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Published: Sunday, 1/9/2005

Nuns have play time, too

BY RHONDA B. SEWELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sister Charlotte Rita cans grape juice, pickles, and peaches at the St. Ursula Academy Convent. Sister Charlotte Rita cans grape juice, pickles, and peaches at the St. Ursula Academy Convent.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

They've dedicated their lives to their faith and works of charity. But these same women who have been sincere and reverent members of the Church also roller blade, perform tai chi and modern dance, and fish.

"We're an exciting group," says Sister Kathleen Padden of the Ursuline order, who is celebrating her 55-year anniversary as a nun.

Many nuns have a visible and active life in the church, schools, and communities they serve, but most of us know little about their hobbies and interests.

We discovered that in the Toledo area, the stereotype of cloistered nuns in secluded convents who are rarely seen by the public is an outdated notion. Nuns wanna have fun and are engaged in a wide range of pursuits.

"From fishing, making cards, and collecting stamps, there's a wide variety of hobbies. We have lots of talent in this house," says Sister Mary Molyet of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Take Sister M. Valerie Schneider, 54, who in warmer months might whiz past you decked out in knee and elbow pads.

"I've always enjoyed roller skates, but as times change, roller rinks aren't around as much. So, on my 25th jubilee of being a Sister in 1995, I received roller blades from my brother," said Sister Valerie of the Sisters of Notre Dame, who enjoys roller blading around the order's provincial center.

Sister M. Valerie Schneider skates at the Ottawa Park rink. Sister M. Valerie Schneider skates at the Ottawa Park rink.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

She especially enjoys ice skating, and when she finds the time she goes to Ottawa Park for a few spins around the rink.

Last August on her birthday, Sister Valerie said she suffered a bad fall in Whitehouse, Ohio, when she broke her arm attempting to manage a rapid incline on her blades.

"That doesn't stop me, but I'm more careful. I play organ, but I'm very careful not to roller blade just before Easter or Christmas," she says laughing, adding that her organ-playing requests are high during these celebratory seasons.

Sister Karen Zielinski, 51, who is a writer and birdwatcher, said many of her sister friends are active, from playing the cello to watercolor artistry.

"There's a wide range of us of different ages and so many of us have different hobbies and are very skilled," said Sister Karen of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes in Sylvania. She also enjoys taking care of her rescue dog, Ozzy.

Other nuns throughout the region have taken up similarly interesting hobbies. Some of our discoveries:

Sister Joy Finfera, of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, in Adrian, Mich., creates handmade cards.

Notre Dame Sister Mary Regeen Ulrich's hobby is fishing.

And Sister Evelyn Craig, who is head of membership for the Immaculate Heart of Mary Order, in Monroe, Mich., is a tai chi practitioner.

Ursuline Sister Charlotte Rita enjoys canning peaches and other foods, and Sister Mary Jane Cosentino, a biology teacher at St. Ursula Academy, collects stamps and enjoys growing African violets.

Sister Helen Foos in her sewing room at the St. Ursula Academy Convent. She has made pillows, tote bags, and other items to sell at parish benefits. Sister Helen Foos in her sewing room at the St. Ursula Academy Convent. She has made pillows, tote bags, and other items to sell at parish benefits.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

Ursuline Sister Helen Foos, 83, who makes beautiful pillows, purses, and even potato pockets for microwaving, said sisters take up such hobbies for a variety of reasons.

"It was my [biological] sister, who is quite a seamstress, that taught me to sew and make things some 30 years ago. She didn't want me to be bored when I retired," said Sister Helen, who joined her order in 1941.

Sister Helen doesn't have time to be bored. She has turned her hobby to profit, making some 2,000 pillows, purses, and tote bags to sell at parish bazaars to raise money for the order.

The ice skating and roller blading Sister Valerie sums up best why these sisters so enjoy their diverse personal interests.

"It's the freedom of pure enjoyment," she says of her skating hobby. "It's the combination of the wind going through your hair and doing something really neat," she says.

Contact Rhonda B. Sewell at: rsewell@theblade.com or 419-724-6101.



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