Before becoming a School Sister of St. Francis, Sister Connie Taylor almost became a Lutheran deaconess. She has ministered with people with great physical challenges and counseled children who had experienced the tragic loss of a loved one. She surrendered her Lutheran background to become a Catholic. These have been some of the transformational realities in Sister Connie’s life.
From her time at Sacred Heart Rehab Hospital where she worked as a nurse, Connie’s experience of being part of a team whose focus was healing filled her life with meaning. The team cared for one another and that naturally overflowed to their clients.
While preparing to become a deaconess, another candidate had a friend in the School Sisters of St. Francis who lived at St. Joseph Convent. She and Connie would visit this sister (who baked very good cookies) and the community each week. They were invited to daily Evening Prayer. So, after work at Sacred Heart, they would come to pray with the community at St. Joseph Convent. Connie grew to love these joyful women.
Connie’s call to religious life and to community continued to be strong. After she left the deaconess program, Connie talked about how she might respond to the call she felt with her friend Sister Gisella of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida. She advised Connie to wait and see how God was leading her.
Father Alex, the Capuchin pastor at St. Benedict the Moor Parish, was a significant person on her journey to becoming a Catholic and of what it means to be a Franciscan. The community at St. Ben’s worshipped meaningfully and addressed the needs of the poor that surrounded them.
Sister Connie graduated from Alverno College in 1979. While working at Sacred Heart, she continued her formation, which led to being received into the School Sisters of St. Francis in 1982.
Even as a child, Connie knew she wanted to become a nurse. Healing is a life theme of hers, and it culminated in the creation of My Good Mourning Place, which she started in 2001 at the former Blessed Sacrament Convent in Milwaukee.
“I learned a lot from our kids,” Connie said. “One important ability I learned was to apologize, in one instance, to an eight-year-old, who then apologized to me, adding, ‘We both need to try harder.’ “
Sister Connie credits Sister Arlene Einwalter, deceased Sister Jane McKenzie, and deceased Associate Mike Angeli and who helped her establish this center for children, and eventually also for their adult guardian/parent who accompanied them. Volunteers generously helped to make this weekly event work: dinner makers (and bakers), counselors, teachers and guides in artistic expression and others formed a caring team. Connie established a board, who shared the vision and philosophy of this worthy endeavor. She made this service known to children through letters and personal contacts in schools within a 25-mile radius of Blessed Sacrament. During these years, she earned a second master’s degree in counseling and thanatology.
From early in Connie’s religious life, she was a part of the Sisters’ Schola at St Joseph Chapel. She later joined the Chapel Singers and found great joy in the music and the music-making of this group. Today she is both a Chapel Singer and a cantor at Sunday Mass and feast days in the Chapel.
When asked about inviting younger women to consider religious life, Sister Connie talked about “Nuns and Nones” as a model of exploring religious life without making a life commitment. Living with a religious community and experiencing community life may offer what young people are seeking.
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