Question and answer with Sister Jane Iannaccone
After serving many years as a primary grade teacher, Sister Jane Iannaccone finished a master’s degree and transitioned to parish ministry in 1995. She has ministered as pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Winthrop, Mass., since. She answers some questions about her ministry below. Read Sister Jane’s reflection on her ministry here.
What among your beliefs led you to this work?
My love for the church and its rich history of tradition and its sacramental life, especially the Eucharist. And the documents of Vatican II gave me hope for the future of the church.
Why do you stay in this ministry?
I stay in this ministry because of love. Love for all the people of God. Jesus’ commandment is to love everyone, not just the members of the church I like.
In my ministry I encounter many people who feel marginalized from the church and are in great pain. There needs to be much reconciliation within our church. Through my ministry, my hope is that they feel welcomed and see that our God is a loving merciful God who includes rather than excludes. A parishioner once told me that the pastor was the administrator of the parish but I was the heart. Through my ministry I hope I bring about healing and hope.
Have your beliefs changed/expanded/shifted in any way as a result of this ministry? If so, please explain.
I believe that we are all called to serve, to constantly wash the feet of each other, by drawing out the gifts in each other. I am not the only one called to serve. We are all called to serve and build up the body of the church. This includes all of creation, not just the Catholic Church. I still have a great devotion to the Eucharist. But we are also all Eucharist in our daily encounters with each other. As I love the church, the church also loves me.
What inspires you in your ministry?
The people that I encounter and their love and devotion to their faith. They are not afraid to challenge and question some of the teachings of their faith. But they continue to believe that our church can be a better place. I marvel at the time and talent that they give to the parish. They have challenged me and enabled me to grow with them.
What challenges you?
What challenges me is the hierarchical church and many of the injustices I see within the church. The people I minister with also share in this struggle. We feel that the leadership does not understand what is really going on within the heart of the church. That it is caught up in the rules rather than the true needs of the people. With the election of Pope Francis I have seen a glimmer of hope that this can change.
For many of the people I minister with, I am the only religious sister they have encountered. I hope that through my ministry here they can see the church with a new lens. I believe all is gift from a loving God. And we are not always, especially women, allowed to use those gifts. I am fortunate because I feel that we work as a pastoral team here at St John’s, and I am able to use my gifts in my ministry.
(Originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of HOPE magazine.)