Sister Spotlight: Sister Veronique Wiedower reflects on order’s mission and impact
Julianna McKenna | Friday, September 27, 2019
Editor’s Note: Sister Spotlight is an effort by the Saint Mary’s News Department to shed light on the shared experience of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s College students. We will be sharing the mission and stories of the sisters in an on-going series.
Sister M. Veronique Wiedower, president of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, reflected on the history and mission of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and how this applied to her own vocation.
“Four sisters came here from Le Mans, France, in 1843 and began to work with Fr. Sorin. Their dream was always to start a school for girls, as well as boys,” she said. “In 1844, they founded Saint Mary’s College.”
The Holy Cross mission has always tried to meet the needs of the community and address the issues of the times, Wiedower said.
“We don’t have a specific apostolic ministry. But, in general, the Holy Cross mission believes that as a congregation we need to be attentive to the signs of the times and what is going on in the places we are,” Wiedower said. “Then we can meet the needs of the people as much as we can.”
Now, the sisters work in a variety of different fields, helping to improve the lives of those in need.
“Today, the sisters are doing education, healthcare, social ministries, parish ministries and are helping anybody who has a need,” she said. “So we work with immigration law and women who have been trafficked because those are the issues of today.”
The Sisters of the Holy Cross work on four different continents and provide care and benefits to the people they work with.
“We are in Asia, in the countries of Bangladesh and Northeast India. In Africa, we work in Ghana and Uganda,” she said. “In South America, we’re in Brazil and Peru, and in the United States and Mexico.”
The mission of the Holy Cross resonated early on with Wiedower, and she decided that she wanted to be part of this community.
“When I began to think about my own vocation and in life and decided that religious life might be something that God was calling me to, I looked at religious congregations that had similar values to what I thought was important,” she said. “One of those values was family, and being able to help people and in situations where they were. That’s who I wanted to be, engaged in helping others and doing something that made me happy.”
Wiedower attended Saint Mary’s College and graduated with a degree in music before getting her masters in Theology and teaching religion.
“After I graduated from college, I started out teaching music in high schools, teaching glee club, band [and] pep band for basketball and football games. … Then I was asked to work with seminarians who needed help with music for liturgy,” she said. “So I attended the University of Notre Dame and got my masters in Liturgical Studies and Theology. I got into liturgy planning and religious formation work. That is what I have spent the second part of my career and religious vocation doing.”
Five years ago, Wiedower was elected president of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. She said this has helped her continue to live out her vocation and mission.
“The role of the president is to assist in providing the resources that are needed for our sisters to have spiritual and apostolate vitality to be rooted in their religious life,” she said. “As president, I get to help people to see what are the resources that they need in order to be happy, holy, religious and able to serve God’s people where they find themselves in whatever situations that might be.”
Wiedower believes her education at Saint Mary’s helped prepare her for her vocation in many different ways, and that this applies to all students in this community.
“Saint Mary’s College also prepares you for life. I think it prepares you to look at situations to think critically, to make good decisions, to take risks in terms of looking at something new in your life,” she said. “When I was elected into leadership, it wasn’t something that I had done before. But I think that life in the congregation, the mentoring and support I received throughout my life and my education prepared me to say ‘I think I can do this.’”
Wiedower hopes giving the sisters a platform to connect with the students will allow both groups of the community to grow with each other.
“The hardest thing is that students don’t always see the sisters as people like [them],” she said. “I hope that this series can help students learn more about the sisters and what we’re doing around the world, things that they’re involved in. I hope that they can learn to see us as women who can inspire them, but also know that we too are inspired by the students. I hope both groups can see this relationship as a mutual accompaniment of each other on this journey of life.”