BY KATHLEEN BELINGA | SPECIAL TO THE MISCELLANY
COLUMBIA—1955, a vague yearning for something more seized 17-year-old Nancy Hendershot
of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She knew she wanted to be closer to God, but at her family’s request she obtained her college degree before entering religious life.
In 1962, after three years of teaching, she entered a community of other seekers: the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine.
Sister Nancy celebrates her 50th jubilee this year. The list of institutions she has served is dizzying. Having retired as Providence Hospitals vice president of mission and ministry (2002-2011), this beaming, intense 73-year-old continues as the congregation’s sister representative.
She can be seen walking the hospital halls, greeting all with a smile, exuding a presence that reminds them of CSA’s founding motivation and continued support despite her being the only resident member of her congregation.
In addition to Providence, she’s also the representative at Sisters of Charity Foundation of SC, Healthy Learners, and the SC Center for Fathers and Families. She has ministered in Ohio as an elementary teacher, school guidance counselor, parish pastoral minister, co-director of the Lay Ministry Office of the Diocese of Cleveland, member of the leadership team and CSA Congregational Leader.
Additionally, she served in formation roles and as director of CSA Associates and on boards of trustees. She is a certified Stephen Ministry leader and parish pastoral minister.
This retreat and prayer group facilitator received the Tribute to Women and Industry Award from the YWCA of the Midlands in May 2006 and currently serves on the board of trustees for Birthright of Columbia, the advisory board for St. Martin de Porres School, as co-chair of Women of Faith Interreligious Group in Columbia and Sisters Advisory Board for the Collaborative Ministry Initiative of the Sisters of Charity Foundation.
Over the past half century, Sister Nancy has discovered a thread not apparent when she fi rst responded to something deep in her being and entered religious life.
“That call impelled me, out of love for God, to trust and to serve,” she said. “Eventually, I saw that helping people to know their gifts and to claim them, to use them for His service was a common thread in my life. It has been lived out within my religious vocation, but everyone has some type of vocation. We are all called, formed and sent.”
The role of community in her journey has been life-giving.
“My energy comes from their support, seeing theirs and others needs, being held accountable by them,” she said. “This is harmonized by daily attentiveness in prayer.” Friends describe her as hugely capable, multi-talented, loquacious, full of psychic energy, and always ready to serve, with a true interest in each individual.
Looking back on a life given to God, Sister Nancy perceives a gradual growth of gratitude and humility as age leads her to be more reflective, less active and more receptive.
A ministry of being with others is deepening as she sees the Lord putting people who need attentive listening in her path.
To glimpse the life of jubilarian Sister Nancy Hendershot is to join her own summing up by saying, “To God be the glory.”