Sister Profile: S. Roberta Houlihan

Sister Roberta Houlihan

What was your motivation/inspiration in entering the CSJ community?
I wanted to become like the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught me at St. Cecilia’s Grade School and the Academy of Our Lady in Peoria, Illinois. After graduating, I entered Carondelet on September 15, 1944.

What is your favorite ministry you have served or been involved with?
I’ve loved each of my ministries, and have felt each was where God wanted me to be. Everyone was my favorite during my years assigned there. That was true for each change, as I moved from elementary to secondary teaching to high school counseling to social work. That includes the three years I lived with my parents until my dad was called home to God. I spent 28 years in counseling and enjoyed being with the teenagers as they struggled to find themselves. Most recently, I paid the bills and took care of home repairs at our home in Peoria, then was involved in selling and closing our house there before moving the Nazareth Living Center two years ago. It was challenging, but I enjoyed learning to handle a variety of tasks, with help from the Carondelet staff. After moving to Nazareth, I intended to minister to other residents in any way I could. Little did I know what God had planned! I had need of heart valve surgery which led to the amputation of my right leg. I am now living in McGovern, among the very persons I had hoped to serve most. God does amazing things! And, yes, you guessed it! This is now my favorite ministry!

Who do you look up to and why?
There are so many persons I look up to! Many of them are persons who have the ability to help me verbalize my deeper thoughts. I’m on the introvert/extrovert border, according to Myers-Briggs! Some of those whom I look up to are my brother, Bob Houlihan, SJ, and Sisters Mary Emma Gilfoy, Thomas Marie McMahon and Concordia Hennessy, to name a few. God also continues to give me “angels” who are living influences in my life. I am constantly receiving messages of God’s love through them.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
I’ve been reminded by more than one person never to forget that God lives within me. Because of this, I never feel alone. That’s the reason that I remain so content, whether I’m alone or in a group.

What do you find most interesting or intriguing about the work you’ve done with the dear neighbor?
During the four years I worked in Peoria’s Catholic Social Services, I was intrigued by the many assignments I received, and learned much from them. They included working to find adoptive homes for “hard-to-place” children and making follow-up visits to their new family homes. Meeting “walk-ins” at our center gave me a close glimpse of “street people” with a variety of needs and put me in contact with St. Vincent de Paul Store personnel who supplied everything from clothing to furniture, when a family had a house fire. These assignments gave me opportunities to interact with social workers from other agencies, too.

If you could address all of the people in the world, what would you say?
Always remember: all things happen in God’s way, in God’s time and on God’s terms! God loves us! All of us!

What was your favorite subject in school?
During elementary and high school, my favorite subject was math. When I entered Carondelet and we took philosophy courses at Fontbonne from Father Leo, OFM, I really enjoyed what we were learning. So I chose it for my major. After several semesters of study Fontbonne’s dean called me to her office. She asked me if I knew that the only place where I could be a philosophy teacher was on the college level. This gave me reason to reconsider, and I switched my major to math! I earned my bachelor’s degree from Fontbonne in 1958. But I wasn’t finished yet! While taking some required “new math” courses at the University of Notre Dame, I received a letter from our community requesting any sister interested in a counseling degree to respond right away. I had never thought of this, but it appealed to me! So I changed my major and earned my master’s degree from Notre Dame in the summer of 1966. Yes, counseling became my “favorite” in a short time!

Where have you traveled? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Most of my travel experience has been in the United States, except for a two-week tour to Ireland when my brother, Bill, and his wife conducted summer tours there. Traveling here in the States, other than to and from my assigned ministries, included my 13 summer trips to make my directed retreats at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado, plus short visits to California and North Carolina for family visits. As to the second question, if I could live anywhere, it would be right here at Nazareth Living Center, where I am, and doing what I am doing. God has given me the best place of retirement among my sisters and the dear neighbor. I am very grateful.

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