The Nun's Still on the Run!
Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration for over 50 years, she says she was sent from her LaCrosse, Wis., motherhouse to Claxton in 1980 with five other sisters.
Fortunately for her, she says, "I felt at home right away—maybe because it's rural and I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. It's slower paced than a city, it fits my personality, and I respect and love the people. I never wanted to leave."
When she first arrived, she took on the ministry of visiting the homebound. Father Bill Smith, then the pastor, also asked her to assist the religious education director in Claxton and at the Glenmary missions in nearby Pembroke and Glennville.
Through three decades, says Sister Janet, her job and title have changed often. "It's not a boring life," she says. "You can plan your day and none of it ends up happening on schedule because something else comes up that needs your attention."
The community and mission have gone through changes, too, especially with the influx of many Spanish-speaking people into Evans County starting in the late 1980s. Today the diverse mission has about 110 Spanish-speaking and 60 English-speaking parishioners.
As the mission's pastoral associate, Sister Janet heads the religious education program, does community outreach, provides pastoral care, makes home visits as needed, and much more.
She enjoys her religious education work as much as ever. "As tired as I might be sometimes, the kids rejuvenate and energize me." She says she also seems to have a gift for getting others involved, exemplified in the close-knit team of volunteer catechists who help her with the program.
For many years she ran the area's Clothes Basket thrift shop. While the store isn't in operation right now, she says she and other parishioners continue to collect and distribute clothing to those in need.
In addition, Sister Janet serves on two local boards: CARES (Cancer Alliance for Research, Education and Survivorship), which raises funds for cancer-related initiatives, and Concerted Services, which receives government funds to help low-income people.
Always a dog lover, she is a longtime member of the Evans County Humane Society. Besides her own dog, she has two foster dogs; she gathers and sells aluminum cans to pay for their care.
St. Christopher is also the site for the humane society's meetings thanks to Sister Janet. She believes her involvement and hosting of meetings provides "another good witness" for the Catholic community.
Even after 30 years, Sister Janet is an active presence in the area—a person whom generations of people know and to whom many go for help. She was touched, she says, when parishioners and others gathered to show her their appreciation last year at a reception celebrating her golden jubilee with her order.
As for the future, "My plans are in the Spirit's hands," says Sister Janet. But as her answering machine message says, after all these years she's still the "nun on the run."
The story above first appeared in the Winter 2010 Glenmary Challenge.