Welcome to our third year of The Life, featuring a panel of 20 sisters who will reflect on issues that impact the lives of Catholic women religious around the globe.
We chose a panel from more than 50 applicants from around the world who reflect a diversity of ages, nationalities, religious congregations, ministries and charisms.
Our panelists this year are from, have ties to or work in: Australia, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lithuania, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, the United States and Zimbabwe.
They include an art therapy counselor, a former banker, college professors, an international financial expert, a missiologist, a mother and grandmother, a nurse, pastoral workers, a radio producer, spiritual directors, teachers, theologians, a web manager and writers, as well as sisters who work in congregational leadership, communications and formation, or with the aged, HIV/AIDS victims, people who are homeless, refugees, street children and female prisoners.
Read some of their responses here to the question: "Describe a key lesson you have learned from your ministry or life as a sister."
Meet the 2019-20 panelists for The Life:
Sandra Wiafewa Agyeman, Ghana / Philippines
Sandra Wiafewa Agyeman (Ofia) is a Ghanaian member of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit. She began her ministry in a school in Ghana as an account clerk, helping with registration and admission. Later ministries there included pastoral work with people living with HIV/AIDS; ensuring their children's education; and organizing prayer experiences and recollections. For the past year, she has been attending the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies in the Philippines.
Teresa Anyabuike, Nigeria
Teresa Anyabuike is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur living in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. For a time, she was the coordinator of a Catholic community self-help association, a department of the Justice, Development and Peace Mission in the Ilorin Diocese. Currently, she is serving as a website manager for her congregation. She also manages her congregation's social media outreach.
Maria Magdalena Bennasar, Spain
Maria Magdalena Bennasar (Magda) of the Sisters for Christian Community is from Spain. Studies in theology gave her a foundation for the charism of prayer and ministry of the word with an emphasis on spirituality and Scripture: teaching, conducting retreats and workshops, creating community and training lay leaders in Australia, the U.S. and Spain. Currently, she is working on eco-spirituality and searching for a space to create a center or collaborate with others.
Lucy Bethel, Bahamas / Canada
Lucy Bethel is a member of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. An eighth-generation Bahamian, she held various positions in banking in the Bahamas before entering religious life. Later, she served as director of a center providing full-time care for mentally challenged adult women. Currently, as director of Providence Spirituality Centre, she is a full-time spiritual/retreat director in Kingston, Ontario.
Marie Vianney Bilgrien, United States
Marie Vianney Bilgrien is a School Sister of Notre Dame living in El Paso, Texas. She taught grade school in Wisconsin and Mississippi and served in Bolivia as a catechist and the director of an orphanage. She directed Hispanic ministry in an Oregon diocese and worked in higher education in Shreveport, Louisiana, and El Paso. After she received a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from the Angelicum in Rome, she began work with the Graduate Theological Foundation and the University of Texas at El Paso.
Sheila Campbell, Ireland / Brazil / United States
Sheila Campbell is a Medical Missionary of Mary sister of Irish and Brazilian nationality. After an early nursing ministry in Ireland, she did nursing, health education, parish work, and pastoral health care work (specializing in HIV/AIDS) as a missionary in Brazil. She later served in congregational administration in Ireland, and in Brazil with families affected by urban violence and prostitution. Currently, she serves sick and elderly sisters at her congregation's home in Massachusetts.
Patrice Colletti, United States
Patrice Colletti is a Salvatorian Sister (Sisters of the Divine Savior) in South Dakota, who helps lead the Kateri Initiative, a pastoral ministry that focuses her apostolic religious community on authentic, culturally sensitive interactions. She works on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe's reservation in South Dakota, serving as an educational leader in the tribal school system, teaching, mentoring teachers, and supporting the tribal nation's efforts at self-determination and its claim to sovereignty.
Mary Ann Flannery, United States
Mary Ann Flannery is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati who has held teaching and administrative positions at several colleges. Before her community (Vincentian Sisters of Charity) merged with the Sisters of Charity, she served as community president and in other leadership roles. She has been a freelance journalist, the director of a Jesuit retreat house, and active in social justice issues for more than 30 years. She continues to offer retreats and spiritual direction.
Frances Hayes, Australia
Frances Hayes is a Presentation Sister living in Samson, Western Australia. With an academic background in education and history, she moved from primary education to religious education to administration in Australia, and later became the English writer at the Apostolic Nunciature in Bangkok from 1995 to 2000. She then returned to Australia to minister as a support worker in aged care, a volunteer teaching assistant with refugee women and children, and a volunteer in an organization that builds connections with homeless and vulnerable people.
Joetta Huelsmann, United States
Joetta Hueslmann is a member of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in Donaldson, Indiana. Early ministries included teaching, religious education, and parish pastoral associate; later, she was co-director of a personal growth center, a staff member/spiritual director of a house of prayer, and the director of a retreat center. She is now serving as provincial councilor of her congregation, responsible for associates, communications, the justice office and other community programs.
Teresa Joseph, India
Teresa Joseph is a Salesian Sister in Mumbai, India. With extensive academic work from universities in Rome, she has taught university courses, held diocesan and congregational offices, revised catechetical texts, and launched many creative programs for teachers, parents and students. Currently, she is animator of the community at Auxilium Convent, Lonavala. She takes every opportunity to work with children who live in the streets.
Grace Mary Kenyonga, Uganda / South Africa / Senegal
Grace Mary Kenyonga, from Uganda in East Africa, is a member of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the region of South Africa. In South Africa, she first ministered to adults and children with HIV/AIDS, and taught high school religious education and catechism. For two and a half years, she served in a predominantly Muslim area in Senegal, where she worked in the community's clinic for the most marginalized and vulnerable in society. She has recently been missioned back to South Africa.
Mary John Mananzan, Philippines
Mary John Mananzan is a Missionary Benedictine sister from the Philippines. A noted theologian and author, she has served as president of St. Scholastica's College, as prioress of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in the Manila Priory, and as national chairperson of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines. She is a political and feminist activist who helped develop an Asian feminist theology of liberation, and works with a number of organizations that deal with gender issues and women's concerns. Currently, she ministers as superior of the Manila community, and as a member of the Priory Council.
Bibiana M. Ngundo, Kenya
Bibiana M. Ngundo is a member of the Little Sisters of St. Francis in Kenya. After graduate studies, she was a visiting scholar at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), in Washington D.C., and is currently a lecturer in African culture and religion at the Catholic University of East Africa. Her current academic interests include collaboration between Catholic sisters and the Archdiocese of Nairobi, Kenya, and issues centering on indigenous women religious in Africa.
Dawn Nothwehr, United States
Dawn Nothwehr is a Franciscan Sister of Rochester, Minnesota. She has taught religious studies at several universities in the Midwest, and since 1999 has held academic appointments at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, where she currently holds an endowed chair in Catholic theological ethics in the Department of Historical and Doctrinal Studies. She is a prolific writer and speaker, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, blogs, book reviews, online posts and media.
Monica Nyachowe, Zimbabwe
Monica Nyachowe is a Dominican sister from Zimbabwe. She has more than 20 years of experience in teaching and administration of schools at various levels, including as school head of the Dominican Convent School in Harare. Her academic work included early childhood education, educational leadership, management and policy. She moved into university teaching in educational studies, and currently teaches at Arrupe Jesuit University in leadership and governance.
Catherine Soley, United States
Catherine Soley is a member of the Religious of the Assumption. A "late vocation," she has two daughters and two grandsons. Her ministries have included teaching and directing an English-as-a-second-language program, helping with afterschool mentoring, working with college students and elementary age children of recent immigrants, and overseeing the community garden. Currently living in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, she is the primary caregiver for her mother, practices spiritual direction and serves as provincial councilor.
Barbara Valuckas, United States
Barbara Valuckas, a School Sister of Notre Dame currently based in Connecticut, has a communications background. She taught in schools and via educational television in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. Both before and after serving in province leadership as councilor and provincial leader, she has been ministering as a facilitator and consultant for parishes in the United States and with religious congregations internationally.
Katy van Wyk, South Africa
Katy van Wyk is a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena of King William's Town, South Africa; she lives in Johannesburg. After teaching, she served in leadership as team member and assistant leader, later continuing in mission effectiveness for Dominican schools. Currently, she conducts retreats, volunteers as a community art counselor with underprivileged children, and facilitates empowerment workshops for young women at risk of teenage pregnancy, drug or alcohol abuse, and physical/sexual abuse.
Jantana Wongsankakorn, Thailand
Jantana Wongsankakorn, an Ursuline Sister of Thailand, worked in the financial sector for 10 years. Inspired by the simplicity of religious life, she joined the congregation in Bangkok. After biblical studies in India, Mandarin courses in Taiwan and a tertianship in Rome, she ministered as a catechist and a member of the national chaplain team, and then as a missionary in Cambodia. Currently, she is a member of an Asian Pacific chaplain team and teaches mathematics at the Ursuline school in Bangkok.