Why did I go to the Missions? It was in response to a strong and clear call from God to bring the knowledge and love of Him to other lands. My family tells me in my years of growing up, I often spoke of going as a missionary to Africa. As an RSCJ, I don’t recall when I first began asking to go on the Missions but it was early on in my religious life. Every time I asked I was told, “We can’t afford to let you go”. I loved my work of teaching in Montreal and Vancouver and of being with the little ones in the Elementary School of Halifax.
In the Spring of 2008, Sr. Ursula Bugembe, the Provincial of the UGK Province, wrote to Kathy Conan, the US provincial, to ask if it would be possible to invite me to the Uganda/Kenya Province to be an elder sister in community and to offer spiritual accompaniment as well as to serve in one of the Society ministries in the province. When Kathy approached me about this request, I felt very energized! It was one of those moments of clarity that needed little discernment.
While I was still teaching (Buffalo 1970) – though not certifiable yet, I was asked by Ev Kane RSCJ, responsible for studies in the New York Province, if I would like to continue my education as a teacher or if I would like to become a nurse. I had started to do volunteer work at a hospital in Buffalo and really liked the care of patients. I come from a medical family. My response was to choose nursing. I moved to New York City and completed my degree in Nursing at Cornell University NY Hospital School of Nursing.
In 1987, Helen McLaughlin came to the US for an LCWR meeting in Niagra Falls. She invited me to lunch by the falls. It was time for me to think of a change of ministry. “I know you’ve always wanted to serve outside the country, Nance. How about Indonesia?” “We’re not in Indonesia.
In 1964 as college graduation and the next step in my life approached, I made a weekend retreat to pray about what next. I wanted to enter but I knew in my gut that it was too soon. I was interested from an easy age in “missionary life” in another country. At that time there was a Sacred Heart Society lay missionary program. As I read the journal MITTE ME, I felt the answer was to apply to be sent struck to a country where our sisters has missionary work. This inspiration was confirmed by Sister Cavanagh who was in charge of my senior class.
It is easy for me to write about what it means to be a missionary in the spirit of Philippine. I entered back in 1951 on November 17th for the feast of Blessed Philippine and felt a deep attraction to her spirit of prayer and austerity even then. Later in the 1950’s, after my vows, I heard an Egyptian Jesuit talk about his missionary vocation suddenly taking hold at God’s words to Abraham,” Quitte ton pays” (Leave your country). I felt on fire, as if they were also spoken to me. It took 20 years of nagging and the 1970 General Chapter to achieve it but in 1971 I was sent to Uganda.
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