Last month, four Norbertine sisters joined the faculty at St. John the Baptist School in Costa Mesa. The founding nuns of the Congregation of the Norbertine Sisters are from Slovakia and since arriving in 2011, they have been blessed with many vocations. One of these vocations is the education and faith formation of Catholic youth, and the sisters plan to continue this ministry.
The newest members of St. John the Baptist’s community arrived in late January and are finishing their training period. “We are really happy to be here. We arrived two weeks ago and everybody has been very welcoming – the parents, the children. Everybody has been anticipating our arrival and has been very welcoming, so we are so excited to start,” one of the new arrivals, Sr. Gemma, said.
“We were very kindly invited here by Father Augustine,” she continued. “Initially there were three orders who were thinking about coming, but the Church decided that since it is a Norbertine staff, it is probably best if the fathers and sisters are both Norbertine because we share the same charisms. So because our convent was full in Wilmington, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to branch out and to come to this convent.”
Principal Paula Viles agrees that the timing of their arrival is perfect. “We have been waiting for a very long time for the sisters to be in the convent again and everyone is very, very excited and very happy about that happening,” she said. “The parents are talking about it and the students are waiting to see them, so this has all been a blessing from God because we have all been waiting for this for a long time.”
Each of the sisters offer different skills to the community. Sr. Gemma actually attended St. John the Baptist School and is also a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. She has experience teaching catechism, kindergarten and subbing for first through fifth grade. Before learning English and traveling to America eight years ago, Sr. Adriana Gacikova was a registered nurse in Slovakia. Now, she is the superior and teaches second grade religion to help prepare the children for their First Communion. Sr. Desiree and Sr. Phoebe are postulates, meaning that they are still in the initial stages of formation. They will be working in the library after school for 15 hours a week.
While the sisters have not officially begun their ministry yet, they have already started to connect with the children on campus. Adjacent to their convent, Fr. Damien’s office contains many different animals that the sisters utilized as a tool to begin interacting with the students. Between meeting the new sisters and playing with reptiles, the kids were very excited.
“I am also very excited,” said Fr. Augustine Puchner. “In addition to the work and ministry that the sisters will do at the school, we are just very happy for their life here in our community and the prayer that they offer every day with and for us. It is very important for us to have their presence and their prayers here at St. John the Baptist.”