Educators for Peace

SSND CHARISM: Is it Really a Match?

By Catherine (Missy) Gugerty, SSND

Sister Missy Gugerty, SSND (Left) smiles at college student preparing sandwiches for homeless as Director of Christopher Place, Baltimore, Maryland.
Missy Gugerty, SSND (left) smiles at college student preparing sandwiches for homeless

I am a product of SSND education – grade school, high school, and college. Once I succumbed to God, it never occurred to me to consider entering any other order! Much to my surprise, however, in the midst of the entering process, I met other women who were, as they put it, “shopping around.” Still, I wasn’t fazed; entering SSND just made sense to me!

Friends and family didn’t challenge me or even seem too surprised; the challenge came in 1985 during my novitiate. My novitiate group participated in an inter-community novitiate program with novices from six other men and women’s religious communities. We met weekly. Several weeks into the program, a Daughter of Charity novice approached me. Bluntly she asked, “Why aren’t you a Daughter – you seem to have such a commitment to and love for persons who are materially poor? I always thought the SSNDs were all about education.” In the weeks following the “confrontation” she gave me all sorts of reading material, mostly on St. Vincent de Paul. I was already an admirer of his: I read everything she gave me! My admiration for Vincent, especially his work grew. Periodically, I pondered why hadn’t I been led to the “Daughters:” still, SSND seemed right!

In the summer of 1987, I returned to the Baltimore Province , took first vows and became Director of Christopher Place, a twenty-four-hour emergency and transitional shelter program for men. It was located a stone’s throw from the Institute of Notre Dame on Asquith Street – Mother Theresa’s old neighborhood and one of the reasons I accepted the position! My focus and joy continued to be direct service.

That same year our provincial assembly decided that we as a province should “Make the Concerns of the Poor our Own.” And my choice of SSND was affirmed. Two years later, the General Chapter adopted a similar theme. Again, I felt affirmed. At the shelter, I began working very closely with college students. I loved their interest, their questions, and their energy. Together, we developed programs to help educate their peers about poverty and homelessness.

Upon leaving the shelter I was approached by the director of community service at the college from which the students came. “We need you to keep working with the students. In fact, we need you to help educate the whole campus community on the issues of poverty and homelessness.”

In 1992, I went to work, “for just a few years” in the Center for Values and Service at Loyola College in Baltimore. It’s 2006, and I’m still working in the Center at Loyola College. I can hardly believe how it has all come together – my call to be concerned about/with persons who are materially poor, my work as an educator and my certainty that I am indeed in the right community!

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