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September 7, 2018, Tucson, Arizona – Sister Charlotte Anne Swift, OP, has been ministering for years in a position that “was never anything I would have thought of doing, nothing that was anywhere near my radar.” She is serving as administrative assistant to Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, until recently Bishop of the Diocese of Tucson and currently Bishop Emeritus.
During Bishop Kicanas’ years as Bishop of Tucson, Sister Charlotte kept his calendar, in particular scheduling confirmations across the 43,000-square mile diocese; scheduled his travel and booked his flights; worked with his email; kept up his correspondence; and served as the bishop’s liaison to the Diocesan Pastoral Council. “It’s been a very busy 16 years,” Sister Charlotte said, noting that this past April, 2018, marked 16 years that she has worked for Bishop Kicanas. In total, in her 60 years of religious life, she has served in Tucson for 43 years in three ministries, as of August 2018.
Now that he’s Bishop Emeritus – he doesn’t use the word “retired,” she said – Bishop Kicanas still conducts missions and retreats, travels for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), chairs the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), and serves on committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“He’s requested many, many times for different talks and convocations,” Sister Charlotte said. “He’s in demand even now. The only thing he gave up was the administration of the diocese, which is huge.”
Sister Charlotte speaks highly of Bishop Kicanas and of her ministry as his administrative assistant. Bishop Kicanas is “a wonderful pastoral leader,” she said. “He is very pastoral and the people love him. He is so considerate and kind to us in the process of getting the work done.”
While her work isn’t stressful, Sister Charlotte said, it can at times be intense because of deadlines or travel. But her ministry calls on her to be mindful of how she treats people. “When you’re the one who answers the phone, no matter how you feel that day, you have to be the welcoming voice in that bishop’s office,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how you feel. Sometimes you have to be really patient. I feel I’ve been able to help people who might have been upset. You represent [the bishop] at that moment.”
Sister Charlotte also focuses on being as pleasant as possible with people who come to Bishop Kicanas for appointments or bring a concern to him. “You try to be gracious regardless of what they’re coming in for,” she said. “They come in concerned about something, so you try to be patient and greet them in a pleasant, happy way. You try to be as supportive as you can in every situation.”
Confidentiality is also a key factor in her ministry. “You have to understand the confidentiality level of what you’re doing, and hopefully you bring your own prudence and judgment to that position,” she explained. “There’s a lot of confidentiality in correspondence and phone messages.”
While serving in a diocesan setting was new for Sister Charlotte when she first worked for Bishop Kicanas, administration is not. After teaching at Loretto Catholic School in Douglas, Arizona, in the Diocese of Tucson, for five years, she served in various ministries in California and Arizona before returning to Tucson in 1975 to minister as Principal of Santa Cruz School in until 1986. She then served for 15 years for Project YES (Youth Enrichment and Support), a youth center in an underserved area of Tucson.
“We started out with just after-school tutoring program to help keep the kids off the streets and safe from drugs,” Sister Charlotte explained. “Eventually we went into the teen program and the Parent to Parent program, which gives parents the tools they need to raise their children effectively, safe from gangs and drugs.” Sister Charlotte served first as staff member and then eventually became the Executive Director after the resignation of her predecessor.
Sister Charlotte’s long-time presence and service in Tucson were not lost on the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Tucson, which in February presented her with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award for education and community service for the various ways that she served the community. The award is presented to those who have “demonstrated a history of dedicated service, support and leadership within the Diocese of Tucson Catholic Schools.”
In turn, Sister Charlotte is quick to point out the benefits of living and serving in Tucson. “Tucson is very good for body, mind, and spirit,” she said. “It’s a beautiful city, close to the desert community.” She said she has enjoyed her years of ministry in the Tucson area and is happy to continue serving Bishop Kicanas. “It is a privilege, a gift, and a challenge to be working in the diocese,” she said.
May 10, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Sunday afternoons and classical concerts seem to go together so well – and thanks to Sister Magdalena Ezoe, OP, the Sisters at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse enjoy this beautiful and uplifting combination once every month.
Since 2011, Sister Magdalena has offered a concert in St. Catherine Chapel at 1:30 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month – with the exception of April 2018, when she “let Easter and April Fool’s Day take precedence” and rescheduled her concert for Sunday, April 8.
The idea for the First Sunday concert series grew out of Sister Magdalena’s more than 30 years as Professor of Music at Siena Heights University in Adrian. “At Siena I offered the First Sunday series from 1985 to 1995,” she recalled. Her concerts involved samples of classical works, which she used to teach a lesson about music. “One student asked why I never played the entire piece,” she recalled. “He inspired me to do a complete concert.”
She began the monthly program at the Motherhouse with a series called “Do you Hear What I Hear,” offered from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Fridays. “I started teaching the Sisters on campus,” she said. “Music is a structure,” which tells the musician the tempo, how loudly or softly to play, as well as the notes to be played, Sister Magdalena explained. In that series, she taught musical concepts such as two-part music, in which one theme, A, is contrasted with another theme, B. “When A is repeated, you call it three-part form,” she explained. “Very satisfying because when A is repeated, people recognize that they have heard it before.”
Sister Magdalena hopes her current concert series will help the Sisters to appreciate and enjoy classical music. “American culture doesn’t know classical music,” she said. People need to hear a particular musical piece often before they can even judge whether they like it, she explained. “You can’t tell until you’ve heard it several times. The reason people like Beethoven’s work is that people hear it so often.”
Her concert ministry involves more than showing up at the chapel at 1:30 p.m. on the first Sundays of the month. Sister Magdalena selects the music and theme for each concert and devotes hours to practicing for it.
Sister Magdalena grew up in her native Japan during World War II, enduring the bombs and other hardships of life during war. As a child, she was surrounded by music in a musical family; one uncle ran a music conservatory, and Sister Magdalena herself was a pianist for the Yoyogi American School in Japan.
Sister Magdalena also inherited from her family a love for travel. Her grandfather, Ezoe Renzo, used his English skills in 1876 to serve as the interpreter for a Japanese porcelain company taking part in the Philadelphia Expo. He returned to the United States to study commerce in New York, and in 1908 sent his son, Sister Magdalena’s father, to a military school in Manlius, New York, near Syracuse.
Sister Magdalena in turn traveled to Miami, Florida, at the age of 20, to study at Barry College, now University, sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “A year later, I took the next step in my adventure and entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation,” she said.
As an Adrian Dominican Sister, she taught music for 11 years at Dominican High School in Detroit and for a short time at St. Dominic College in St. Charles, Illinois. Her next stop was Siena Heights, where she taught for 37 years.
Through the years, Sister Magdalena has also composed Mass parts, responsorial psalms, and hymns, as well as chamber music and music for the organ and the piano.
Sister Magdalena’s talents as a musician and a composer have not gone unnoticed. In 2012, the Dominican Institute for the Arts bestowed on her the Fra Angelico Award for her gifts as a musician and composer. The highest honor that the DIA can bestow on a member, the award is named for the great Dominican artist.
Sister Magdalena’s hope for her current ministry is that the Sisters will continue to enjoy and appreciate the music that she offers them on the First Sundays of each month.
March 8, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – As an Adrian Dominican Sister, Sister Sarajane Seaver, OP, was involved in typical ministry, teaching as an elementary and junior high school teacher in Michigan and California. But she later found her identity as an artist and a weaver – creating prayer shawls and other items that have brought beauty and joy to other people’s lives.
The youngest of four children of Glenn and Helen (Springer) Seaver, Sarajane was born in Adrian but later moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan. There, she was taught by the Adrian Dominican Sisters for 12 years at St. John the Baptist School and was personally inspired by them.
Woven into Sister Sarajane’s life were health issues that could have been obstacles but only made her stronger. “I was sick a lot as a first grader, and Sister Victoria used to stay after school to help me catch up,” she recalled. “I always said I wanted to be like Sister Victoria when I grew up.”
Sister Sarajane also struggled with polio as a child. When she and her siblings went to get the first of three polio vaccines, Sister Sarajane she couldn’t receive it because she had a cold. After finally receiving the innoculation, she and two other children contracted the disease.
“I left the hospital in braces and cuff crutches,” Sister Sarajane said. “I decided I was not going to live my life like that.” Inspired by a picture of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, she daily practiced walking on crutches without the braces. At her eighth-grade graduation, she turned her crutches over to her brother and walked without them.
But medical issues were not all that was woven into Sister Sarajane’s life – so was art. “Even as a kid I used to embroider,” she said. She started with store-bought squares that featured nursery rhymes and embellished them. By the time she had embroidered about 100 squares, she decided to make a quilt with her mother’s help.
She returned to art after serving as pastoral associate at St. Joseph Parish in Winslow, Arizona. While serving from 1984 to 1987 as Director of Creative Activities at Weber Center, Sister Sarajane discovered three looms in the Motherhouse laundry room and began to work with them. That led her to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in weaving and fiber design at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit and, after her 1993 graduation, spent 10 years as a financial aid officer at CCS.
In those years and beyond, weaving became Sister Sarajane’s vocation. “Being a weaver is not something I do,” she said. “It’s something I am.”
Along with her traditional weaving, Sarajane created a new way to weave prayer shawls, basing their design on the pattern of notes in hymns. “I always felt that weaving looked like written music, so I decided to see if I could weave music,” she explained. As a gift to one of the Congregation’s General Councils, she wove prayer shawls patterned on the music of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
Whether prayer shawls or more traditional weavings, Sister Sarajane’s creations have brought joy to others. In January 2018, Sister Sarajane attended an artist’s reception for “Sisterhood,” an art exhibit based on her works and the jewelry of Sister Rita Schiltz, OP at the Adrian Center for the Arts. In viewing her work, Sister Sarajane said she hopes people “see the gifts of God and the beauty of God.”
Left: These are just a few of the sampling of Sister Sarajane’s creations that were on display during the Sisterhood art exhibit. Right: Sister Sarajane Seaver, OP (left) and Sister Nadine Sheehan, OP, examine one of Sister Sarajane’s hangings at the Sisterhood art exhibit at the Adrian Center for the Arts.