Sister Barbara Bluntzer
Years in the Congregation: 60 years
Something I have always wanted to do is: go to Iceland or conduct an orchestra when it plays Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture.
If I weren’t an SP, I’d: probably be living in the country raising some animals.
Sister Barbara Bluntzer knows just how to start and end her day. “Saint Mother Theodore (Guerin) said, ‘Send your heart a thousand times a day to the tabernacle.’ I try to do that, maybe not a thousand times, but very frequently. I try to keep God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the front of my mind and ‘talk’ to them,” Sister Barbara said. “I pray a short form of the liturgy of the hours in the morning before I leave my apartment and do my spiritual reading in the evening just before bed. I find that gives me good thoughts to think about and relaxes me from the day’s work.”
In between the spiritual start and end to her daily routine, Sister Barbara is an adventurer, planner, organizer and, once an educator always an educator.
Adventurer? As a child, she played on the Bluntzer family Texas ranch, where geese, goats, horses and cattle were plentiful, complemented by a donkey and some turkeys. She loves to travel. She’s been to Europe and Alaska a couple of times, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and Canadian Rockies, in addition to numerous United States ports. Some were pilgrimages and others for the joy of marveling in God’s creation. She also taught in Oklahoma City during a time when the Civil Rights movement was causing dramatic changes and “loved it.”
Planner? Organizer? When the Bluntzer family was planning a reunion recently, she was hoping she would be asked to take charge! The family reunion perhaps would have been successful with only 100 in attendance, but about 280 Bluntzer kin showed up for a festive time, thanks to the committee with which she was working. And those trips? She is a self-taught tour guide who arranges group journeys to interesting places. She’s also helping with a capital campaign in her home parish in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she also spends time in her retirement volunteering in many areas.
Educator? She spent many years as a classroom teacher and in religious education. And about those trips again: her way of planning a trip is to do some educational homework of her own and share information about a group’s destination with her fellow travelers. Teaching has been an adventure that she has embraced with vigor.
“I love seeing kids catch on to things. At first, it was very hard for me because I had 54 students in second and third grades in my first assignment,” she said. “After several years, I taught middle grades, then junior high. I really enjoyed that. You could do a lot of projects with them. I didn’t like being hemmed in by having boundaries within the curriculum or with a certain number of pages to be accomplished. I liked to branch out.”
Sister Barbara’s family came from Alsace, France, and settled in south Texas near the coast. When settlers set stakes in Texas in the early to mid-1800s, they would be given land through a Spanish land grant. Some of the other immigrants moved on toward San Antonio, but her ancestors settled near Victoria. Eventually, her great-great-grandfather donated land so a church could be built, including a cemetery beside it. Today, the church has a historical marker recognizing his contribution.
Sister Barbara spent her formative years in a one-room, rural schoolhouse that served approximately 12 students in grades one through six. Her father was Catholic; her mother was not at that time. And since the nearest church was miles away, attendance at Mass was sporadic.
“I was an eighth grader, and for some reason, I begged Daddy to let me go and live in Corpus Christi and go to the Catholic school there. It was a totally different experience for me. It was fun, but I’m sure I was unaware of all of the intricacies of what you do when you are in a Catholic school. It was just overwhelming,” she said.
Sister Barbara’s appetite for religious life may have been unknowingly whetted at an early age, she remembered with a good chuckle.
“The Sisters of Providence were at St. John Parish in Robstown, about 17 miles from Corpus Christi. I was in high school. I remember Sister Maureen Cecile Palmer. Especially on Saturdays, she would bake cookies. I would go over to the convent about the time the cookies were coming out of the oven. We would sit on the back porch and visit,” Sister Barbara said.
“It wasn’t until a friend of mine entered the Congregation that I even knew what it was to be a sister. They were just mysterious people who dressed differently. It wasn’t like I understood anything about religious life. I went with my friend to her reception when she received the habit and got to see Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Even then, it seemed like the place I wanted to be,” she continued.
And today, her comfort zone continues with being a Sister of Providence.
“What makes this a family is the care and concern we have for each other, the support that we provide. It’s nurturing. If you are looking for a stable group of people who will always be here in a reliable, ongoing sense, women who are looking for a way to make a difference in other people’s lives, well, that’s what I think I’ve been able to help with is to make a difference among children and adults,” Sister Barbara emphasized.
“Religious life and being part of our Congregation is exciting. There is something new and different every day. You could take a look at any of our publications. There is always something going on. It’s not like we’re sitting here waiting for something to happen,” she added.
Sister Barbara has a deeply rooted appreciation for the support and encouragement she and other sisters receive in strengthening themselves for their ministries.
“When we know our gifts and talents, I think it is important that we are able to develop them so as to use them in some
way in our ministry. Taking some time to do liturgical dancing and folk dancing at celebrations helped me when I was to teach creative dance at one of the schools where I taught,” she said.
“There have been opportunities to do various forms of art: painting, copper, enameling, ceramics and such. I find the community to be very encouraging to anyone who has a talent they would like to develop. It certainly beats trying to put square pegs into round holes when it comes to choosing the ministry we feel called to,” she added.
FavoritesFood: any and all Mexican
flower/plant: poinsettia, because they grow so well in south Texas
movie: Fiddler on the Roof
TV: almost anything on the National Geographic Channel
vacation spot: mountains anywhere
recreation: visiting art museums, even local ones, and camping
sport: playing “Mexican Train,” a domino game
scripture passage: The story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha in Bethany from the Gospel of Luke.
comic strip: Pickles
Saint: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, of course
style of music: classical
childhood activity: go to the river and catch crabs
course in college: music, art, and dance at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., in preparation for teaching in Oklahoma City