Serendipity or Grace?
In the 1970’s, I was a math and religion teacher in a Catholic high school in the Midwest. One Sister about my age and I were the youngest in the Convent. We became good friends and did many things together (i.e., shopping, cooking, etc.). We also participated in many student activities and did “fun” things with them (i.e. bike riding in spring and fall and sledding when it snowed).
Next I was assigned to a 14 story high-rise convent built in the shape of a cross with equal size sections of 4 rooms on each sides of the cross design. There were elevators and staircases in the middle. There were also floors with no “rooms” but large open spaces where Sisters could watch TV or play cards or have good conversations with a few or several Sisters.
My friend had a room on the 14th floor. In late 1977, I was taking the elevator to visit my friend. The elevator stopped at 3rd floor. My superior got on to go to her room on the 8th floor. Before we got to the 8th floor, she told me that she along with her advisors had met that week and the education committee had suggested that I study for Canon Law degrees. A Dominican priest who knew many of the Sisters had visited recently and stated that women were now permitted to study for such a degree as soon as possible. In fall of 1979, after a rapid “brush up” in Latin, since all Canon Law was in Latin, I began my studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. I earned a Bachelor degree (JCB) in 1980, a Licentiate degree (JCL) in 1981, and a Doctoral degree (JCD in 1982. I was then hired to teach Canon Law at C.U.A. After several years of teaching, I was hired by Archbishop Hickey who was Archbishop of Washington and also President of Catholic University. I had scheduled an interview with Archbishop Hickey to ask if I could be hired to assist the Vicar for Religious .Archbishop Hickey politely declined my request but immediately said he did want to hire me but preferred that I become his “personal canonical advisor.” I readily agreed to his request. A few months later, Archbishop Hickey received credible information that a group of four priests had molested several boys. All four priests were asked to come to the Vicar General’s office on the same day at a specific, staggered times. Each was presented with evidence of his actions and asked to resign his current position and to seek professional help. If they declined, the process for dismissal from the priesthood would begin. Each admitted guilt and was immediately sent for treatment at a medical facility.
During eight years as canonical advisor to the Archbishop, I also earned a Licentiate degree in theology (STL) at the Dominican House of Studies located across from C.U.A. I then returned to Ohio and became ad hoc canonical consultant for several Dioceses and many religious communities. From 1990 through 2009, I also wrote 100 “Canonical Counsel” essays in the journal Review for Religious published by the Jesuit Community of St. Louis (MO).
In 2006, I was the recipient of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal given in Washington, DC at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I thank God for what I, as a woman religious have been able to contribute to the Church. It is my fondest and most cherished memory of all time.
So, circumstances do make us think differently. One has to just to follow my journey over the years. However, never underestimate the “ups and downs” of elevators in your life. Miracles can happen!