At the age of 96, Sr. Verona Wangler shares this thought.
At 19, she says she was “drafted” into vowed religious life by Dominican Sister Cecile Byrne. Sr. Cecile had observed the young girl since she had transferred to St. Joseph School, West Branch, for seventh grade, having begged her parents to go to Catholic school instead of public school.
“In those days we went to Mass every day. I would leave early to avoid the Sisters,” Sr. Verona recalls with a giggle. “Then one day Sr. Cecile caught up to me: `Do you want me to pack your trunk?’ she asked. “And right then, I said yes. I was to leave for Marywood three weeks later.”
“Instead, I wrote a letter that I wouldn’t be coming, that I had to stay and help my mother with my younger siblings. But Sr. Cecile either didn’t know or ignored it. I knew I had to face her and tell her. It was during this same time that my two older brothers were drafted. Sr. Cecile chose her words to me wisely: “Your brothers answered a call to the draft for war; now, I am issuing you a draft call to religious life.”
Perhaps Sister Cecile was responding to her concerns for a young woman whose closest companions—her two older brothers—were being called away?
It may be difficult for many from younger generations to relate to that time in history, not having lived during a world war. Terms like “draft” strike a different note today, not necessarily comfortable.
How intriguing that the young woman who first questioned where she was needed most: home helping her mother with the remaining five younger siblings or to the Dominican mission at Marywood… and then again forced to question where she belonged following the death of both parents in a single year—was given the name Sister Verona of Our Lady of Confidence in 1944.
But Sister Verona prayed for guidance and confidence, and she has brought both to ministries past and present. This openness to question, this comfort with the unknown, and delight in surprises were gifts she brought to all her ministries: as student, teacher, principal, school administrator, director of religious education, and more.
It is Sr. Verona’s confidence in people that is so inspiring. About her ministries in religious education she once said, “The freshness and zeal of new members embracing our precious Catholic faith inspires me to look again at the familiar and appreciate anew its beauty and depth.”
Sr. Verona’s life is a lesson about being grateful for all things, the sorrowful and the joyous. Her lightness of being is a testament to her faith in God’s presence in her life and to her appreciation for beauty in all things.
Upon her 2001 retirement from her ministry at St. Pius X Parish in Grandville, Michigan, Sister Verona said: “It’s time to get on with those ‘some days’ we all promise ourselves. ‘Some day I will go to Ireland.’ ‘Some day I’ll pick up that guitar again,’ ‘Some day I’ll read all the unread stuff on my shelves.’ Some day has arrived!”
May Sister Verona’s message touch your heart today.
What will you do?
Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Mission & Ministry Magazine, published by the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids. Read more in the Summer 2020 Mission & Ministry online. If you would like to receive Mission & Ministry in your mailbox at home, please email email@example.com and ask to be added to our mailing list.