By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published July 21, 2011
This year several sisters in the Archdiocese of Atlanta are celebrating jubilee milestones. Here are the stories of three of them: Sister Angela Abood, Sister Jodi Creten and Sister Esther Ordoñez.
The other sisters celebrating jubilees will be featured in an upcoming issue of The Georgia Bulletin.
Sister Angela Abood
Sitting comfortably in a chair in her apartment off Clairmont Avenue in Decatur, Sister Angela Abood reminisces about her 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
A native of Georgia, Sister Angela has spent nearly 40 years of her ministry in the Atlanta area. She has worked at the Village of St. Joseph and St. Anthony School, Atlanta, where she helped open a child-care center. The sister also became involved in social justice, inspired by people like Father John Adamski and Sister Ann Brotherton, a Sister of St. Joseph who worked in Atlanta in the 1970s, including at the Martin Luther King Center.
Now retired, Sister Angela remembers attending Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and walking along the downtown streets afterward to visit and aid the people living on the streets.
“I would come out of the Shrine in the winter and these guys would be lying down on the grass with newspaper over them. It broke my heart,” she said.
Sister Angela became known among the groups of homeless people, who began looking forward to her regular visits.
The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, she has a special place in her heart for minorities and those who are struggling, and she spent many years working with them. Sister Angela grew up in Valdosta and remembers being part of a minority herself, because of her ethnicity and her religion.
“I know what it is about because I’ve been there,” she said.
At that time, there were no Catholic churches in the area, and she remembers attending home Masses as a young girl with her brothers and sister. She felt out of place among the vocally non-Catholic population of South Georgia, but found her home with the Sisters of St. Joseph. During her years of service as a religious, Sister Angela has learned to look past all of the differences between her and the people she serves, seeing everyone as a child of God.
“That’s what life is about, helping other people, helping minorities, helping people who are struggling,” she said.
This care for others drew her to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She met the sisters when she was in sixth grade at St. John’s School in Valdosta and the sisters began teaching there. They left an indelible mark on the young girl, who decided to join the order shortly after graduating from Valdosta High School.
Sister Angela left for the motherhouse in St. Louis, Mo., in 1951 and began her formation at the age of 22. She professed her final vows in 1953. Her first assignment brought her back to Georgia, as she worked at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Washington. She also worked in Milledgeville at Sacred Heart School, continuing her work with youth. Sister Angela was then sent to Negaunee, Mich., where she served a few years at St. Paul’s School before coming back to Georgia again in 1972. She has been here ever since. Much of her time has been spent working with children and youth, particularly those with troubled and painful lives.
Now living at Clairmont Oaks in Decatur, Sister Angela continues ministering to her fellow residents even though she is retired. A large prayer basket sits on the floor of her apartment, where she gathers and places the prayer requests of her friends, offering prayers for Catholics, Baptists and anyone who needs an extra prayer.
Sister Angela has found another strong community and has nothing but wonderful things to say about the residents and staff, who come from all faiths and walks of life.
“I look at all the good they give to me,” she said of the people at Clairmont Oaks. “Everybody is accepted here.”
Sister Jodi Creten
Against a backdrop of colorful floral photos she has taken, Sister Jodi Creten rests after visiting one of her clients of Home Instead Senior Care, a home hospice program.
The sister, who belongs to the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kan., lives in an apartment on the campus of Blessed Sacrament Church, Atlanta. But she travels around metro Atlanta to minister to patients, providing companionship and spiritual support.
A native of Michigan, Sister Jodi is celebrating 50 years as a religious this year and continues to work “among the people,” a characteristic of her order that drew her in at a young age.
Sister Jodi Creten is from Gladstone, Mich., where she was the oldest of six children. Sister Creten said she started thinking about a religious vocation in her sophomore year of high school.
“They didn’t separate themselves from people,” said Sister Jodi, recalling her early encounters with the Sisters of St. Joseph. She first met members of the congregation when she was in school and remembers hearing a subtle call from God to the religious life when she was in high school. Like many people her age, she tried to ignore the call, but she quickly learned that God had a plan for her.
“God is more persistent than we are determined,” said Sister Jodi with a smile.
At the age of 17, the young girl boarded a train, leaving the cold weather of Michigan for the warm plains of Kansas to discern a vocation to religious life. In 1961, she entered the order as a novice and made her final vows a few years later.
She remembers being supported by her family, who told her she could always come home. And she remembers the seed of faith being planted in her family life that grew when she went to the community.
“My parents were very religious. We didn’t have a lot growing up, but we had a lot of love in the family,” she said.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia held a celebration in early July at the motherhouse in Kansas for their 2011 jubilarians, who have served a combined 850 years in ministry.
After professing her final vows, Sister Jodi began to teach in Silver City, N.M., in 1963. For the next 17 years, she was an educator in Chicago and Boonville, Mo.
Sister Jodi returned to the motherhouse in the 1980s, first to assist with renovation projects and then to serve as the director of activities from 1984 to 1987.
In 1989 she was named resident services coordinator at St. Thomas Manor in East Point, a small personal care home opened by Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. A year later she began providing senior care and she remained there for over a decade. Since 2001, Sister Jodi has served as a caregiver with Home Instead Senior Care, a ministry she feels is a good example of the charism of her order. She speaks fondly of her patients and how simply being there with someone can provide great comfort.
“God acts in little ways,” she said, adding that people can mirror God’s love in little ways too. “It’s more about our presence than anything we do. … What we love about this work is we become a part of their family and they become part of ours.”
Sister Jodi feels women religious are an important part of the life of the Church. She prays her congregation and others will remain strong in this century, though she understands that adapting and changing is an essential part of keeping an order alive.
“Religious life always has had a place and always will have a place,” she said. “Anything of importance needs to change to meet the needs of the people. I think religious life will always do that.”
Sister Esther Ordoñez
Celebrating 25 years as a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart “Ad Gentes,” Sister Esther Ordoñez recently returned to Mexico to celebrate her jubilee with other sisters from her community.
Sister Esther entered the order as a postulant in 1983, professing her temporary vows in 1986 and final vows in 1991. A native of Zacatlan, Puebla, Mexico, the sister has spent 18 of her 25 years as a religious here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, serving in many parishes and ministries.
The discernment of her vocation to religious life began at an early age. Sister Esther remembers her mother bringing home missionary magazines from the women’s group to which she belonged, piquing the interest of her young daughter at the time.
“I was interested in doing the same thing. I saw missionaries in many places,” she said. “So when I found my community here and saw their role was missions, I said yes.”
At 25, Sister Esther traveled to the convent in Mexico and saw a group of sisters preparing to leave on a mission trip to Africa. She realized God was calling her to the missions.
As part of her formation, Sister Esther spent five years in Oklahoma, her first experience in the United States beginning in October 1987. After a year in Mexico, she received her next assignment, which brought her to Georgia.
She first began working part-time, coordinating a religious education program and serving the community of San Felipe de Jesus in Forest Park.
In the early 1990s, she began working at Good Shepherd Church, Cumming, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta, simultaneously. In addition to leading CCD classes, Sister Esther also helped parishioners to prepare to receive various sacraments and spent much of her time visiting with struggling families.
She also helped establish “Christ Renews His Parish” in parishes, a renewal process recommended by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that focuses on building discipleship and community.
In 2000, Sister Esther became a full-time staff member at Good Shepherd Church where she ministered for the next five years. She moved to St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville in 2005 where she has spent the last six years.
In August Sister Esther will begin a new assignment in Kentucky. She enjoys the challenges that God and her order have given her and feels that the Missionary Sisters are an important part of the Church and its ministry.
“The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart feel the presence of Jesus in everything they do,” she said. “I’m sure that Jesus is there because I feel him.”
Recently, Sister Esther became an American citizen, passing her exam and taking her oath of citizenship in April 2010.