Sister Marietta Hanus

Sister Marietta HanusWhen I was recently reminded that I would be a 75-year Jubilarian this year, I could hardly take it in. With a wide-eyed look of disbelief, I responded: “Really?”  And then I was invited to ponder a question: “Looking back on your 75 years as a School Sister of St. Francis, for which of God’s many blessings are you especially grateful?” That’s a big question for a one-page response!

All of my life has been blessing upon blessing in keeping with my baptismal name, Beatrice, meaning “blessed” or “to be a blessing.”  But, perhaps the biggest blessing, as I look back, is the realization that God has always been at work in my life, preparing the way forward for me.

My parents wanted me to enter a Czech-speaking community in Nebraska, but Sister Sidora had already invited me to the School Sisters of St. Francis.  The very evening of the day she invited me, Sister Sidora died, but her invitation stayed alive in my heart.

After entering the congregation, I was trained as a teacher-organist and high school Latin and math teacher. My early mission experiences took me to Mississippi, Illinois, and Nebraska.  Along the way, I began to study Spanish. Then, unexpectedly, I was called to Milwaukee for training to be a novice director.  In the midst of that study, I was called to discern for election to congregational leadership!  Each of these latter callings shook me to the core. Like Mary, bewildered, I seriously questioned: “How can this be?”  But God was at work in my life.

Having 10 years of experience on the international leadership team turned out to be a profound blessing because it opened me to the life of our congregation outside of the United States, both in Europe and in Central America.  The experience of visiting our sisters in Latin America, especially in Honduras and Guatemala, led me to my own graced experiences of mission in places where the Church was taking seriously its option for the poor in the face of persecution and death.

After completing a program in San Antonio, Texas, to prepare me for mission work in Central America, I went first to Olancho, Honduras to accompany Sister Ruth Vasen. Then, in 198o, I was invited to Los Amates in Izabal, Guatemala, to support the work of formation of rural women for religious life and to help with the ongoing formation of catechists as faith leaders in the 72 villages of the parish.

I could not have known that the new and promising mission in Los Amates would be dealt a mortal blow following the cold-blooded murder of our pastor, Tulio Marruzo, OFM. For the protection of the young women and the four of us sisters, it was necessary to abandon the mission – a heart-rending decision. But God was at work in that departure, such that we would be safely reunited in Guatemala City a year or so later to continue the work of formation and the opening of new missions with and among God’s people, including widows and children left orphaned by the war. Good Friday gave way to new life and new beginnings.

With heartfelt gratitude on my 75th Jubilee, I share these cherished memories of God at work in my life—blessing upon blessing.  “For all that has been – Thanks! For all that will be – Yes!”

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