Stories from the Heart – reflections on past ministries from the Sisters

Be Attentive to God’s Call
By Sr. Mary Jo Hrnchir

God’s greatest gift to me has been my life. My response to this gift is a daily openness to God’s call in my life. I just want to be God’s messenger of love and care to others with my whole heart and soul. As I reflect on my life, it has been an eventful journey of ups and downs faithfully strengthened by God’s loving presence each day.

Initially my first months of working at Florence Home were very difficult. So difficult, in fact, that I quit the job there. However, after trying work in a daycare center, I returned to Florence Home. I ended up ministering at Florence Home for over 30 years. I saw the great need there and it brought me so much joy to see the joy and appreciation in their eyes when I was with them. It became my home away from home.

Over the years I discovered God was calling me to be a messenger of love, kindness and care to the residents. Daily I was about the works of mercy—feeding the hungry, clothing those in need, comforting the sick. The residents in return shared their gratefulness and the stories of their lives. Together we developed deep, lasting friendships. I believe ministry is not just what I give to others, but also openness to what others give to me. I have truly been blessed in being able to meet these unmet needs and thank God for that.

Be Who God Created You to Be
By Sr. Karen Rolenc

One of my favorite quotes is from St. Catherine of Siena – “Be who you were created to be.” I try faithfully to be aware of this throughout my life. God journeys closely with me during my life. God has chosen humble, simple tasks for me and I try to follow God’s path. It seems many times I find myself in the right place at the right time. I used to call it a coincidence. Not anymore, I realize now that it was and is God’s presence working through me.

A very special part of my ministry was caring of preschool children for 35 years. It was so important to be attentive, gentle, caring and listening to them. Often these little ones came to the center fearful of parents leaving them and not coming back for them. Tenderly I would sit with them, talk to them, and comfort them, inviting them to join an activity. Often that helped them calm down and join a group. All it took was taking time to give them a little attention and reassure them it will be okay. My days were filled with awareness and alertness to where help was needed.

realize how God has been gifting me and using me as a special helper. I try to be a compassionate presence by responding to the call with love.

“How have I graciously and faithfully followed and lived
the Gospel Message?”
By Sr. Phyllis Marie Heble
This question brought back an incident when I was teaching
a Bible Study class. A woman of another Christian tradition
had come with her Catholic friend to share the morning with
Soon we were all seated in a
circle with Bibles open before us.
After prayer we began the
session discussing the latest
news about a man who had
committed a terrible crime the
day before. On we went about
his bad character, how could he
have done such a terrible thing, surely he deserved the
death penalty or a long prision term…
After we had exhausted our judgements of this person there
came a pause. The woman who was a visitor, replied,
“Why don’t we all join hands and pray for this man?” Truly
this was a Biblical response from Jesus to love and pray for
our enemies!
I was struck with shame and have never forgotten her
prayer. To this day I think of our guest’s words when I hear
of a crime. In a group, I say a silent prayer or one out loud.
As I read the daily paper, I place a blessing on the forehead
of the criminal and also the victim. I too am a sinner, who
am I to judge?


God’s “Lure” to Ministry
Ministry is a mysterious and surprising
encounter. I find that where I am and as I
am can be a fertile “field” for hearing
God’s call and/or promptings the time—
the place is always NOW. One time while a friend and I
were sharing about some of the events in our country the
issue of immigration came up. We started talking about the
effects our immigration laws have on those coming to our
borders and those who have been here for many years.
We began talking about the latter group, TPS. I explained
that Temporary Protected Status is given to people coming
from countries where they are experiencing life threatening
situations. Our government has given them “temporary”
asylum. When it was established there was no “end time”
set so some of the people have been here for 15 to 20
years. They must be gainfully employed; they pay Social
Security and taxes, but are not able to receive any
government benefits. They own their homes, and every 18
months or so are required to “re-establish” their position as
TPS recipients. This includes a fee of around $500 per
person to “reapply” for the TPS status. If the application
does not come in time they are in danger of being sent
back to their countries immediately! This is not only
stressful for the TPS adults but also their children as they
do not know if someday they could come home from school
and find out that their parents have been sent back to the
country from which they came. Some of the children are
U.S. citizens.
She was surprised to learn about the stress and strain
the TPS people were under as well as the amount of
paperwork they had to go through so often and wondered
how she could help. I said that Congress is considering a
pathway for citizenship so we need to support this action
by writing our congress representatives.
This is one example of “listening” to the Spirit to invite
someone into relationship with God’s people by sharing
concern for our sisters and brothers who have come from
other areas of the world.
Another time I met a friend in the grocery store we
shared a bit about what was going on in our lives. She
shared her concern about the abortion issue. I agreed that
it is definitely a Pro-Life issue. I also realized this is a good
time to suggest what was going on about the Death
Penalty could also be considered a Pro-Life issue. She
didn’t readily agree with this. I then said it seems to me it
is the same, because it is taking a life. Pro-Life is saying
that “all life” is sacred from natural birth to natural death
and the death penalty is really “sanctioned murder”. As we
shared a bit more she said, “I think I need to pray about
this.” God’s call to speak up comes at surprising times and places. I am challenged to live out of the values I
encounter each day in my prayer and meditation. These
are the ways in which I have come to hear and sense
God’s nudging of me to make God’s presence real in my
life and hopefully in the lives of others.
Sr. Marie Alice Ostry


Divine Providence
By Sr. Ernestine Havlovic
Trust in Divine Providence always meant
a lot to me and still is a source of comfort
to me. I have a story from my younger
years I will share with you.
In my earlier years as a religious, we Sisters got our yearly
ministry assignments at the end of our annual retreat in
early August. Rev. Mother would read off the places and
the names of the Sisters assigned. That was always an
anxious morning. I was hoping to go to Porcupine, SD. No
such luck! I was assigned to Clarkson, NE with two other
Sisters. Not only that, we were all primary teachers and
never taught any of the upper grades.
So, after the assignments were read, the three of us went
to Sr. Loyola, the Rev. Mother, and told her our dilemma.
Sister looked at us with her “big loving eyes” and listened
to us as we listed more challenging concerns. None of us
were experienced as a principal or a superior of the house.
We were concerned how the school would actually function
and to top it off we knew none of the people living in
Clarkson. When we finished sharing all these anxieties
with her, she very gently and simply said, “You are adults.
Just work it out among yourselves. I trust you. And don’t
forget Divine Providence!” And believe you me, I thought,
God would certainly have to help us a lot!!
After a restless, sleepless night, the next morning we were
on our way with the pastor to Clarkson anxiously
wondering and praying about what was waiting for us and
what would come of this year. It was a blessing the pastor
was very kind and patient with us throughout the year.
This enabled us to face the challenges, enjoy the
youngsters and get to know the people in the parish.
In those years classrooms were self-contained, loaded with
many students and a single teacher facilitating it all. I truly
learned how to rely and trust on God’s gracious providence
in my life.
Oh yes, we survived that year with the support of the
pastor, the generosity of the parents and Sr. Loyola’s
attentive, caring phone calls. But above all, I must not fail
to mention the strength I felt from my trust in Divine
Providence. The end of the story is I loved every minute of
it and ministered in Clarkson for twenty years. Thanks to
Divine Providence.


“God Calls in Surprising Ways”
by Sr. Alma Janousek
Life is full of many surprising adventures.
After 25 years of being an elementary
educator as a teacher and principal, I felt a
call to a different ministry. So, I took
classes to become a hospital chaplain.
Eventually I found a position as a chaplain at Valley Hope
in O’Neil, NE. Valley Hope is a treatment center for those
struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. It is a place
where people are able to find healing and hope. The
center welcomes people to embrace a spiritual journey
discovering a Higher Power/God in their lives. It provides
an atmosphere of acceptance and respect for the individual
in coming to accept their brokenness and begin to rebuild
their lives.
As a chaplain I would plan prayer services offering the
clients ways to accept the struggles of life situations rather
than trying to control situations. It was learning how to take
life “One Day at a Time.” A song I often used during our
services. We prayed often the “Serenity Prayer” practicing
how to try to change the things we could change, accept
the things we can’t change and the wisdom to know the
difference. These prayer times were opportunities for the
clients to develop and grow in their relationship with their
Higher Power/God. They were learning to honor their
feelings, to discover their goodness and accept their
weakness. Slowly they come to realize they are good and
lovable. As part of the healing process the Valley Hope
staff encouraged family members to come and join in
various gatherings with their loved ones.
Being a chaplain, I was privileged to share vulnerable parts
of their lives that needed healing. Encouraging them to
reach out and risk facing honestly the hurt and pain they
received as well as the hurt and pain they may have
caused others. This was the beginning of the journey to a
new life. To me, these were miracles right before my very
These were years that not only helped those who came
searching for a new life, but also helped me deepen my
own relationship with God and accept my own humanness.
If I was encouraging them to trust their Higher Power/God
then I needed to witness a strong belief in my trust in God.
The years at Valley Hope were truly a gift from God for me.
Not only those who came to be healed were changed and
touched; but those of us who worked there also received
bountiful blessings. Our God certainly works in surprising