Sister Jacquelyn Hoffman
Years in the Congregation: 58 years
My best friend says I’m … highly disciplined
I have always enjoyed and appreciated the vocation stories of our sisters in “All Things are Possible.” This called me to reflect on my own story and to accept the challenge to put my thoughts and memories into writing.
Vocation stories often have a common thread running through them. It is God who plants the seed, then watches to see if maybe someday it will blossom into a positive response. Oh, how glad I am that God never gave up on me.
When was it that I was awakened to this desire planted within me? My first recollection is before I ever started to school. I would run through the empty lot behind our house to be with the sisters at St. Jude’s (Fort Wayne, Ind.), who would sit in the school yard many evenings doing needle work. Several of the sisters were tatting (making a delicate lace with cotton thread and the use of a small shuttle). I truly loved being with them.
Another time when I was in the early grades I recall saying to my mother, “When I grow up I’m going to have 25 children!” I don’t recall her response but I did go on to explain that I wanted to be a sister and teach that many students.
One time when I was at my grandparent’s farm, I remember promising God I would become a sister. I recall it was evening and dark. I was alone on the second floor and became frightened. However, besides feeling scared, I was feeling guilty about something I had done. Would God punish me, even strike me dead? Perhaps this latter scared me more than the darkness. It certainly made a big impression because I have never forgotten it.
One Good Friday in my early grades, Mom gave me a note to give my teacher asking that she excuse me from class so I could go to the “Three Hours Devotion.” I loved being in church that afternoon with my mother; it was very special.
And then I discovered boys! They were a big part of my growing up. The expression “boy crazy” fit me very well.
For my junior and senior years in high school, Mom and Dad sent me to Ladywood, a Sister of Providence boarding school in Indianapolis. I always teased that I was sent away to help make me behave. Perhaps it was really Providence. I want to think so.
It was during my senior year that I felt God tugging at me. Each time I returned from a weekend with friends and my boyfriend in Fort Wayne, I would get this very uncomfortable feeling within me. It was always during my last class of the day – French with Sister Gertrude Margaret. I just knew what it meant. Was God really calling me? There seemed to be no escape! What a gentle, persistent and loving God! During retreat that spring I talked to the priest, and then in my heart I made the decision to say “yes.”
I’m sure that the seed planted by God many years ago was nurtured by the Sisters of Providence who taught me, and certainly by my family.
Perhaps this is a good place to introduce my family. Mom was a homemaker and Dad was a dedicated insurance man. Mom and Dad died after I was sent on mission to Fort Wayne, so I was fortunate to minister to both of them in their time of illness.
Dad died in July of 1982 and Mom in November 1984. I was always “the apple of my Dad’s eye,” or at least I love to think
I was. Growing up I was never real close to my mother, but I am sure all four of us could say that Mom was “there for us” and would support us no matter what. What a special gift to get to know, love and cherish Mom during her last couple years, and what a grace to be at their bedsides at the time of death.
My sister, Pat, was the oldest of us siblings. She is a wonderful pianist. Pat lives in New Jersey and has been a widow for 29 years. She has four children living in the East, another daughter in Heaven and one grandson. Pat comes to visit every year for three weeks and is graciously welcomed by the sisters in the Woodland Inn where I reside. She and I take time to visit family in Carmel and in Fort Wayne, and we love being together to enjoy the beauty of the Woods.
I am the second child, almost two years younger than Pat. When we were young we were never real close, but did like to make music together. I started violin lessons in kindergarten and Pat would accompany me on the piano. It is delightful to become such good friends as we age.
My brother, Don, was 14 months younger than I. We were always “best friends.” Sometimes we would ride our bikes 14 miles to visit cousins out in the country. I don’t think Mom was too happy with this. I loved Don so much. I had prayed many years for a baby brother. What a happy surprise when mom told me she was pregnant. Steve was a beautiful baby born when I was 11. He has always been a loving and thoughtful brother. My two brothers both died at age 63, Don in December of 1995 and Steve in May of 2006. This continues to be a deep loss. My decision to be a Sister of Providence didn’t surprise anyone, even though Dad’s youngest sister was a Franciscan Sister of the Sacred Heart. All my schooling was in schools staffed by the Sisters of Providence: St. Jude and St. John the Baptist grade schools, Central Catholic and Ladywood high schools and then St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.
In closing, my thoughts turn to you, those who are discerning religious life. You have already felt the desire in your heart, perhaps entertained it now and then, or even tried to embrace it. Allow me to offer you some thoughts for reflection.
Is religious life still relevant in our world today? I sincerely believe it is. There is a hunger in many hearts searching for something MORE to life. Is it the presence of God that people seek? Do they thirst for more solitude, some “desert time,” somewhat like Jesus, who often went off alone to a deserted place to pray. Or is it the opportunity to be of service to those whose needs are ignored and forgotten in today’s society? Is it a longing to work for justice along with others who likewise value equality for all? Is this not God’s work?
I ask myself, why does being a Sister of Providence still excite me? Early this morning while still in bed, these thoughts came to me. It is this God I say I love and live for! I feel God in the loving hugs from the very young and from those whom I have known many years and who continue to love me just as I am. I see God in the smiles and contentment on the faces of our sisters still in formation. I find God in joys and sorrows, affirmation and misunderstanding, in success and failures, in beauty and chaos, and most of all in the magnificent gift of Creation. This is the God who deeply and passionately loves all of us.
Favoritesfood: grilled walleye or tilapia, raw vegetables
book: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
movie: The Sound of Music
vacation spot: canoeing, camping in the wilderness
scripture: This is all I ask: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
snack: Nabisco gingersnaps
time of day: morning
zoo animal: giraffe
outdoor activity: Walking in the early morning breeze and sunlight
if I were not an SP: I would be a grandmother
something I have always wanted to do is: snow ski