Sister Juliana Whitefield celebrates 50 years

GREENVILLE — Sister Juliana Whitefield, a Sister of St. Francis, went back to her roots earlier this month to celebrate what she calls “50 years of Franciscan joy.” Her golden jubilee date is Oct. 2.

The sister was a junior high teacher and principal for 38 years at Catholic schools in and around Buffalo, N.Y., after graduating from Mt. St. Joseph Teaching College there and earning a master’s degree from the nearby Vincentian-run Niagara University.

She came to the Diocese of Charles-ton in 1988 to serve as director of religious education at St. Anthony of Padua parish and as librarian at the school. She spends a lot of time these days in the spiritual care department of St. Francis Hospital, visiting patients and making home visits. She seems to enjoy her ministries too much to think about retiring, but she does have advice for anyone considering a religious vocation.

“To be a sister you have to have both a backbone and a funny bone,” Sister Whitefield said. “You’ve got to be your own person.”

She said that her vocation was clear from the moment she first visited a convent as a youth in Buffalo, but admits that other people have a more difficult job trying to discern what God wants them to do. The secret to making the right decision, she said, is to give it over to God.

“If God calls, he’ll do 99 percent of the work, and you’ll get your benefits if you do it for the love of God,” said the veteran woman religious.

She knows that strategy works because she uses it herself, regularly. Sometimes when her life of poverty and good works becomes burdensome, when things go badly and frustration tries to insinuate its way into her mind, Sister Whitefield counteracts melancholy with the same, simple technique that she has learned over the years.

“When we say the Morning Offering, I just give it all to God. He takes it away,” she said.

But, she said, she is happy because she is doing what she wants to do — helping at St. Anthony School and cheering the sick — and because people have been good to her.

Sister Juliana Whitefield intends to celebrate her golden jubilee in western New York and then return to South Carolina to continue her life of Franciscan joy.