Sister Marceline looks back on the richness of 84 years as a woman religious
(Sister Marceline Mattingly, at 101 years old, is the oldest living Sister of Providence. She celebrates 84 years as a Sister of Providence on February 10. Here she shares a bit of what living as a Catholic woman religious has meant for her.)
Religious life has been the greatest gift God has given me.
There were many opportunities of what I wanted to do when I was in first grade. On Sunday after Mass, instead of running up and down, my mom told me to listen to what Sister was talking about and come home to tell her. I found out that Sister was teaching about God. That inspired me to become a sister to teach children about God.
Providence has never failed me. Religious life is inspiring because I lived with sisters who themselves are inspiring. Religious life is fulfilling because all the things I thought I would do in life have happened.
I’ve been given many opportunities to advance in my spiritual life, from attending workshops, annual retreats, reading spiritual books, participating in faith and life sharing groups.
A great life
I was able to teach children about God no matter what subject I was teaching. Life sciences were my area of expertise and that gave me the opportunities to teach the wonder of God’s creation. The mysteries of the body always fascinated my high school students. They loved anatomy and physiology. The subject of evolution as part of God’s creation was especially interesting to them and I hope it led them to a greater knowledge of God’s love.
I am mostly pre-Vatican II but I was excited to enter the modern world. I didn’t sit back. I was open to the evolving religious life and because of openness I was able to do many new things.
I taught young seminarians in Washington, D.C. I organized science seminars for talented senior students, acquiring speakers for them that enriched not only the students but myself personally.
Living as a woman religious allowed my gifts and talents to be recognized. I was a member of the National Institute of Health, a contributor to a published new textbook using chemistry approaches. I was awarded as outstanding biology teacher for Washington D.C., when only one teacher was given the award in every state.
My lived experiences of religious life varied over the years. I feel there has been mutual contribution: I gave to the community and the community gave to me. And for this I thank God.
Where else could I have experienced all of this?