The last nun of Saint-Henri makes “a double farewell”

Sister Carrie Link visits Johnny Kolako, right, and his daughter Carrie shortly after her baptism at St. Henry in Monticello on June 12. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Sister Carrie Link was born in 1941, the same year her order, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, began serving St. Henry Parish in Monticello. Her last official day as Spiritual Director and Director of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults was May 31, but she continued to complete her office work as she prepared to retire after 32 years at the parish. and as the last sister to serve there.

Based at a mother house in Dubuque, Iowa, the order no longer has the numbers needed to send sisters to the parish, she said. “We now have a candidate in our community, but we are an aging community,” she said.

The parish honored the contributions of the sisters, including that of Sister Carrie, after each of the three Masses on June 11 and 12, followed by receptions. Sister Carrie made brief remarks after each Mass and, as a thank you, she gave the parish an icon she wrote of Mary untying knots. Father Patrick Barnes, the pastor, blessed the icon during the 5 p.m. Mass on June 11.

Sister Carrie, 81, said she planned to live at the mother house. An artist by training, she also plans to take icon classes with a local instructor.

Sister Carrie, who has been the parish’s only presenting sister for 25 years, said lay people have been stepping up to fill roles in St. Henry and other parishes for some time. “The laity have their theology degrees and their degrees in Scripture, and have held parish staff positions, and they are equipped to do so,” she said. At St. Henry, for example, she said lay people framed faith formation in the lower classes and served as youth minister, music director, business administrator and administrative staff.

“Especially in faith formation, I would say the sisters who were here years ago really instilled leadership among the congregants,” Sister Carrie said. “And it’s very noticeable here. People are committed and I attribute that to our sisters, who have simply instilled this property in the parish.

The charism of the Presentation Sisters is hospitality, said Sister Carrie. Her role as coordinator of the RICA process lends itself very well to hospitality, she said, “welcoming and meeting people where they are on their journey of faith.” It’s a beautiful way to express hospitality, she says.

In 1941, the parish priest of St. Henry, Father George Van Der Velden, invited the Sisters of the Presentation to the parish to staff his “school of religion,” then housed in the convent the parish priest had purchased, according to a calendar posted on the parish. website.

As many as four Presentation sisters served the ward in the sisters’ early days at St. Henry, Sister Carrie said. When Sister Carrie came to St. Henry, she was one of two sisters. Two more joined them, but of his three roommates, “one went into prison ministry, one moved to CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at Methodist Hospital and one worked at King’s House (retreat center) in buffalo”.

She said the sisters who served before her were primarily involved in faith formation. But in years past, “we usually had a music teacher here,” she said, and a sister she lived with did pastoral ministry.

In her remarks after weekend masses at the parish, Sister Carrie shared what a longtime parishioner told her about living with the sisters years ago. In 1947, when the parishioner was in fourth grade, her family moved from Big Lake to Monticello. When she asked her mother why the family was moving, her mother said “they have the Presentation sisters there, and they teach religion and piano.” At that time, the sisters were the only game in town for piano lessons, Sister Carrie said.

The parishioner recalled that music students, Protestants and Catholics alike, cycled to the convent with two coins in their pockets. They soon learned that “you came in the front door for a piano lesson and came in the back door for cookies and homemade treats,” she said.

Sister Carrie, who joined the Sisters of Presentation at age 17, worked with the parish faith formation program for 32 years in St. Henry and was also involved in the liturgy, coordinating church committee meetings. liturgy and ministry formation. She coordinated the inauguration of “the new church” on November 7, 1999 and served on its design committee.

Sharing words of farewell is difficult, Sister Carrie said, admitting a few butterflies a few weeks before speaking after Masses, particularly because her remarks were about not only her leaving, “but also the presence of my community here in St. Henry’s. It’s like a double goodbye,” she said.

Father Barnes, parish priest of St. Henry since 2020, said the RICA program is important in the life of the parish and “we will do our best to keep moving forward” with Sister Carrie’s retirement. He said Transition Deacon John Rumpza will serve the parish for a year as he prepares to be ordained a priest next year. “He will be responsible for helping run the program and helping plan for its future,” Father Barnes said.

Father Barnes said Sister Carrie is diligent and organized to prepare catechumens and candidates to enter into full communion with the Church. “She’s flexible to meet people when it works for them in their schedule,” he said, “and she pays attention to each individual based on where they are on their life journey. faith”.

Parents name daughter after Sister Carrie

Sister Carrie leaves St. Henry Parish. But Carrie Kolako is just getting started.

Prior to the first morning Mass on June 12, Introductory Sister Carrie Link served as godmother to the 2-month-old baby born to Sonnie and Johnny Kolako, St. Henry parishioners who emigrated to the United States from Liberia in 2019 and 2008 , respectively. Sonnie, 40, was baptized and confirmed Catholic in Liberia. Johnny, 45, was baptized a Christian in the African nation but received no other sacraments.

Sister Carrie met with Johnny Kolako individually to prepare him to receive the Sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation in the Catholic Church. He was taught by Catholic sisters in Liberia, Sister Carrie said, “so he already knew a lot about the Catholic faith. So it was a pretty easy process, just helping him out with maybe a few doctrines we needed to talk about, but he was especially ready before he even approached me.

Sonnie said, “Sister Carrie hugged us and welcomed us so warmly,” when her husband was confirmed. Sister Carrie was also her husband’s godmother, Sonnie said, and she is “a good, kind sister”.

“One of the reasons I just developed this love for her is because of her work … for God and St. Henry’s Church,” Sonnie said. When asked about Sister Carrie’s role in the design of the current St. Henry’s Church, she said, “If a sister, a woman can do this kind of design, she must be a great person devoted to God. and to the Church, and to help others. So I just started liking him more.

The couple had asked Sister Carrie to pray for them when they struggled to conceive their eldest daughter, Zariah. When God blessed the couple with a second baby about a year later – and an ultrasound showed it was a girl – the couple wanted to name the baby Carrie for their beloved friend. “My husband said we couldn’t leave her outside,” Sonnie said. “We need to name (the baby) so that we remember her in our family.”

Johnny called Sister Carrie from the delivery room on March 23 to tell her about the birth of their last daughter and that the baby would be named after her. “She was so excited she started crying,” Sonnie said. The couple told her, “We love you as a mother, we love you as a sister, we love you as one of us,” she said. “Can you please allow us to name (the baby) after you?” The couple also asked sister Carrie to be baby Carrie’s godmother, as they did for Zariah, now 14 months old.

Sonnie said she wanted her daughter to be like Sister Carrie, working and living for God. The family plans to keep in touch with Sister Carrie to keep her updated on her namesake.

Key words: Monticello, Sister Carrie Link, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Henry

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