October 10, 2019
Brianna Wilson is an English & religion teacher at Villa Angela-St. Joseph School in Cleveland. She is a participant in Generative Spirit’s Ministry Leadership Program. We invited Brianna to reflect on her experience in the program and with Catholic sisters.
This year I was assigned a sister companion as a young adult member of the Ministry Leadership Program, a new initiative sponsored by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. In reality, the sisters have always been companions to me. Whether or not they were assigned, they were always walking beside me, always showing me new ways to serve others, and always guiding me closer into relationship with God.
Sr. Lany Jo, ASCJ, is a religious sister who belongs to the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was the Director of Campus Ministry when I was in high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, CT. Sr. Lany Jo hosted faith meetings with us, helped us plan liturgies, took us to Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries in Garrison, NY for retreats, and always was a friend along the way. Sr. Mariette, also ASCJ, chaperoned my first mission trip to Chinatown in 2009, the summer after my freshman year of high school. She was the hardest worker on our team as we cleaned the elementary school building where we were teaching and serving all week. It was at that time I began discerning religious life myself. These sisters were not only teaching me about the Catholic faith, they were immersing me in the faith and modeling practical ways for me to live it out.
When I went on to study education at St. Bonaventure University in western New York, it was Sr. Suzanne Kush, CSSF, Director of the Franciscan Center for Social Concern, who invited me on mission trips each year to, among other things, prepare houses for refugees, serve and advocate for the poor, and teach on a Navajo Reservation. She modeled a concern for others, a will to take action and a dedication to service.
With my Franciscan foundation, I was drawn to doing a year or two of service following graduation. The Lalanne program through the University of Dayton was the perfect match. As I pursued my master’s in education, I was able to do two years of service as a teacher at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland. I taught religion and English to freshmen and sophomores. Within that first year I met Sr. Maria Berlec, OSU, and Sr. Kate Hine, SND. Sr. Maria and I have now worked together for more than three years. She continues to be a source of wisdom and guidance, always providing insight when I seek her advice. Sr. Kate and I have shared many retreat experiences together in the Cleveland area. She also introduced me to the Sisters of Charity Foundation and this Ministry Leadership Program.
The Ministry Leadership Program assigned Sr. Virginia DeVinne, OSU, to be my sister companion for the year. Sr. Virginia and I immediately connected over our roles in education, particularly over her role as Principal at Villa Angela Academy prior to the merge with St. Joseph High School in 1990. We’ve talked about family, work, faith, and life as a whole. We’ve opened our homes to each other, shared meals together, and grew closer through each encounter. We both find our strength in God and have a love of learning. We also have really good taste in food, love going for walks, and can talk for hours.
I am grateful for these sisters who are models of faith and service. They have journeyed with me and have been my side in each new place to which God has called me. I am grateful for all the Ursulines and Marianists who have come before me and who walk beside me now. My prayer is that I, too, may walk beside others, serve with others and guide others closer into their relationships with God, as they undoubtedly will do the same for me.