When Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet retire after years of teaching and other work, they enter into a “mission of prayer and presence.”
Really, though, that’s been their mission all along, said Sister Paddy Lorenz.
“For our vocation — and anyone’s vocation — prayer and presence are the core of it,” she said.
Sister Paddy, 92, has been a sister of St. Joseph for the past 72 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology and a doctorate in microbiology, which she used to serve several years as a radiologic technologist and teach at the college level. In February, she moved into Nazareth Living Center in south St. Louis County.
Her education and experience in scientific fields still influence her idea of prayer and presence, she said. “In my own professional field, both in biology and physics, more and more you hear of interdependence, how everything affects everything else, how energy and a particle can affect another particle in another part of the world. …All this led me to the idea that God is in everything,” and we can find His presence anywhere we look, she said.
The sisters’ charism is “love of the dear neighbor without distinction,” which to Sister Paddy has meant being fully present to the students in her college classrooms and now to her fellow residents at Nazareth Living Center.
“It involves living in the present moment and being present to the person you’re with, and not thinking about what you’re going to do when they leave — I’m just concentrating on them,” she said.
Although she’s a strong introvert, she tries to make it a point to visit with other residents. Being truly present to another can even be a form of prayer, lifting that person up to God. “We all have our problems here — many of us are hard of hearing, many of us have difficulty with speech or expressing ourselves. I try not to be impatient with any of that and respond to people on a level that they can hear you, that kind of thing.”
Sister Paulette Gladis, 92, entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1950 alongside Sister Paddy. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business administration and business education and served many years in university education and health care administration.
She served as a pastoral care associate at Nazareth Living Center before coming to live there in 2017. After becoming a resident herself, she strives to do whatever she can to offer friendship and a warm presence to her neighbors.
“Some people don’t have any company — they’re the only ones in their family,” she said. “And if I can bring a little joy to people, that’s my aim every day — to help make this a better day for that individual.”
Sister Paulette enjoys the many opportunities she has throughout the day for prayer with others — daily Mass, prayer time with other sisters, a book club that’s currently reading Father Greg Boyle’s “Tattoos on the Heart.” She brings Holy Communion to her fellow residents who aren’t able to make it to Mass.
In her presence to others, she is able to both give and receive the love of God, she said.
“When the person is talking, what is God saying to me? There’s a message there,” she said. “So listen, and listen to more than the words. You know, don’t be thinking of my answers or response, just be present to the person.”
And in her personal prayer time, she focuses on being present with God. Her mission now remains the same as it was when she decided to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph, seven decades ago: to “give my life to God, who has given me so much, and to do whatever I could to make this a better world for people to live in,” she said.