Meet Sisters Joan Souza and Veronica Wood
Sister Joan’s ministry: Sponsorship Liaison, St. Francis Healthcare System
Sister Veronica’s ministry: Formation Minister
While Sisters Joan Souza and Veronica Wood both answered yes to God’s call to religious life with the Sisters of St. Francis, they entered two very different styles of novitiate. There were a number of young women in Sister Joan’s class; they followed a strict schedule, kept silent and followed the rules laid out by the sister in charge of formation.
“Our novitiate was a time to find out who you are and what you wanted in life. We had no financial or family worries. We only had to know and love God and do what you could for him,” she says.
Sister Veronica entered the community with just one other person and their years in formation “were less defined,” she says. “I entered the community with a college degree and taught during my postulant year. My salary was sent directly to the community which contributed financially to the completion of my master’s degree.”
What made the difference? The sweeping changes in the Church and religious life brought about by the Second Vatican Council.
“Before Vatican II our lives revolved around the school where we taught and the convent,” says Sister Joan. She says that the changes brought about by the council made it possible for the sisters to go out to the people and to become more involved with them. “Most people felt comfortable talking with us. We were no longer set apart. We were part of the laity. Vatican II enabled us to be more independent in our way of living, but we kept our Franciscan spirit.”
Sister Joan acknowledges that her start in religious life was very different from what Sister Veronica encountered but that it’s the present and the future that are important now. “God gives us what we need at the time we need it. It’s what you do now that counts. We need to move forward and keep our Franciscan charism alive today.”
“We need a spirit of risk,” says Sister Veronica. “We need to look at our founding members and all they embodied. They had a spirit and willingness to risk.” She recalls the risk that Mother Marianne Cope took when she first went to Hawaii to care for those with Hansen’s disease. She and the sisters who went with her gave up what they knew. “We get so use to our comfort and seem to balk at what we see as uncomfortable. We need to be available for the needs of today in example as our founding sisters. Am I willing to do what I am called to do,” she adds.