Religious of the Sacred Heart Sister Mary Brady, 83, has been with North Country Ministry, based in North Creek, for 10 years. She has been a sister since 1946 and previously worked in social services and as a high school teacher.

You grew up in New York City. What's it like being in North Creek?

It's very rural, very Adirondack. I'm at the service of people who need material and emotional support. It's a pastoral ministry.

When did you realize you wanted to be a sister?

As soon as I knew what a sister was, it was in the back of my mind. But I very much wanted to marry and have children. I made up my mind when I was 17 that this is what God really wanted me to do. When I asked the sisters, I was told to come back when I had a college degree. I went to college, and I was really motivated. I entered on Sept. 8, 1946.

Who was your inspiration when you were growing up?

The nuns who taught me at a Sacred Heart Society boarding school in the Bronx. After that, I went to Manhattanville College. I read a lot about the lives of the saints. I always wanted to work with the poor. My order was founded by Madeleine Sophie. Her vision was to educate the leaders of society; at the same time, she had schools for the poor in France.

What did your parents think when you entered the community?

My father died when I was 16. He would have been very happy. Both of my parents were strong Catholics. I was an only child. I knew my mother was very happy about my vocation.

Were your expectations met?

It was not easy. But I always believed in what I was doing. I never doubted I was in the place God wanted me to be.

Would you have done anything differently?

[Yes,] in regard to ministry. I had worked mostly with teenagers in high schools. I wanted to work with adults. I should have built more on what I already knew. When I entered religious life, I intended to give everything to God. Wherever I went, I didn't have much control over until [the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s]. After Vatican II, we were given much more leeway.

Who do you minister to?

Mostly mothers and young children. We started the Baby's Place. We offer material help for parents of children up to age three. There was very little for families who were struggling and normal and had children in that age range. The most important years of a child's life are between birth and [age] six. That's when the major brain development happens. We started a little store where people donate gently-used clothing, all kinds of necessities. We are not just giving them things; we offer parent education and emotional support.

What is the biggest issue facing rural families?

Isolation is one of the biggest problems. There is no public transportation. If a family doesn't have a vehicle, they can't get out. If a family has one car and the husband goes off to work with it, the mother is alone. We try to bring mothers together.

What's your biggest frustration?

I'd like to do more than anyone can do. We are finite. I'm trying to live every day to the fullest.

...And your greatest joy?

Ministry - but that just doesn't mean being active. It has to be backed up by prayer and contact with people with similar desires and relationships with people in need of help.

What do you do for fun?

That, I'm not so good at. I really try to keep up with the news. I'm really concerned about the healthcare debate. I love Friday nights when you have "Wash-ington Week in Review" and Bill Moyers on public television. I also like to go out with friends, have lunch, talk and enjoy their company.

What sacrament gives you the most peace?

The Eucharist is the center of my life. Today, even if you're a nun, you're lucky to have [the Eucharist] once a week. That, to me, is a tremendous loss. I hope the Church will open itself to every avenue to give us new priests.

What would you want people to know about religious life?
I do believe that God has to call someone. I would hope people get to know sisters. I'm here because I saw the life being lived.


Music: classical and elevator music

Movie: "'Chariots of Fire.' Also 'Invictus.' Nelson Mandela is one of my heroes."

TV shows: Bill Moyers, "Washington Week in Review"

Recreation: "Being with people. Trying to keep up with friends is important to me."

During the "Year for Priests," The Evangelist is publishing Q-&-A interviews with nuns, brothers, deacons and laypeople as well as priests.