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             Monday, September 16 2002  

Where are they now? Sister Agnes Scott

Sister Agnes Scott in photos
from 1954, left, and recently.

The religious life and service to God are the focus of this week's featured subject, Nanty Glo native Sister Agnes Scott. Born December 9, 1933, to Andrew T. Scott and Sephania (Sekerak) Scott, Agnes is a sister to Andrew Scott, Mary Zelinsky, William Scott, Michael Olsavsky, Peter Olsavsky, all of Nanty Glo, and John Scott of Johnstown. Brothers Joseph and Ignatious Olsavsky are deceased and her sister Ann left the area many years ago.

This large blended family was raised on Nanty Glo's "Heisley Row," later known as Christoff Street. The call to the religious life came early to Agnes Scott. "As a student at St. Mary's Parochial School, we had Sisters of St. Agnes, and from the sixth grade on, I wanted to be a Sister...like them." And in 1947, upon her graduation from St. Mary's and at the tender age of thirteen, she embarked on the first step in fulfilling her goal, enrollment as a candidate for the Sisterhood at St. Agnes High School in Fond-du-Lac (which means 'foot of the lake'), Wisconsin.

Sitting in the former office of 1950's Nanty Glo dentist Dr. Charles Porias, which is now the parish convent, this pleasant, soft-spoken woman recounted the stages of Sisterhood from candidacy, which she completed in 1951, through graduation from St. Agnes High School to the final stage, prefession of vows at the Mother House. The candidate stage is similar to high school and lasts for three years. That stage ends in the postulancy stage, the final six months of the candidate stage. Novitiate then follows and lasts for two years, the first year devoted exclusively to religious studies and preparation for the profession of vows. During this first year, the future sisters are known as canonical novitiates. In the second year they're known as senior novitiates, during which they may take college courses but their religious studies continue.

"When you're a novice, you receive your "Sister" name. I became Sister Mary Andrew. Back then, you dressed as a bride; we walked single file, and lay our veils at the foot of a large crucifix, as if to say,'We're giving up the things of the world.' We all knelt at the communion rail and Mother Superior came by and cut off a lock of our hair. Then, the white religious veil was placed on our heads by Mother Superior and her assistant. We then retreated to a dressing room, removed our wedding dresses and dressed in our Habits."

The final stage, profession of vows, is when the women are formally accepted into the "congregation" (the "order"). The profession of vows is done at the mother house to the Mother Superior in the presence of a representative of the church; this could be a cardinal, bishop, or any priest designated by the bishop. "When I professed my vows, I knelt before the Mother Superior, placed my hands in hers, made the sign of the cross, and said, 'I, Sister Mary Andrew, in the presence of the most Reverend Cardinal Myer, and in the hands of my Mother Superior, vow for life: poverty, chastity, and obedience in the congregation of the Sisters of St, Agnes, Amen. And we can renew them as a reminder when we choose, for special occasions."

Pope John 23's Vatican II sweeping reforms in the Catholic church changed the lives of many within the sisterhood..."I wore the Habit for 20 years. We were made fun of ... a lot, mostly by young people. We were called penguins, crows, and witches. It was hard for me to change from the habit to secular (nonreligious) clothing and the change was gradual, but 'street clothing' is more convenient."

Sister Agnes is quick to dispel a common misconception: "We never had to shave our heads, but short hair was more convenient and cooler under the habit." However, the change to secular clothing is optional, the habit may still be worn. "Vatican II enabled us to revert back to our baptismal names. Now I can be known as Sister Agnes Scott.

"We can now travel alone, drive cars, eat in restaurants, and go into other people's homes. We have more freeedom now. Our religious life is up to us to continue as opposed to being dictated by the Order. We're treated more as adults. We are no longer assigned jobs, we find our own, but we need to consult with our coordinator. In the past, we were teachers and nurses. Now, we're involved in social work, missionaries in other countries, administrators of hospitols and nursing homes, and principals of schools. Vatican II opened the doors for us to be more progressive. We have the right to get involved with political causes because we work for peace and justice."

Sister Agnes has an undergraduate degree in elementary education from Marian College in Fond-du-lac and a graduate degree in elementary education from St. Francis College, Ft.Wayne, Indiana. Though she no longer teaches, she was a pioneer teacher in the head start program initiated during the Lyndon Johnson presidency. She has taught in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania, having returned to Nanty Glo in 1990 where she taught first through fourth grades at St. Mary's for four years. These days, she serves communion, visits the sick, homebound and elderly, often providing needed transportation for grocery shopping and medical appointments.

Life at the convent is like life in any other home. The household chores are divided among the three sisters living there, taking turns doing the cooking and shopping. "We watch TV, play cards, and get together with other sisters, from Altoona. We are paid by St. Mary's Parish and we have what we need. We qualify for Social Security and Medicare."

On August 15, Sister Agnes celebrated her Golden Jubilee. She has lived for 50 years her dream that began in St. Mary's Parochial School.

Her hopes for Nanty Glo: "I'd like to see more economic growth and see the town spruced up a bit. It was a really neat town when I was growing up."

Anyone wishing to send greetings can find Sister Agnes at Nancy1100@aol.com.

If you have a suggestion for a subject for Where Are They Now, please write Judy Rose.

Senior personal ads

Seen in Florida and Arizona newspapers: (Who says seniors don't have a sense of humor?)

FOXY LADY: Sexy, fashion-conscious blue-haired beauty, 80's, slim,5'-4" (used to be 5-6), searching for sharp-looking, sharp-dressing companion. Matching white shoes and belt a plus.

LONG-TERM COMMITMENT: Recent widow who has just buried fourth husband looking for someone to round out a six- unit plot. Dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath not a problem.

SERENITY NOW: I am into solitude, long walks, sunrises, the ocean, yoga and meditation. If you are the silent type, let's get together, take our hearing aids out and enjoy quiet times.

—Sent by Judy Rose

Thought for today

There is nobody so irritating as somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have.

Don Herold

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