Sister Colleen Waterman celebrates golden jubilee

CHARLESTON — Sister Colleen Waterman, a Franciscan Sister of the Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes, celebrated her 50th Jubilee at her motherhouse in Rochester, Minn., on June 21.

She was one of eight Franciscans who marked their golden jubilee, and each one had 25 guests in attendance. It was a large, festive gathering, Sister Colleen said.

“Everybody is so happy for us,” she said. “It makes you realize how special and blessed we are to still be here doing God’s work.”

Sister Colleen is the director of Echo House in North Charleston, which provides meals, fellowship and activities for senior citizens and meets other needs of the community. She has served in the Diocese of Charleston for 40 of her 50 years and has earned the love and admiration of all. Some of her more ardent supporters refer to her as their own Mother Teresa.  

Dominican Sister Pat Keating, director of Neighborhood House, said Our Lady of Mercy parish is hoping to host a local celebration for Sister Colleen in September, at the request of many friends who could not attend the Rochester event.

One of the highlights of the jubilee for Sister Colleen was the liturgy. She said her order worked on the theme — We are companions on the journey, breaking bread and sharing life — for a year, and based all the music and prayers of the faithful on it.

“We had a marvelous liturgy,” Sister Colleen said. “The liturgy was the real climax of the jubilee.”

On a personal note, she said the presence of her mother was extremely special. Evelyn Waterman, who turned 93 on Aug. 1, is the only living mother among the jubilarians.

Sister Colleen said she believes the celebrations are important because it shines a light on religious life and the people who are dedicated to it.

“I think it’s important that people are aware that there are persons in the world that are committed to the religious life for such an extended period of time,” she said.

It obviously isn’t easy. Sister Colleen said there were 75 women in her novitiate, but when she took her first vows, only 25 remained.

Over the years, some left the order and some went home to God. At the jubilee, the eight remaining sisters renewed their vows and remembered their deceased members.

Sister Colleen said Father Giles Schinelli, of the Third Order Regular Franciscans, celebrated Mass and delivered the homily. A reception with music and food was held afterward the Franciscans’ motherhouse.

“It just reiterates to me the awesomeness of having spent 50 years as a Franciscan; 40 of those years here in Charleston, working with the poor,” she said.

Sister Colleen, formerly known as Sister Mary Darcy, entered the congregation from her home parish, St. Francis of Assisi in Rockwell City, Iowa, and took her first vows in 1958.

She graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing in Rochester, and attended the College of St. Teresa in Winona, Minn. She received a nursing degree from Marquette University in Wisconsin.

After spending 10 years as head nurse and other supervisory roles at St. Mary’s Hospital, Sister Colleen moved to the Diocese of Charleston to work with Echo House. Here, she was able to put her public health nursing skills to work, and served as a tutor and AIDS volunteer.

Some of her heartfelt issues are discrimination, abortion, capital punishment and nuclear waste, and Sister Colleen often participated in protests and marches against them.

She has been recognized repeatedly for her superior service to community and received numerous awards and honors, the most recent and deserved being the Papal Honor: Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross in December 2007 for her service to the poor.