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Power of Yes
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Jill  »

On the first Saturday of September sisters, family and friends gathered at Chicago Cenacle to celebrate the ministry and presence of Sr. Jean Reardon’s Golden Jubilee. While preparing for her celebration, Sr. Jean opened up about the many paths she took that led her to this extraordinary moment. 

Her journey began in 1935 in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she was born. Her father who served in the National Guard in New Mexico was activated in spring of 1941 just months before Pearl Harbor.  That August, he was deployed to the Philippines and was later captured during WWII where he was held as a prisoner of war for two years. After his release and later military retirement he went on to become an educator and school principal in Albuquerque.

Jean followed in her father’s footsteps completing her studies in elementary education at the University of New Mexico. During a long layover in Chicago in her senior year of college, she thought it would be a wonderful idea to visit her priest cousin who lived in Oak Park, IL. While visiting they discussed her trip and her on campus volunteer work with UNM Newman Center. He asked if she had ever considered entering a convent, and her response was a resounding “you have got to be kidding me, NO!” After she returned to campus, she put the question out her mind but not far from her heart. While she was completing her teaching training, a friend who was a Naval Officer and member of her social sorority met her for coffee. Like most young adults their conversation was flooded with all their hopes, dreams and next big steps in life. While sharing her Naval Officer friend asked “would you consider joining the Navy?” In one breath Sr. Jean replied “No! I always swore I would never join the military or marry anyone in the military”. After being the child of a service man and having knowledge of what it entails, she decided early on it was not something she wanted for herself.

Now preparing to head into her career, young Jean soon met an officer who began teaching at the school where she was completing her teaching training.  She found herself impressed by the way the officer integrated her service experience into her teaching and brought the class lessons to life. As she taught the children how to read, the books became more than just a simplified lesson of “see dick run”, but small adventures in front of their eyes. Sr. Jean says “I knew if I wanted to be a good teacher I needed some experience, some adventure.” So, on July 1st, 1957 Sr. Jean reported to Officer Candidate School for Women.

During her 12 years of military service she remained devoted in her faith.  Jean made attending Trinity Sunday a priority, even if she was not able to make other services throughout the month. One Sunday two weeks before Trinity Sunday Jean made her way to chapel. She remembers dipping fingers into the pond of holy water, and she heard a voice say “go to confession and communion today”. “I only do confession and communion on Trinity Sunday” she said to herself. In that moment of reluctance, she knew she didn’t want to be disobedient to God’s clear direction and went on to confession and communion. That moment of hesitation gave way to spiritual conviction and she grew from it. Months later after visiting a local parish in Virginia she heard the voice again say “I want you Jean”. Overwhelmed with fear and much hesitation she started bargaining with God. “Anything but that, I will teach CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) but not that” she responded. So, she did just that! She began teaching CCD on her base, and as she rose through the ranks so did her faith.

 Jean followed her heart and in 1969 she entered the Cenacle. Sr. Jean has since worked and served in many capacities through the years from the kitchen, to treasure, to ministry coordinator. Her volunteer work allowed her to share her creativity from teaching wood shop at the YMCA summer camp, to being the sister’s in house photographer. Nowadays Sr. Jean spends her afternoons serving in the Cenacles Prayer Enrollment Office. On occasion she gifts bookmarks to the sisters and staff with images she has captured displaying the full beauty of God in this world. “When asked what has been the best part about being a part of the Cenacle for the past 50 years?” Sr. Jean replied “I enjoy the work I do, from walking alongside a retreatant to prayer enrollment, people trust us with their prayers. I believe when we hear others we hear God”. All those years ago in that Virginia parish she turned away from her call and said “no”. With an obedient “yes” later, we now celebrate her 50 years of faith. Sr. Jean continues to remain in awe of God’s grace and has learned to let go into the mystery and say yes to God’s call!

 What would "Yes" lead you to in your life?

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