The two Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet announced last week that they are stepping down from key leadership positions in Diocesan ministry. Sr. Sara is the Chancellor of the Diocese; Sr. Linda is the Co-Director of the Diocesan Office of Mission Integration and Employee Relations. Sr. Sara said she has dealt with health challenges in recent months that played a part in her decision to resign her position as Chancellor. She hopes to recover and continue in another area of ministry, she says.
“For me, it’s kind of a pause,” Sr. Sara said. “God has asked me to have a ministry of taking care of myself right now.”
The ministries of the two sisters have been marked by their willingness to leave familiar areas for new challenges in leadership. Both credit their strong faith and collaboration with others for their capacity to take on new ministries.
“Every time I was asked to do the next thing and I didn’t think I could do it, the people there helped,” says Sr. Linda, who humorously cites her ancestry as another help – “I’m Scotch and Irish so I won’t quit. I keep going until I get it right.”
They arrived in the Diocese together in 1985 to serve at Precious Blood School in Banning, Sr. Sara as principal and Sr. Linda as eighth grade teacher. Both stayed until 1992, when Sr. Linda departed to become Principal of St. Mary Regional School in Apple Valley and Sr. Sara began her time at the Diocesan Pastoral Center as Curriculum Director in the Office of Catholic Schools. She would eventually serve as Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese for a decade.
The delivery of Catholic education was more “cut and dried” in those early days, Sr. Linda recalls. Both Sisters cite the advent of technology to allow for more differentiated instruction of students, and the more hands-on roll that school parents play as major changes in the world of Catholic schools.
“Parents have become much more vocal in the teaching of their children, more supportive and more demanding,” Sr. Sara says. “The task is how do we form our parents where we have a partnership that is strong.”
Sr. Linda’s final stop in the Catholic schools of the Diocese was an 11-year stint as principal of Sacred Heart Academy in Redlands, a favorite, she says, for “the wonderful faculty and rapport that built up among the group.”
Sr. Sara singled out being named Chancellor of the Diocese in 2012 as a highpoint in her Diocesan ministry. Pastoral Center employees came to appreciate her listening ear, affirming smile and open-door policy.
“There’s not enough time in the day to meet all the needs of the people,” she says. “But it’s a continuing journey of working side-by-side, celebrating who we are and where we’re going.”
In 2017, Sr. Linda was called away from 56 years in Catholic schools ministry to serve as the founding director of a new Diocesan Ministry of Mission Integration, conceived by Bishop Gerald Barnes to help church employees better live out and model their Catholic faith in their everyday work. “It was totally out of my comfort zone and had to be built from the ground up,” she says.
In nearly 60 years of ministry, the two Sisters have served dioceses in California and Washington state. Asked what is unique about working in the Diocese of San Bernardino, both cite the empowering and collaborative style of Episcopal leadership, beginning with Bishop Phillip Straling and growing under Bishop Barnes.
“Their passionate love for every ministry in the Diocese,” Sr. Sara says of the two bishops. “That’s not the case everywhere I’ve been.”
Adds Sr. Linda, “[Bishop Barnes’] mantra is ‘no one is left out.’ That is the character of this Diocese.”
The decision to leave their positions in the Diocese has been bittersweet, the Sisters acknowledge, and it comes during the tumultuous and uncertain living conditions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You get to a point where you know it’s the right time,” says Sr. Linda. “We need new people to bring our diocese into the future.”
And that includes vocations to the priesthood and religious life, Sister Sara adds. “Good priests, sisters, brothers and deacons are needed. If you have an inkling, take the leap.”
Sr. Sara and Sr. Linda say they plan to take the next several months to rest and assess their next steps in ministry.
“As you know, Sisters never retire,” Sr. Sara says. “They simply say, ‘what’s next?’ ”