And Sister Karen Freund is often there when it does!
Sister Karen’s life of ministry has come full circle. The Dominican Sister of Springfield, Ill., ministers at St. Thomas More Newman Center Parish at the University of Missouri in Columbia. The first half of her religious life was spent teaching elementary and high school students. Then she became a bit of a spiritual guru—a guide—for young women who joined the Dominican Sisters of Springfield then in rural parishes in Wisconsin and Kentucky. Now at “Mizzou” she shares a blend of the gifts she possesses for teaching and guiding the spiritual development of others.
Sister Karen names as grace this ability to recognize the presence of God in the circumstances life. Mizzou student Michael Presberg testified to her impact. Referring to a lecture on the Dominican mystic Catherine of Siena Sister Karen gave in his medieval studies class he said “She helped me to see and appreciate Catherine’s courage, her ability to read the signs of her time, and how, with great charity, she could confront the institutional excesses of the 14th century church.”
Sister Karen not only teaches about reading the signs of the times, she engages in the process herself. Last fall race-motivated aggression and long-standing institutionalized racism on the campus were peacefully and successfully confronted by a Black student organizing group called Concerned Student 1950. Threats followed, creating tension on campus. Sister Karen and the campus ministry staff used this opportunity to talk with their mostly white students about the racism and racial oppression that are often a part of the lives students of color on the campus.
“This gave students an opportunity to examine their own feelings,” Sister Karen said. “We helped them examine their attitudes toward people of color: Where do these attitudes come from? How do they influence our responses? These are some of the questions we raised with the students. A lot of the students were confused and overwhelmed and sad. Some were angry and some were hopeful. The common grace was a desire to apply their Christian values to their everyday lives.”
During National Catholic Sisters Week we celebrate our Sister, Karen, whose desire to find grace wherever she looks is an inspiration to all of us.