Growing up in close proximity to the parish convent carries a certain probability that a young girl will come to know the sisters. Such was the case for Sr. Jean Ustasiewski who lived two blocks from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Convent in Baltimore. She was taught by our sisters there and later continued her connection with the sisters at the Catholic High School of Baltimore. Jean was often asked to help out—both in school and in the convent—giving her a glimpse into the sisters’ life—a life that spoke to her and seemed to invite her to be part of it. Ironically Jean’s aunts were Felicians and would have liked her to join their congregation. A trip to the Glen, however, affirmed what Jean had already sensed. “I knew that was where I belonged,” she explained.
During her years in ministry, Jean served on both east and west coasts. In fact, she was one of seven novices who, in 1954, were sent from the Glen to the western novitiate. After profession she continued to minister in the west until 1987. After ministering primarily in education and later as a provincial council member, Jean moved to OLA where she served as director of the Companions in Mission. In 2002 she was asked to assume the role of coordinator of OLA, a position she still holds in addition to her ministry in the Franciscan Spiritual Center.
As coordinator of OLA, Jean’s goal is to “keep everyone informed of what’s happening and to keep everyone on the same page as well as creating a welcoming environment so that everyone feels at home.” From a practical standpoint, that means coordinating schedules for liturgies and prayers, communicating with various offices to coordinate events, interacting with benefactors, and taking care of emergency situations. Periodically she holds meeting with the contact sisters from the living units and helps process sisters into and out of the various units.
Jean’s basic function at the Franciscan Spiritual Center is to serve as a hospitality coordinator, particularly at Clare House where she manages registration, maintains calendars, works with the housekeeping staff to coordinator cleaning, and develops and offers programs. One group that she works with is the Secular Institute of the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ. At other times she coordinates Martha and Mary retreats for the young men from both the TOR and OFM congregation.
Busy? Very definitely! But in her “free time,” Jean also finds time to visit and shop for family members and to continue her outreach to the folks at St. Ignatius Nursing Home.
Ministries at both OLA and the spiritual center provide blessings for Jean. At Clare House she rejoices in the “signs of new life in the young persons who come there” and at OLA she “sees how this place provides special healing for some who come here.” In both she also recognizes that liturgy is often the “hub of all that happens.” For Jean that centrality of the Eucharist is what it’s all about—as in her own works she says simply, “Liturgy is my life.”
Sr. Jean recently arranged for hospitality at Clare House for a group of Chinese pilgrims, including a bishop, priests, and sisters who are visiting Catholic parishes and organizations in various parts of the country.