According to Sister Bridget Waldorf, she “put in a lot of miles” this summer. As a member of the North American Vocation Team (NAVT) for the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), Sister Bridget made sure she had plenty of opportunities to accompany young people during their summer break this year. This meant participation in several days-long programs scheduled throughout June and July in various cities. Her adventures brought her to a discernment retreat in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; a vocation awareness weekend in Irving, Texas; an immersion experience in southwest Texas; a youth ministry institute in Collegeville, Minnesota; and a mission trip to Memphis, Tennessee. In between she attended the SSND Jubilee celebration in Mankato, Minnesota, the provincial Assembly of the Whole in Kansas City, Missouri, and even managed to fit in a few visits with her home community in Dallas and with family in Minnesota.
As a former parish youth minister and high school campus minister, being around young people is a natural fit for the extroverted Sister Bridget. “Meeting a lot of people is energizing for me,” she says. On her first day back to Dallas at the end of the summer break, she even began a new ministry as chaplain to the students at Cristo Rey Dallas, a SSND endorsed high school. She admitted to being tired, adding, “But it’s a good tired!”
All her summer experiences were diverse, and yet similar. “Young adults in discernment are very intent on figuring out what God is wanting them to do. I have an appreciation for being in that spot, helping them figure it out,” she reflected.
Sister Bridget was inspired by “hearing testimonies from young people who don’t have their faith all figured out but feel God’s presence and know they are loved.” She added that young people “know they are responsible for a response to God’s love, so we talk about what does that mean – to give back in service and participation in church.”
“In vocation work, it’s important to meet young adults where they are. We have a commitment to accompany them on their journey, especially as it relates to vocational discernment,” Sister Bridget explained, referencing the goals of the NAVT. “There are many opportunities for us to be present with young people.”
From the presence of SSND during these summer programs, the participants “get the message that sisters are out there in the world and working with the marginalized. [Sisters] can be fun, relational, have a prayer life and enjoy life,” according to Sister Bridget.
In southwest Texas, Sister Bridget met up with a group from the Academy of Holy Angels, a SSND sponsored high school for girls in Demarest, New Jersey. They were participating in a Mission Awareness Process (MAP) immersion experience in San Antonio and McAllen, Texas, near the border of U.S. and Mexico. At one point, the group was in a hotel lobby listening to an immigration attorney who was an immigrant herself and related well to the high school students. “It was good to see the girls gain a clearer understanding of what was going on there,” noted Sister Bridget. This was one of her favorite memories of the summer.
Thinking about her mission trip to Memphis with the youth group from St. Katharine Drexel parish in Ramsey, Minnesota, Sister Bridget concluded that “While sitting on a bus for hours with teenagers, you get to know them – their music, the games they play. Bus trips are a great opportunity for conversations and connecting with the teens.”
Ironically, Sister Bridget already knew the parish youth minister who organized the mission trip, from the days when she was in the same role at the same parish. “I remember some of these senior high students being in the first grade!” she recalled. She accepted the invitation to be an adult chaperone on the trip, knowing how challenging it is to find adults to help and wanting to meet the need.
Sister Bridget said that she hopes to participate in these experiences again if she can, and enjoys it when another sister goes with her, “because there is a gift in watching how sisters interact with each other.” Sister Jill Laszewski, another member of the NAVT, was also present for the Chosen Retreat in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sister Maria Gomez joined in the Vocation Awareness Program in Dallas. During the MAP experience in San Antonio and McAllen, Texas, Sisters Bridget and Regina Palacios played off each other’s personalities and demonstrated how they appreciate and enjoy one another.
Where will Sister Bridget go next summer? Stay tuned to find out!
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