Sister Michaeline Healy will celebrate her 50 year jubilee on July 1
By Diana Hammell
The Caledonia community will celebrate with Sister Michaeline Healy on her 50th jubilee on July 1. Her reach is beyond religion: People of all faiths want to claim Sr. Michaeline as their friend.
Sister Michaeline, the daughter of the late Frank and Rita Healy, originally from Schaller, Iowa, and later from Blythe, Calif., is a Sister of the Presentation out of Dubuque, Iowa. The religious community that would become the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in Cork, Ireland, by Honora “Nano” Nagle, on Christmas Eve, 1775. The Dubuque Presentation foundation was established in 1875 when Mother Vincent Hennessy left the Presentation convent in Mooncoin, Ireland, with three young women, to teach the immigrant children of Iowa.
Today, Dubuque Presentations are involved in educational and pastoral ministries and service. Sisters from the Dubuque Presentations minister in urban and rural areas in the United States and in O’Connor Province of Tarija, Bolivia. The larger community of Sisters of the Presentation serve in every corner of the world.
Sister Michaeline has been at St. Mary’s in Caledonia since 1997 and has become a vital part of the church and the lives of its parishioners. She is known for seeing good in everyone, and her calm serenity is a source of great support. She is there, along with Father Greg Leif, to share in parishioners’ greatest joy and support in pain and loss.
Sister Michaeline says that she grew up in a community where Catholics were the minority and so it is natural for her to be with everyone, not just Catholics. Sister Michaeline was one of 11 children and has a twin sister, Mary, who lives in Olewein, Iowa. Eight of her siblings live in California and one lives in Utah.
“Church and service were core to my parents and family life,” said Sister. “Living on a farm near Schaller prepared me well for my ministry today. I learned to appreciate the interconnectedness of nature and that of family farm life. My mother and dad were very involved with parish life and helping and supporting friends and neighbors. They had deep faith and out of that faith came the action of service. Shortly after I entered the convent, my family moved to California where my parents continued to be involved in church and to serve others. Today my family is made up of people of many different ethnic backgrounds which illustrates the gift from our parents to make all welcome.”
She didn’t always plan to join a convent. She was accepted to a college and intended to become a physical education teacher. She graduated from high school in May and by July had decided to enter the community. The rest, as they say, is history.
She earned a B.A. in elementary education and later an MA in Education/Reading from Clark College in Dubuque, Iowa. She taught elementary and junior high school for 27 years in Salix, Iowa, before the school closed. She was asked to stay on in a pastoral ministry position. She accepted the job and received training in hospice and then she went on to get her masters in pastoral studies from the University of Loyola in Chicago. Caledonia was then the lucky community that received the blessing of Sister Michaeline.
“I love Caledonia,” said Sister Michaeline. “It’s natural for me to be in a small rural town.” And, she loves the people of Caledonia. “I have received many blessings in coming to Caledonia,” said Sister. She has is grateful for the people of the Caledonia area. “It has been a gift for me to serve in Caledonia,” she added.
Her ministry at St. Mary’s encompasses many areas. She began a grief group to support families who have lost loved ones. She teaches RCIA classes (Right of Christian Initiation for Adults).
“I’ve seen lots of people from all different faiths,” said Sister. “The joy of this is to see people grow in their faith with God and relationships with others and themselves in the faith community.” She visits parishioners in hospitals, nursing homes and in their homes, and is involved with the liturgy and many parish and community activities and with Generations of Faith (GOF).
GOF is a way St. Mary’s educates children and youth about the basics of the Catholic faith, but is also designed for adults to answer their questions about the Catholic faith, explain religious traditions and help them grow in relationship with God.
Sister is adamant that her work is a collaborative effort. “I am doing the ministry of the pastoral care, but knowing that our parishioners support us with prayer is key. Father Leif and I are in a team with the whole community and parish who are supporting the family.”
She goes on to underline the team effort statement by explaining that the work environment includes the staff at St. Mary’s, Fr. Leif and parishioners.
“My ministry is about ‘being with’ – nothing fancy – just being there and walking with others. It may be being at a ball game, a family gathering or celebration, or just being present with the sick, injured or those grieving. It is walking the journey of life and faith with another,” said Sister.
“Sister Michaeline is the real heart of the parish,” said Fr. Leif, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish. “She works well with people who are ill or grieving and is active in the larger community such as Jean Kjome House in Caledonia and Sunrise Recovery Center in Spring Grove. She’s very effective with helping families to care for the sick and the dying.”
Father Leif adds that Sister could not say an unkind word about anyone.
“She has a love for sports, and especially Warrior sports,” said Fr. Leif. She loves the Twins, but mostly the Cubs, whom she began following during her time at Loyola in Chicago. She follows the sports that her sister Mary’s grandchildren participate in in Olewein. She’s also a Lynx and Timberwolves fan. Fr. Leif calls her a “fan fanatic,” which doesn’t bother her at all. “If you want to get her going, talk about the Iowa Hawkeyes,” said Fr. Leif. “And if you really want to tease her bring up the time the Minnesota Gophers beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in football.”
There will be sports and games at Sister Michaeline’s jubilee celebration on Sunday, July 1. Mass will be at 11 a.m. with lunch served from noon to 2 p.m. in Holy Family Hall. There will be a program at 1:30. “Almost all of my family are coming. It will be a joy to have family, parish and community all together. That’s what I’m most excited about,” said Sister.