In the Pope’s Presence
“It was an awesome and inspiring experience; an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Those were the first words Sister Lawrence Ann Liston spoke after coming home from Washington, D.C., where she saw Pope Francis speak.
Sister Lawrence Ann was the special guest of Sen. Joe Donnelly, who had invited her to the speaking engagement to Congress. Sister Lawrence Ann sat in the gallery of the Capitol during the address.
“The Holy Father has ignited people by his presence,” Sister Lawrence Ann said. “I felt he gently raised awareness on the issues facing our world. But he has challenged each of us to face our difficulties and talk to one another about situations.”
Sister Lawrence Ann said during the address, Pope Francis promoted dialogue for many issues.
“I felt he was gracious, calm, peaceful, joyful and all-inclusive,” she said. “I am grateful for his presence and his strong message. But he never raised his voice. He was gentle and humble.
“This is a proud moment. The Sisters of Providence have aspired to serve people through works of love, mercy and justice and that message correlates well with Pope Francis. This was very affirming.” He said, ‘We all have a mission of personal and social responsibility to promote the common good of people.’”
Interesting notes from Sister Lawrence Ann's trip• The evening before the address, as she was walking by the White House, Sister Lawrence Ann met up with three young students who were very excited to be there. Sister Lawrence Ann said the students were also attending the address and as it turns out, they were from Indianapolis Chatard High School,
• Prior to the address, Sister Lawrence Ann met with a lawyer who had ties to St. Philip Neri Catholic School. She served as principal there from 1977-84. As it turns out, the man is the son of the first secretary she worked with while she was at the school, and
• Sister Lawrence Ann said after Sen. Donnelly escorted her to the balcony area where she see Pope Francis depart, she met Father John I. Jenkins, who is president of the University of Notre Dame. Sen. Donnelly is a graduate of Notre Dame and Sister Lawrence Ann also attended the school.
“He showed gratitude to the U.S. sisters for their commitment to education and to the church,” she said.
“Pope Francis brought an important and inspiring message to Congress,” Sen. Donnelly said. “He reminded us all of the importance of each individual, each person’s humanity, and our obligation to try to work together and help our brothers, and sisters, and those in need in our community and our country.”
Following the one-hour address, Sister Lawrence Ann said Sen. Donnelly escorted her to the balcony area where she met his wife, Jill, and was able to see the pope depart.
This is not the first time Sister Lawrence Ann has been in the presence of a pope.
She saw Pope John Paul II twice, once in America and another time in Rome, and she was also at the canonization of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, which was conducted by Pope Benedict XVI.
Sister Lawrence Ann and Donnelly have known each other since he visited the Wabash Valley Health Center a few years ago.
“It was a privilege not only to see and hear Pope Francis, but also to meet with Sister Lawrence Ann,” Sen. Donnelly said. “Sister Lawrence Ann has set an example for us all about how to live your faith and how to make your community a better place with her work, serving Hoosiers in need and expanding access to health care at the Wabash Valley Health Center.”
Sister Lawrence Ann served as chief executive officer and then chief operating officer of the center before retiring in September 2014.
“I want to thank Sen. Donnelly for the invitation,” Sister Lawrence Ann said. “He was very gracious. And thank you Dr. James Turner (a volunteer at the center), who helped make the arrangements with me.
“I’ve received so much support from our community.”