Religious sisters from across the Diocese of Helena met at the Brondel Center in the Cathedral of St. Helena with Bishop Thomas on September 23 to celebrate the service of Sister Donna Lynn Casey, SCL (60 years) and Sister Pat Johannsen, SCL (50 years).
After joining Bishop Thomas for a brief prayer service, the Jubilarians shared reflections on their time of service, recalling the great joy they found in their work and people who impacted their lives.
Sister Lynn Casey, who is retired and living in Helena, looked back fondly on her experience in medical care at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, CO. She remembered the blessing that it was to be greeted by the patients in the morning.
“They told us that it was wonderful to see our smiling faces. Later at the 6:30 mass, we would place before the Lord their pain, and also beg that our staff would bring Christ’s healing presence to them. That was probably one of my most wonderful memories, and it happened many times a day.”
Looking into the future, Sister Lynn told of plans to leave for Haiti with a group of sisters that has been aiding in the construction of an orphanage, school, and convent. She asked for prayers to help them “celebrate what a small group of women religious can do in the face of poverty, earthquakes, and civil discord.”
Sister Pat, who serves at De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, recalled several individuals who have been “prophets” in her life as those who have helped her get to where she is today, including Sister Sue Miller, a former community director for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.
“When she [Sr. Sue Miller] came to know about Solidarity with South Sudan, she made a donation in our name for our anniversary…and when I read her letter I thought, dang, all we’re doing is giving money again. But her last line was, ‘If you feel so called, please contact your community counselor about going to South Sudan.’ That was a piece that triggered my discernment and eventual service in South Sudan.”
She then closed with a reflection on the idea of the heart being the true life center of the body, “Our heart’s center, our love, that comes from God, is how we are connected. To our planet earth, to one another, and to all those that we serve, especially those that we serve on the margins.”
The space filled with song and joy as the community congratulated both sisters, and shared the sign of peace to bring the service to a close.
At the luncheon following the service, Bishop Thomas offered his own congratulations to the jubilarians, and his great appreciation for the whole group of women in attendance, and noted, “As you look back in the archives of the diocese, you really realize that the substantial foundation of charitable, compassionate, and healthcare works rests on the shoulders of visionary women.”
Bishop concluded the celebration with a final thanks and a hope for the continued graces we in the diocese receive from the powerful work of the women religious among us.