Richards_SharonCurrent ministry: Teacher, Center for Correctional Concern, Joliet, Ill.

Years in the Congregation: 55

Contact Sister Sharon at: 708-703-7014 or sisrichards@Comcast.net

Q. What do you like best about Saint Mary-of-the-Woods? A. All of the opportunities to walk outdoors.

Q. When I am not involved in ministry or officially at work, you are likely to see me … A. Grocery shopping or cleaning the house or something like that. On your days off you have to take care of things.

Q. On weekends, I love to … A. I say this a lot. I like to be outdoors.

Q. I’m passionate about … A. The charism of the Sisters of Providence as I believe it will be expressed through the Providence Associate Relationship.

Q. Name one thing you miss about being a child. A. Freedom.

Q. Why did you choose to become a Sister of Providence?

A. They were friends of my family. I was never privileged to have Sisters of Providence as teachers because we never lived in an area where they ministered. My mother’s sister was Sister Alice Gertrude Bruns and her cousin was Sister Mary Leona Cook. Sister Mary Leona died quite young before I entered community, but Sister Alice Gertrude was my mentor. Throughout my whole life, the sisters were part of our family. No matter where Sister Alice Gertrude was missioned, my mother and father always took us there to visit her. When I was a baby, my proud parents took me to the convent where Sister Alice Gertrude was at the time. (I think it was in Hammond, Ind.) Sister Marceline Mattingly, who was there at the time, carried me to the chapel where she placed me on the Blessed Mother’s altar. That may be where my vocation began. Sister Alice Gertrude was always so happy to see us when we came to visit and all of the sisters in the house would treat us to ice cream, candy and games galore. I was all signed up for nursing school in my senior year of high school. It was at that time my sister said to my parents, “Well, Sharon is going to enter the convent instead.” I had never even talked to anyone about it, except her, I guess. But, I really didn’t want to become a sister. During those months before my February entrance date, I couldn’t even stand to look at a nun. I did not want to do it. Yet, my mother said, the minute I walked through these doors, the smile never left my face. I don’t know what I was thinking. Again, it was the mystery of the call.

Q. You mentioned you had thought about becoming a nurse.

A. I really wanted to be a nurse. I often wonder if I would have been a better nurse than a teacher, but it doesn’t make any difference at this point in my life. People have said to me, “When you had the opportunity, why didn’t you go study to be a nurse?” By that time, I thought, “Oh, I’m not going to start all over again.” When we were teenagers, we were so idealistic. I read an article in Life magazine about Bellevue Hospital in New York City. That’s where I was going to go. I wanted to work in a hospital like that and help poor people.

Q. Can you share some information about your current ministry?

A. I have to thank Sister Joann Quinkert for that one. I work at the Center for Correctional Concerns in the Will County Jail in Joliet (Illinois). Sister Joann was volunteering at the jail as a librarian. One of the teachers was leaving, and Joann asked if I would be interested in that position. I went to Joliet, interviewed, and got the job. I teach GED and English as a Second Language to men who are in the county jail. Sometimes the judge will mandate that a detainee stay in here until he gets his GED. But, most often, the men request education. They have nothing else to do. Some of them will say, “I’d like to use my time here in a positive way.”

We hope some of them go on to bigger and better things. It’s a good ministry. I feel fortunate to be there. A lot of people ask, “Aren’t you afraid?” I really am not. I feel blessed because most of the people who come to my class have not had the opportunities that you and I have had. They are the children of druggies, gang members and broken homes. I’m not saying it’s OK that they may have killed someone, raped somebody or sold drugs. It’s just …as Sister Diane (Mason) likes to say, “But for the grace of God there go I.” Sister Juanita, who hired me, often said, “They are redeemable.”

Q. Why do you think a woman would find becoming a woman religious an attractive lifestyle today?

A. I believe being a part of larger group allows one to make more of an impact than what can be done by an individual.

In the jail I never look at what a man has been accused of doing. … I don’t look down on anyone. I am a person who likes to bring peace to people’s lives.
– Sister Sharon

Q. Please complete this sentence. Sister Sharon is …

A. I’m a happy person, very happy in my vocation. It’s a wonderful life. Sister Sharon is a very grateful person to God, my community and my family, of course. In the jail I never look at what a man has been accused of doing. I don’t want to put labels on them. I just look at each one and say we are all human beings and this classroom is a place of respect for one another. I don’t look down on anyone. I am a person who likes to bring peace to people’s lives.

Q. What role does prayer have in your life?

A. Very important! Each morning before I go to Joliet, I worship with the St. Michael Parish community at the 6:30 a.m. Mass. I just feel that worshipping with a group of people gives me strength for the day. I like to meditate on the scripture before I go to church. I can’t see life without prayer. I love the Mass.

Q. How important to you is the community lifestyle that the Congregation has to offer?

A. It’s very important because why else would one become a sister? This place (Saint Mary-of-the-Woods), which many sisters refer to as home, is a blessing to all of us; some even say it is life-giving.

Q. How much influence does Saint Mother Theodore Guerin have in your life?

A. There again, I was kind of left out of the picture. Many of the sisters grew up with her. She’s important to me now, but coming to community, I didn’t really know anything about her. One of my favorite books as a child was a little blue book which was the story of Anne Therese. I didn’t know at the time it was a book for children about Mother Theodore as a young girl. I loved the part in the story where Anne Therese would sit by the shore. At the time of my confirmation, I wanted to take the name Therese because I wanted to be like this Anne Therese in the book. I’ve grown to love and admire her. Every day, I read her quotation on the perpetual calendar. So often it’s right on the mark.

Favorites

Food: Fresh fruit.

Flower/plant: Gardenia.

Book: To Kill a Mockingbird.

Movie: The King and I.

Vacation spot: Any place by/near water.

Recreation: Being out of doors.

Sport: Swimming.

Animal: Dogs.

Pizza topping: Veggies.

Holiday: Easter.

Dessert: Ice cream

Time of day: Morning.