Sister Joyce (John Paul) Ballweg celebrating her 50th Jubilee (2015)
What first drew you to the Racine Dominican community?
It is hard telling what “first” drew me to the Racine Dominican community. Looking back I can think of several drawing points that brought me to the doorstep of 1209 Park Avenue, Convent of St. Catherine of Siena in Racine, WI. The first
drawing point was the fact that Sister Agnes Ballweg, my aunt, was a member of the community. Every time she came home to visit family she was always so happy. So I thought to myself “being a nun can’t be that bad, plus I could be a teacher.” The second factor that fascinated me was watch- ing the Aspirants file into Church for Sunday Mass during the summer. Their singing, praying and presence was inspiring and impressive. Every summer when I was growing up as many as 25
Aspirants came to St. Norbert’s in Roxbury for summer school so they could complete their high school studies in 3 years rather than 4 years and graduate. The third feature that drew me to the community was the invitation. I was invited to consider entering the convent!
Enticing invitations came from my eight grade teacher, Sister Mary Hanauske, from a girl- friend’s sister, and another from Sister Grace Marie Kraft, the freshman and sophomore’s Aspirant Mistress. The fourth alluring point was the stunningly beautiful white habit and the dangling fifteen-decade rosary which mysteriously captivated me…and yes, I proudly wore the Dominican habit for five years.
What has kept you in the community all these years?
In answering this question, I can’t refrain from quoting one of Peter’s responses to Jesus. When Jesus asked the question “do you also want to leave?” Peter said “…to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68) And so I say “to whom or where shall I go, if I leave the community?” The Racine Dominican community has formed me into being who I am; and I, in return, have helped form who we are as Racine Dominicans today!
Living in the world, the church and in community during the 60’s and early 70’s was an exhilarating roller-coaster ride!
We lived in a topsy-turvy world. The Viet Nam War, Selma March, four killed during the Kent University demonstration, the Hippy era are just a few events that changed the pace and face of our society.
Working in and for the church was so exciting. The impact of Vatican II – the implementation of the new documents was both challenging and life-giving.
There were tremendous changes in the way we lived community life. New forms of community prayer, not being appointed to our place of ministry—we needed to apply for our “jobs”, and the transition from wearing the habit to wearing secular clothing. (mini-skirts were the style! Sisters with “no legs” to sisters with lots of leg!) To top off these years, we had an “exodus” experience. Sisters who made final vows and were in the community for a number of years, as well as newly professed sisters were asking to be dispensed from their vows and left the order. This was a heart-breaking scene for me since these women who lived in community for so long were making their choice to leave, as I was making my choice, my commitment, my vows to God to remain in the community.
What was one particularly cherished memory of your years in ministry?
I cherish the reality of being able to develop and use my gifts and talents to minister to the People of God and to serve one another.
Seventy-0ne years ago, God gifted me with life and at my baptism called me by name. Fifty years ago, I vowed to God to live my life as a Racine Do- minican sister in the convent of St. Catherine of Siena. Over the years, my God-given gifts and talents have continued to grow, develop and expand beyond my expectations! My creativity, positivity, joyfulness, faith, optimism, hopefulness, ability to offer hospitality and prayer shaped me in becoming the person whom I am. I excelled and, for the most part, enjoyed every minute of the various ministries I was called to fulfill. Whether, I was a student, teacher, principal, pastoral associate, coordinator, community leader, an administrator or volunteer, I gave it my all as I acted with justice, loved tenderly, and walked humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)