Sister Wendy Workman
“Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1)
“But now finally from heaven where she’s listening, Sister Wendy would ask us to read what Sister Dorothy Hucksoll has written of her in the text, ‘Sister Wendy’s Story.’ It is this message Sister Dorothy gives us all: ‘Hers may be the greatest achievement of all in the eyes of God and those who have the insight to see her life as a special gift. We must never underestimate the faith, the courage and the determination required of Sister Wendy to accept each day with all its limitations and challenges.’ Our prayer is for each Sister of Providence to recognize Sister Wendy as a great blessing bestowed on us in God’s way of Providence,” said Sister Barbara Doherty in her commentary for Sister Wendy Workman, who died June 6.
Wendy entered this world Dec. 11, 1950 in Gilman, Ill. “On Dec. 16, 1950, Ruth [Younggreen] and Harvey Workman had a phone call. They were invited to drive to Gilman. Their friend said, ‘I have a beautiful, healthy little lady here for you. Do you want her?’ ‘You can bet your life we do!’ said dentist Dr. Workman. And Wendy was theirs,” shared Sister Barbara.
“In Paxton, Ill., her home town, every person and every child knew Wendy Workman, called her by name and raced to talk with her. She was a fine athlete and excelled in softball, swimming, volleyball and golf. She taught many of us to swim at St. Joe’s Lake. She had a great sense of humor,” said Sister Barbara.
Wendy attended Clara Peterson Grade School and Paxton High School, both in Paxton. She spent one year at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
“Then, in God’s great Providence, Wendy chose to attend Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and major in theology. She was forever proud of the black onyx ring. Wendy had followed her mother’s religious tradition, the Lutheran Church, but then grew interested in the Catholic Church and was baptized and confirmed in this church,” shared Sister Barbara.
In addition to her bachelor’s degree in religion, Sister Wendy also earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. She later earned a master’s degree in physical education from the University of Iowa.
Sister Wendy entered the Congregation Aug. 23, 1975, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1978, and Aug. 19, 1984, respectively.
“Sister Wendy loved sports and the out-of-doors, and that love brought a freshness and an openness to her life as a novice and to all of us associated with her at the Woods,” continued Sister Barbara.
“In the summer of 1984, Sister Wendy entered the tertian program to make her final vows. I recall directing her 30-day retreat. She was very serious about what she was undertaking,” said Sister Barbara.
Sister Wendy’s first mission in 1977 was at Corpus Christi, Oklahoma City, as a physical education and religion teacher. She ministered at St. Angela, Chicago, for two years.
After graduate school, “she was then assigned to physical education at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and took up residence in the Woodland Inn. She practiced her ballroom dancing lessons some evenings in her room and Sister Denise Wilkinson can testify that she heard Sister Wendy practicing with a broomstick the waltzes she would teach SMWC students. Every year, Sister Wendy worked in the children’s summer camps,” remembered Sister Barbara.
“On Saturday, March 7, 1987, Sister Wendy and her friend Mary Hums, then also a teacher at SMWC, were bicycling. Mary passed a truck and had to move off the road to get out of its way. She turned to check on Sister Wendy only to see the terrible accident as that truck hit Sister Wendy and impaired her for the rest of her life. From 1987 to 2009 — 22 years — Sister Wendy suffered the impairments the accident caused this bright, funny, dedicated, deeply committed Sister of Providence,” said Sister Barbara.
“Every Sister of Providence who has been at Sister Wendy’s side through these 22 years must be blessed for their wonderful work. Not one of them ever gave up on her, arranged every kind of work or travel or place where perhaps she could function at least reasonably. And so she did. At the end of her days, she still knew many of us by name and said to me every day, as I’m sure she said to everyone: ‘I want to be at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.’ It was a sentence that could break one’s heart,” continued Sister Barbara.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Wendy was celebrated June 12, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by her step-brother, Peter Workman, of Alamo, Calif.
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I was one of the college aged caregivers for Sister Wendy in 2003-2004. Working with Wendy was an experience I will never forget. I learned so much about sisterhood and Catholicism. Very few jobs have you seeking more spiritually but my time spent with Sister Wendy made me a better person in so many ways. I also think the experiences made me a better teacher! I will never forget her favorite saying, “I make it a habit NOT to wear a habit!” Her sense of humor cracked me up! I miss you, Sister Wendy (and Sister Maria)!
I was a student at St. Angela school where she taught physical education class. Sister Wendy was a great role model and encouraged all of us to do our best and be on purpose. She created a women’s sports team and a recycling program. She made a profound impact on my life I am blessed to have had her in my life for the time I did.