People are Just People

Sr Verona Wangler and Erin Dwan

One of the most important things I’ve learned from this project is that the differences between people don’t really matter as much as we think they do. The gap in age between me and Sister Verona, about 74 years, has faded into the background of our interactions.

When we talk, I feel like the generational rift between us disappears and that we can both interact as equals and friends. Our variations in lifestyle, too, are also not as extreme as I had assumed they would be. Although Sister Verona is a Dominican Sister and I’m a student without deep connections to the Catholic Church, we had so much more in common than I expected. We’re both close with our siblings and we have the same quirky sense of humor.

Although my preference for MSU and hers for U of M might be an insurmountable difference, the main thing about us is that we’re both just humans when you take away the labels of age and occupation. No matter how different they may seem, people are just people. This is such an important concept to remember, and I will take it with me beyond this project.

Personal Traits: Resilience and Willingness

While there are many words I would use to describe Sister Verona — funny, quick-witted, compassionate and patient come to mind — two particular traits I’ve noticed about her over the course of our conversations are her resilience and her willingness to face hardship head-on. These are characteristics I really admire and that I wish I possessed more of myself.

Sister Verona lost both her parents within four months of each other while she was in her novitiate, and while many people might have gone home for a while to recover emotionally, she continued to work at her assigned ministry, returning home only for the funeral and on weekends to take care of her younger siblings. Her actions in the face of tragedy showed so much strength, and I can’t imagine how hard this must have been for someone as young as she was.

Sister Verona faced other difficult (but less heartbreaking) conditions with dignity. For example, when her ministry took her to places she didn’t expect to have to live, such as the tiny town of Weare, or when her rent was jacked up so high that she and her roommate were forced to relocate to Marywood, the convent, she took these challenges in stride. Instead of complaining about having only one other sister to work and live with in Weare or dreading the process of moving apartments, Sister Verona did what she had to do without dragging her feet, and I really admire that about her.

When we talked about these trials in her life, it seemed as though part of what gave her the strength to get through them was her vow of obedience. She knew that where she was going was where the Church needed her most and where she could be of most help. And of course, she knew that God would never put her through anything that she couldn’t handle. Maybe thinking about this will help me too be as brave as she is next time I’m faced with a difficult situation.

I’m a little sad that the project is coming to a close because I’ve enjoyed hearing about the other students’ experiences, but I’m happy because I think I’ll be able to continue my friendship with Sister Verona this summer. I’m staying in Grand Rapids for the summer, and I’ll be living right down the street from Marywood. I’m excited to keep getting to know her and learning more from this project.

Thank you to Erin Dawn, for contributing here experience, ideas, and writing to this Sister Inspiration.

Erin Dwan is a junior majoring in English Literature and Community Leadership and Minoring in Women’s Studies at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. She is an intern in AQ’s Women’s Studies Center and a consultant in their Writing Center. After she graduates, Erin hopes to work in the nonprofit field and plant a garden in her yard. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, baking, and skiing. Erin is excited to learn more about the Sister she was paired with, Sister Verona Wangler, OP, and hopes to learn more about religious life throughout the course of the project. During the Spring of 2019 she was paired with Sister Verona Wangler, OP; a Grand Rapids Dominican Sister.


More SisterStories by Aquinas College Students

SisterStory is the ongoing initiative of National Catholic Sisters Week, a campaign to broaden awareness of Catholic sisters. SisterStory is the ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, a national campaign aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters. Our intention is to demystify religious life – the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, the experience of living in community, the desire to belong totally to God – by sharing the stories of Catholic sisters. We aim to connect sisters with young women and to share their impressions in an authentic, first-person 20-something voice.

If you have enjoyed this story and want to read more stories about the Aquinas College students and the Sisters who have participated in the national  SisterStory project, visit SisterStory.