6/24/2010 Q AND A WITH SISTER KATE Vocation led sister to two careers
BY PETER FEUERHERD Correspondent
Sister Katherine Arseneau, CSJ, has been parish life director at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Troy for three years. A Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, she previously worked for the diocesan Cemetery Office; as business manager at Our Lady of Victory Church in Troy; and in education as a teacher, vice principal and principal at Catholic Central High School in Troy. She also taught at other schools in the Albany and Syracuse Dioceses.
You spent many years in education. Have there been adjustments to be made as a parish life director?
I knew my time was done as an educator. When you get to a certain age, it is time to move on, especially with high school kids. I was accepted to be in the pool of parish life directors.
I am a city girl. I waited for a suburban/urban parish to get open and worked for the diocesan Cemetery Office for two and a half years. I loved it. I met with a lot of people to encourage personal planning. It prepared me for what I'm doing now.
What do you like most about your work?
Greeting the people every weekend. It's a wonderful parish. It's open and hospitable. We work on that continually. It's personally rewarding to me. We have two sacramental ministers, Rev. James Mackey and Rev. Arthur Toole, and we get along famously. The parish is really active. We have 35 active committees.
When and why did you realize you wanted to be a sister?
I grew up in Syracuse. We were a pretty religious family. I went to public school and then [transferred to] Catholic school in the third grade. I was inspired by the sisters. They were solid people of goodness. As a sophomore in high school, it was something I decided it was something I wanted to do and never looked back.
Who was your inspiration?
Sister Marion Rypski. She was a principal and business teacher. She was extremely kind and capable.
What did your parents think?
My father was thrilled. My mother was not happy, but came around. She wanted me to stay home and go to college.
How did you react to changes in religious life?
I entered in 1963. Vatican Council II was just beginning. In 1964, I received the old habit. At the time, we had two choices of work: teacher or nurse. I got busy working as a teacher. I just went with the flow.
As you age, you see wisdom. Our congregation did what the [Vatican] Council Fathers asked us to do: to return to the spirit of our foundress; in the 1960s, we were wearing the widow's dress of the 1650s in France [after the example of our foundress]. We went to a dress that did not make us stand out in the population.
Now we have different options in our work. It's much more amenable to what people's makeup is.
Were your expectations for religious life met?
Absolutely. I belong to a wonderful community. We meet the needs of all people. We do it in a variety of ways. Community life has been wonderful.
What's the most difficult part?
For me, it's not having my own children and grandchildren.
And the best?
I love my relationship with the Lord. I believe in my heart I have followed the path He has called me to. It gives me great satisfaction.
What do you do for fun?
I have a lot of friends. I like movies. I did some golfing for a while. I follow the University of Syracuse Orangemen teams. I like to travel.
What would you want others to know about the life of a sister?
It's a very happy life. Every life is what you make it. Not everyone is absolutely happy. We all have our ups and downs. Overall, it is spiritually fulfilling. I would do it all over again.
Those on the outside think it's a lonely life. There are a lot of married people who are lonely, too. I just don't feel it that way.
It hurts me that our numbers are declining. But long-term commitment is not a value in people's life. It mitigates against people making this choice.
During the "Year for Priests," which just concluded, The Evangelist published Q&A interviews with not just priests, but women religious, brothers, deacons and laity. These will continue.