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VILLA MARIA, PA. Newest Sister is a grandmother



Published: Sat, July 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Sister said she and her family are happy with her decision.

By D.A. WILKINSON

VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR

VILLA MARIA, Pa. -- Sister Sandy Pedone is a trendsetter.

At age 59, the mother and grandmother will profess her final vows at 2 p.m. Sunday as a sister of the Humility of Mary.

At the liturgy, she said, "I think I will be peaceful, and have a lot of joy. This is my lifetime commitment. But when I went into it as a candidate, I went into it as a lifetime commitment."

Still, Sister Sandy will be the first mother and grandmother in the order, which has 160 members.

Sister Mary Cunningham, HM's formation director, said there are also about 160 so-called "Sister-Moms" in the nation. Another one is Sister Gay Rowzie, who is a novitiate with the Humility of Mary.

Sister Mary expects the number of such nuns to increase as women live longer and have multiple careers. And one of the defining characteristics of such women, she said, is a desire to go deeper into their relationship with the Lord.

Sister Sandy, in that sense, is no exception. In fact, she thought about becoming a nun when she was a child.

"I always had a real close relationship with the Lord. I had inklings as a young child, from the fourth grade on up. It was one of those things where you think, 'No, no, that's not it,'" she said.

"Then you go on and do other things. I went on and got married, and after my divorce, it was strong coming back again. I thought about it. Finally I said it out loud to someone and we pursued it. I thought, 'OK, I'll say yes' and go from there. And that's what happened. I haven't changed my feeling toward the 'yes.'"

First career

Sister Sandy was familiar with the Sisters of Humility of Mary who taught her while she attended St. Martha Parish in Akron.

"I had the HM's in grade school, and I really liked them," she said.

She worked as a secretary at Ohio Edison Co. for 16 years and became the mother of five and grandmother of seven. As her children grew older, Sister Sandy became involved in their Christian education.

"You want to be part of their education and part of their life," said Sister Sandy, who has now worked with a number of adults and children. Since 1998, she has been the director of religious education at St. Joseph Parish in Sharon, Pa.

She believes her life experiences enhance her new vocation.

"Having had the experience of being a wife and a mother, both, especially doing spiritual direction, I have a little deeper understanding of what people are saying," said Sister Sandy. "I think that makes them more at ease, too."

Nuns do understand people's problems, but many people assume they can't because they weren't married, she said.

"Then when [people] come to me, they go, 'Oh, you would understand.' I think that's a positive aspect of the whole thing," said Sister Sandy.

What kept her going

And as a single mother with some hard times, her faith, "was the only thing that sustained me," she said with a laugh.

"I don't know what I would have done had I not had my faith, and I don't know how people who don't have a faith get through things."

In talking with others, she asks where they see God in the mess and mixture of their problems.

"He likes to be in the messiness with us. I think that gives them a little different insight," she said.

"When you're in the mix, most of the time people don't look at God. They think 'He's not going to be in this mess with me.' Well, yeah. Most definitely."

Her faith led her to became an associate of the HM, but she felt called to the order. She became a candidate in 1994, began her novitiate in 1996, and professed temporary vows in 1998, and now, her perpetual vows.

"I think its a deeper call to the public, saying, 'Even in the midst of everything, I still love this church, I want to be connected with it, and I want to spread God's word."

And Sister Sandy hopes other women realize they can do the same thing. There is already a group of 'Sister-Moms" who meet once a year.

Widows, or divorced women with annulments whose children are independent, can become nuns. Sister Mary said there is one order in another area with a mother and daughter as members.

There's also a certain humor in the situation. Sister Sandy said a diocese in another state reacted with disbelief when one of her daughters called and announced, "My mother's a nun."

But her children are grown now and have their own lives.

"The bottom line is the kids want me to be happy, and I think that's what God wants, too. Right now, I'm happy. I just can't imagine not doing this."

wilkinson@vindy.com




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