Sister Jane Bodine (formerly Sister Janet)
“Jesus said, ‘This is how it is with the reign of God; it is as if a woman were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and right night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, she knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grains in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, the owner wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.’”
— Mark 4:26-32
Many of us who write commentaries check with our Archives department to see if they have any information about the deceased sister. When I did that for Sister Jane, I was told she had a Hollinger box. It seems sisters who have a Hollinger box have more material than will fit in the traditional manila file folders. I was led to the storage area for these boxes, some of which were about 2-and-a-half inches in width; Jane’s however, was about 5-inches! All this to say, relax, get comfortable, as I try to do justice to the many seeds Jane scattered in her 97 years of life and 80 years in ministry as a Sister of Providence, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Jane Bodine, formerly Sister Janet, who died on Thursday, March 30, 2017, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 97 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 80 years.
Anna Jane was born September 9, 1919, to Albert and Nelle Hamilton Bodine in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village. Anna Jane had five brothers, Robert, David, Max, Joseph and John, and two sisters, Kathleen and Ruth. Ruth is with us today, as well as many nieces and nephews, and Jane is with her parents and other siblings in heaven. Ruth remembers her older sister as a “big tease,” while at the same time, she recalls as a very young child, and treasures to this day, a pair of scissors brought back to her when “bit sister” Anna Jane visited the “big city,” Chicago. The family name Bodine is a French form of Baldwin and means “bold one.” Her father always said “meeting challenges is a Bodine way of life.” That maxim was to prove true for Anna Jane.
Anna Jane attended Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village Grade School. One of the nurses recalled a story Jane would often tell from her early school days. Evidently Jane observed a little boy classmate bothering a little girl poking her with his ruler. Jane would end the story by saying, “I should have done something and didn’t,” … evidently that continued to bother her these many years later.
Anna Jane then attended Providence Juniorate here on campus for high school.
Anna Jane entered the Congregation on January 6, 1937, and received the name Sister Janet, later being known as Jane. She pronounced her first vows and perpetual vows on Aug. 15, 1939, and 1945, respectively. She later earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and English at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in chemistry from Notre Dame, with graduate studies also in journalism and secondary school administration.
Sister Jane taught elementary grades, primary to upper, and high school chemistry, physics and journalism, with some math and English. She also served as an assistant principal for five years. All her teaching and administrative experiences were in Indiana and Illinois. She was an excellent teacher and much loved by her students. She herself was to write later that one of her fondest memories of being a Sister of Providence is “meeting former students and they recall the influence some word or act of mine had on their adult decisions. It is great to know that in some small way, I have helped someone else and furthered the mission of the Gospel.”
A former student recalled: “Sister Janet was my physics and chemistry teacher. She was fast-moving, quick-witted and wiry. She could spin around to the blackboard so fast that the cross around her neck would fly outward. It was an example of her “centrifugal force.” I will always be grateful for the preparation she gave me for later studies.” The student’s “later studies” were in medical school and he tested out of several courses because of Jane’s solid foundation.
One of my favorite discoveries in the famous Hollinger box was an article about one of her former students who was in her chemistry class at Our Lady of Providence in Clarksville, Indiana. He is quoted as saying, “I was not much of a student, but Sister Janet was an excellent teacher.” Well, nearly 50 years later, this student, who founded and was CEO of a large firm in Indianapolis, called Sister Jeanne (Hagelskamp) at our sponsored ministry Providence Cristo Rey High School wanting to be a corporate work-sponsor, saying that he owed his success to Sister Jane and the Sisters of Providence. He also contributed a scholarship in Sister Jane’s honor.
Having scattered seeds in traditional school settings, Sister Jane found another field: Adult education. In 1970, she designed and launched the United Southside Community Organization Adult Education Program in Indianapolis, which she directed for eight years. She was to say of this ministry, “There I learned the reality of poverty, the very limited options available to the truly poor.” For her dedication to this ministry, she was awarded the Service of Mankind Award by the Sertoma Club of Downtown Indianapolis, the first given to a woman religious. It was noted of Jane in the presentation, “Her service over the years has been sacramental: An outward, visible sign of inner spirituality, based on caring for the human condition. She has a uniquely personal touch in her dealings with all people … Sister Jane Bodine personifies the ideals of a Providence nun, as expressed in the writings of Mother Theodore.”
Jane’s 39 years of educational ministry gave way in 1978 to planting seeds ministering for the Congregation, first as provincial councilor for three years in St. Gabriel Province and then being asked by General Superior Sister Loretta Schafer to research the establishment of a development office for the Congregation. After the concept was approved by the General Chapter, she set out to establish and direct what was to become the Office of Congregational Advancement, now the Mission Advancement office. She describes its beginning as, “I started with a desk, some pads of paper, a few pens and a handful of paper clips.” Perhaps her father’s maxim guided her: “meeting challenges is a Bodine way of life.” She left the office six years later, having raised funds for the interior renovation of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and the building of Karcher Hall, the north/south wing of the present Mother Theodore Hall, and having established a firm foundation of fundraising on which we continue to build.
That experience and her growing reputation as a “pioneer in fundraising” for women religious, led to the Lilly Endowment in Indianapolis in 1988 offering her a $2.5 million grant to educate leaders of congregations in the United States on the principles and processes of fundraising. She became director of the Development Education Program for Religious Communities and for the next eight years, traversed the country from coast to coast, scattering the seeds of her knowledge, expertise and practical experience to congregational leaders and newly-appointed development personnel. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious jointly sponsored the program and acted as fiscal agent for the grant.
Jane designed the program and made sure she brought in top-notch speakers and mentors who continued to work with those who attended. She often served as mentor herself. She developed a plethora of materials and manuals; anything she created, she felt obligated to share. She had to keep accurate records for grant purposes, of course. She reported 1,127 persons attended the program through the years, representing 232 religious congregations. One of the attendees commented that she provided the “great awakening” to the importance of development for the future of religious congregations, and another dubbed her the “Wonder Woman of Development.” Sister Jane was twice recognized by Lilly Endowment with their service award.
Her aforementioned Hollinger box includes many thank you notes and accolades sent to her when the program ended. One such note from a Sister of Mercy in Rochester, New York, I suspect, summarized well the feelings of many, not so much about the nuts and bolts of the program, but about how Jane did ministry: “What to say about you, Jane? I have learned from you far more than development goals and procedures. You’ve taught me honesty, humility and sincerity in asking for money to support our needs and the needs of the poor. You’ve exemplified reverence through your speech and your actions. You’ve demonstrated confidence in God through your prayer and dependence on God through your successes. These are the memories I carry away.”
Many of the testimonials mentioned Jane’s energy, drive and tireless efforts to assist in whatever ways she could, a trait that most of us here have observed in her through the years. Once when Jane had a stop-over in Evansville on her way to a consultation, she was rear-ended at a stoplight and found herself in the emergency room. When a Sister of Providence arrived to be with her, she distinctly remembers Jane stretched out on the gurney and muttering, “I don’t have time for this! I don’t have time for this!”
Even with all her commitments through the years, Jane had time to serve on a number of boards, most notable among them: She was the first woman religious to serve on the board of the National Catholic Development Council from whom she later received an award for her work with the Development Education program. She served as consultant on the board of Global Education Associates and was a trustee on the board of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. In Indianapolis, she also served on boards of the Criterion, the Mayor’s Commission on Youth and Catholic Social Ministries. She presented papers on fundraising and stewardship several times at the National Catholic Development Conference and the National Association of Treasures of Religious Institutes. When the bishops began to draft their pastoral letter on stewardship in 1992, they consulted with Jane, who, the article states, “did not hesitate a moment to speak her mind (and her heart).”
Jane came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1999 and continued to give service in various ways, including being the coordinator of the Ladywood Alumnae Association for several years. As happens too many of us, eventually Jane’s health began to decline and she spent the last six years being ministered to in Mother Theodore Hall, which she did not take to very kindly. She would often remark to the staff, “I should be doing something for the Congregation,” evidently forgetting all those seeds scattered, all those blades that had sprouted and grown and borne fruit in the lives of so many she ministered to during her lifetime.
Jane, you now have time – all eternity – to enjoy the harvest of your many years of dedication and faithfulness as you answered God’s every call and carried on in extraordinary fashion “the Bodine way of meeting challenges.”
Funeral services for Sister Jane took place on Monday, April 3, and Tuesday, April 4, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
A Wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., on Monday, April 3, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Tuesday, April 4.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Jane in the comment section below
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