A Franciscan Sister’s Discernment Journey from NE to WI

Paul Keggington

August 17, 2012

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Colette Hoadley reminisces on her 60th jubilee as a consecrated woman religious on her discernment journey from Lindsay, NE to Manitowoc, WI. Sister Colette has many memories as a Catholic School teacher and principal. Are you being called to be a Franciscan Sister teacher? We invite you to our next discernment retreat. Click here.

As you travel across Nebraska on Route 91 you enjoy beautiful hills and scenery and many turns in the roadway. Suddenly you are looking at the small rural town of Lindsay, a town small in size and number of people, but great in every way that matters. There is one church there, Holy Family Catholic Church, a school system, a corner store, a post office, and a population of loving, caring people. Depression and drought were problems to us, but we always had something to eat and to share with others. This was a good beginning for me as I learned the importance of loving God and neighbor even when we were surrounded by difficulties.

John and Mary Hoadley lived there and that was where I was born joining five other children – three brothers and two sisters.  The day I was born I was baptized and given the name Alice Therese. The twelve years of basic education were at Holy Family School. The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity were our teachers and so it was that I met the community of Sisters I later joined. The Sister who was principal of the school system suggested a religious vocation to me. I was quick to respond, “No, way!” After all I enjoyed dancing and good entertainment, especially with my nieces and nephews.

My love of my many nieces and nephews led me to choose the teaching profession. In 1946 I attended Wayne State College in order to earn a “Normal School of teaching” certificate. I taught in the same rural school for 4 years. A memorable experience I had during that time happened March 9, 1948. It started to snow around 8:00 AM. Six students had already arrived. We gathered more coal and water as the snow turned into blizzard conditions. We spent the day and night there until a farmer arrived around three the next morning. As he expressed it, he came to “collect us.” We survived that experience thanks to the prayers of my parents, other folks, and the Franciscan Sisters.

I drove about five miles to the rural school each day. My first year of teaching I used dad’s ’33 Chevrolet. Then I used a 1929 Model A Ford. I enjoyed teaching and the fun times I had with the students during recess, especially on good weather days.

On a fall day a car drove onto the school grounds. The Sisters from Holy Family School in Lindsay came to observe me in the classroom. They came uninvited but we were hospitable to them. I regard this as my first experience of being supervised. Actually, the Sisters were my friends and we had shared much in our encounters with each other. The Sisters had no car, so when they needed to go somewhere, I drove for them. My mother always put holy water in the radiator when I took them.

During my time at Wayne State, I met a young lady who wanted to become aBenedictine Sister. Because of health reasons, she was refused entry to the community and advised to obtain more education and try again. We shared many things that were important to us. Now as I look back I can see God was working very quietly in my life. The seed was planted and slowly growing in my heart. I know the Lord was speaking to me as I continued to think of actually becoming a Sister. I had the deep conviction that God loved me and wanted me. My heart was filled with joy as I made the preparations necessary to respond to God’s call.

When I was professed I received the name “Sister Colette.” That was the name my mother wanted me to have. Her baby sister was married and as a young mother was diagnosed with cancer which proved to be fatal. All these years I have proudly bore the name.

My main apostolate in religious life was teaching. Later I was both principal and teacher. The best part of my apostolate was helping young students prepare for the reception of the Sacraments, especially those of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. All in all, I know that the fifty years I spent in Catholic education was a most endearing and rewarding experience. I feel comfortable with the idea that it was pleasing to the Lord. I continue to find joy in all I am called to do.

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