Sister Barbara O’Donnell
The southeast side of Cleveland, Ohio, was my home base. I graduated from public high school having prepared for a business career. For over three years, I was employed by an insurance company in downtown Cleveland. During that time, being active with the Young Adult Club and teaching fourth grade religious education classes at my parish were an important part of my life. Along with attending a few night college courses, dating and socializing were significant in discerning my life choices.
I met three Sisters of the Humility of Mary in 1963 during a Cursillo in Elyria. That spiritual weekend affirmed God’s call to live a Christian life where I was to witness to Jesus in the marketplace. Yet, having experienced three spirit-filled, joyful women in blue habits, black veils and wearing a round medal with an image of Mary, I could not let go of thinking, If that was religious life, I had to know more. Dedication to Mary may have been a factor because my mother taught many lessons of faith that included devotion to Mary.
Having the list of Cursillo participants, I contacted the Diocesan Vocation Office to inquire about the sisters’ initials and the name of the community. I learned that Villa Maria, Pennsylvania, was the location of the motherhouse. The name of a sister to contact in Cleveland was also given to me.
Fear of the unknown limited me as it took a long time to make the phone call. After conversation and a visit to the Villa, I was to enter in 1964. However, a relationship with a male friend also drew me toward marriage and increased my apprehension. Knowing more now about how God works in my life, time was needed to totally surrender to the call to religious life. My leap of faith happened in September of 1965, and I was blessed with deep inner peace.
My YES to God continues through personal and communal prayer and the support of numerous people. Being a member of the HM community brings abundant blessings for on-going enrichment and ministry. I served as an elementary educator and as a parish director of religious education for many years. The need for contemplation and action still guides me now as a staff member of the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center. Focusing on spirituality and ecological sustainability, I remain in wonder of, and in gratitude for, God’s Love. And insights about the meaning of humility are never-ending in relationship to all life communities and our expanding universe.