Sister Barbara Battista
Years in the Congregation: 19
My best friend says I’m … high energy, generous and too intense at times. I need help in “taking it easy!”
Barbara Battista was working as a pharmacist and leading a good life.
“I was an independent woman. I was sure of myself. I was pretty much a wild child. I just didn’t have much room for the Church in my life. I was active in CYO (Catholic Youth Organization), but I was also into having a good time,” she said.
She stepped away from the Church during her young adult years. “I was enjoying myself, and yet, I was also seeing that there had to be something more. I could just tell something was missing. I was not satisfied,” she said. She gradually began to restore her connection to the Church.
“I found my way back to church and Mass. I actually started praying the prayers and reading the Scripture and taking on my faith as an adult. I was in a wonderful parish community, — the same parish I was raised in, St. Joan of Arc in Indianapolis,” she said. “I was coming back into the Church and getting pretty excited about that. As it happened, the postulants for the Sisters of Providence then lived in the same parish.”
Then tragedy struck.
Barbara’s younger brother, Eddie, died in a work-related accident. “It was a terrible experience in many ways, and yet it was also a wonderful experience in the faith community. It was the first time God had my whole attention,” she said.
Asking the right question
During the next few years, Barbara was asked about her interest in religious life. Sister of Providence Marie Wolf once asked her directly about the possibility.
“Honestly, I could say no, I never had thought about it. It was not even in my realm of possibility.”
But with the help of her parish community, Barbara began to pray about religious life and to see it as an option. About two years later, she participated in a vocation discernment weekend at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in October of 1984. She filled out application papers in December, was accepted into the Congregation the following May and began her journey to becoming Sister Barbara Battista in August.
“I saw it as an option to really expand my possibilities, broaden my horizons and help me to do some things that I couldn’t do by myself. I saw it as a choice for life. I really believe I was being drawn into this God-centered life,” she said.
“My mother’s first response when I told her I was applying to become a Sister of Providence, was ‘Why would you ever get yourself so closely aligned with a church that treats women so poorly?’
“That’s a good question to ponder. I see it as sort of a corrective for what happens in the broader church. We empower one another. We do a whole lot more, even within a structure that sometimes treats women poorly. For me, it is a way to stand up and say there are other ways,” she said.
Energized by community
She was drawn to life as a woman religious because, as her faith became re-energized, there were younger Sisters of Providence in her presence who were involved in various ministries.
“Their message: This is a group of women who support one another in seeking out how to be present to people in need, how to share your faith, how to live a Christian life in community. To me, it felt like it was expanding possibilities. It was attractive to me because it was a group of women who governed themselves,” Sister Barbara said. “It didn’t match my perception. I just didn’t have a concept that you could be empowered by each other, by this group of women who make choices, who can support one another living a more central life, a more Christ-centered life. They explore global issues that seemed so far away from my little part of Indianapolis.”
Sister Barbara spent several years continuing her vocation as a pharmacist.
After all, she came from a family that had several medical caregivers. Her father and an aunt were pharmacists; her mother and one sister were nurses. But Sister Barbara had a desire for an ongoing relationship with the patients she served by trying to help them make health-care choices for all phases of their lives.
Serving those in need
“So many times, people didn’t even know what their medicine was for, why they were taking it and what it was doing for them,” Sister Barbara said. She now works as a physician’s assistant at Family Practice Center in Terre Haute, Ind. She is licensed to diagnose and treat common illnesses under the supervision of a physician. She works directly with economically disadvantaged women who are pregnant.
“It’s scandalous in this country that we have so many people without health insurance. I know once our mothers deliver their child, they won’t have access to health care. Their lives are chaotic. They come with all kinds of long-standing problems, and they have very limited resources to take care of themselves,” she said. Having the support and encouragement from other Sisters of Providence to assist those in need is essential for Sister Barbara.
“I draw a lot of support and strength from finding like-minded women — women who will share their exploration, their understanding of what it means to try to live the Gospel. It’s having the support I want in order to speak out when injustices are happening. I need a praying community, a supportive environment. I think we’re trying as best we can.”
recreation: caring for the alpacas
food: ice cream
author: Ivone Gebara
tv show: “The West Wing”
hobby: spinning fleece into yarn
heroine: Eleanor Roosevelt
saint: Dorothy Day
sinner: Dorothy Day
sport: basketball (playing it)
course in school: mathematics
least favorite course: creative writing
dessert: anything chocolate
quote: “From now on, all our choices must be judged primarily by the extent to which it ignores, inhibits or fosters a mutually enhancing human Earth relationship.”