"I want what they have!" eight-year-old Virginia thought as she got to know the teachers at her school in Chicago. With those Dominican Sisters, the seed was planted. When the family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, Virginia's thoughts of becoming a Sister were "on again, off again." In her senior year at Notre Dame, Belmont, as her mother was busy hemming a dress for Virginia's Senior Ball, Virginia announced, "I want to enter the convent!" Surprised, her mother encouraged her to wait until she was 18. So after graduation 17-year-old Virginia bided her time by working in San Francisco and learning more about the world. But the world did not dissuade or entice her and by February she entered the convent knowing it was something she had to try.
That was over 60 years ago.
Sr. Virginia laughs that her list of ministries over the decades is a bit of a "mish-mosh" but her eyes sparkle as she shares about these experiences and the opportunities she's had to bring the good God to others.
For eight years, she taught grades 5-8, but it was her three years teaching math at Notre Dame High School, San Jose, that stands out in her mind. As she recalls, "It was the best fit in every way. And I still keep in touch with some of the girls!" Sr. Ann Carmel Badalamente shares, "Former students remember Sr. Virginia Ann as a teacher who not only taught math, but made it understandable and sometimes enjoyable! Sister's concern for each student gave them confidence in their academic endeavors."
Later at Quest House in San Francisco she worked with women in crisis. Sister remembers helping a woman who had been repeatedly battered to plan her escape. Together they snuck her children and a few belongings out of the house, praying that the abusive husband wouldn't notice what was happening. It wasn't an easy ministry, but as a counselor, she felt privileged to enter into these women's lives and help them move forward.
Serving as novice director for three years was another amazing experience. She admired the maturity of the young women who entered in 1977, and their committment to spiritual growth and ministry. Sr. Virginia realizes that her own faith was deeply touched by them.
Sister also worked for three years as a pastoral associate in Stockton, CA. She helped start groups that ministered to the diverse needs in the parish. A group for senior citizens proved very popular and continues today, providing social activities and companionship for older widows, widowers and singles. Sr. Virginia also led grief support groups and was moved by the opportunity to help people through this time of raw emotion.
Formerly the Service Learning Coordinator at Moreland Notre Dame School in Watsonville, CA, Sister loved bringing students to Loaves and Fishes to serve meals to homeless and low-income folks. Many of the students hadn't even realized that their small town had a homeless population. The reflection-action-reflection model of the service learning program helped the students process all they had seen and done. "Maybe for the first time the students realized how much they have," shares Sister.
Sr. Virginia also served a second term on the Province Leadership Team. She recognizes the challenges and opportunities that religious women are facing at this time and prays for wisdom and courage to assist Notre Dame in moving forward.
"At her 60th Jubilee," Sr. Virginia shared, "I am grateful for my religious vocation and the remarkable women with whom I have shared life. To pray together, laugh together, struggle together, support each other, and share sorrows has been a blessing. Life is never dull! I am also so thankful for my family and friends who continue to enrich my life."