrich the congregation and continue to grow into Salvatorian fullness of life.
During our visit, sisters who serve in the spirit of Francis Jordan by all ways and means, shared about their ministries in pre-school education, youth work among the poor, nursing, university teaching, spiritual direction, high school presence and pastoral work in parishes. Throughout our visitation, Sisters expressed gratitude for the efforts of the province and for their own identity as Salvatorian women who continue to go out to meet life. We are edified by the openness and richness of the conversations we had.
In addition to the strengths that we saw in the lives of the sisters as we learned about their ministries, we wish to highlight some specific strengths we observed.
We received a strong and positive impression of how much the Salvatorian Family is part of your lives. In liturgies, at social gatherings, in formation, in your communications, and in your projects, the Salvatorian Family is always at the heart of what you do. You are present to the other branches and they are also to you. Life within the Salvatorian Family is woven into the pulse of your province. In the ways that you are part of the Family, you give a great gift to the Church and to our broken world.
Father Jordan’s desire was that lay people be vitally involved in the mission of the Salvatorians and the Church. Sponsorship is a very visible way that Jordan’s dream is being realized today. For many years, you have carefully nurtured your sponsorship ministry. This effort has borne much fruit and is now at a new stage of further maturity. We know that questions remain. We are happy to see that sponsorship is very important to your life in the province and that you will take care that the passion for sponsorship will not diminish but rather evolve.
We express heartfelt gratitude for the ways in which the North American Province contributes to our congregation’s international efforts, always with a generous spirit. These include:
- Through annual mission appeals, your sisters share with Catholic parishioners how we serve the poor in places remote to the USA, and you invite sisters from other parts of the world to help with this program. We are happy to know of the generosity of Salvatorian Sisters in the U. S. who provide hospitality to sisters from other units to study and to help with the mission appeals. Getting to know these sisters more deeply has been a valuable experience for the sisters of the USA.
- The Mission Advancement Office is an important part of the life of your province and our congregation throughout the world. During our visit, the Mission Advancement Team planned an event for benefactors, friends and other Salvatorians to hear how their prayerful gifts impact our efforts. We are deeply grateful to the Mission Advancement Team whose expertise the province extends to our worldwide congregation. Their efforts to raise funds for our global missions helps make possible the work of the sisters among many needy people around the world.
- Your province membership in UNANIMA International makes the entire SDS congregation a member of this influential NGO. USA Province commitment supports membership and a sister to serve on the board of directors. Your support also enables Salvatorian Sisters from other parts of the world to participate as interns, sharing ministerial experience and learning more about global issues that can be shared in their home units.
- Now the province is collaborating in founding a mission in Guatemala. Initially, the province sent a member and it will continue to support the Guatemala initiative in the future.
- With encouragement and financial support of the sisters of the United States, we held a congregation-wide anti human trafficking meeting in Rome in 2015. As a result of this meeting, the network of anti human trafficking efforts was established and strengthened worldwide.
- Sisters and Lay Salvatorians of the USA participate annually in the English language immersion program in Tanzania. After nearly ten years, the program has grown to include sisters from the DR Congo and Mozambique as well. Helping African sisters build their English language skills strengthens their ministries and broadens their professional education opportunities.
- Sisters from the USA also serve on important international commissions of the congregation. These include the international finance commission, the international joint charism commission and the Mary of the Apostles study group. The Generalate is very grateful for their service.
The charism and Salvatorian apostolic life in all parts of the world has always called us to live close to the people and not in a monastic way. We appreciate your lifestyle and your efforts to be out, on the move, and in the midst of the people, witnessing the goodness of Jesus. Your small communities allow you to be beautifully visible and human. We thank you for these communities. You show a form of new apostolic religious life “at the edges” to which the Church has recently called us.
We see the new ways in which you use technology to unite the sisters, enhance province meetings, and promote long-distance communication. At all times, you use technology to advance our mission, to proclaim Jesus, and to provide ideas and ways for future apostolic activity.
Questions about Aging, Vocations and Future Leadership
One challenge is to continue to live and grapple with the important questions, rather than give in to temptation for quick and easy answers for the big questions about aging, vocations and future leadership. It calls us to embrace the long journey and demands fidelity to communal discernment, passion, and involvement of every member as much as possible. Father Jordan did not know ahead of time what gift he would be giving to the Church nor what answers he would find. And yet he kept looking for ways to realize his dream.
We do not have answers for the big questions that you and worldwide leaders of apostolic religious life raise. However, we feel confident that, through your own efforts and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will find suitable answers for this time in your lives as a province.
We wish to thank each community of Salvatorian Sisters that received us with joy, made us feel at home, and shared about their lives. We wish to thank the provincial team in a special way for planning our visitation and for inviting us to be part of the Salvatorian Family Jubilee celebration in June.
You, like us, remain open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit and we take Elizabeth as our example. Just as the elder Elizabeth could not have envisioned the role her son John would play in salvation history, so also our foremother sisters in the USA could not have envisioned the role Salvatorian women of the USA would play in the congregation and the world today. Now we are the Elizabeths who continue to carry life, while not yet envisioning what this life will be in the future. In this spirit of faith and hope, we remain lovingly connected to you.
Sr. Edith Bramberger and Sr. Marion Etzel