Sr. Geralda Meskill’s acquaintance with the Sisters of St. Francis began when her older sister, Sr. John Helene, entered the congregation. Sr. Geralda and her siblings enjoyed accompanying their parents to visit the convent in Mallow in County Cork—often bringing with them food from their farm in County Limerick. “The convent was familiar territory to me,” explained Sr. Geralda. “I used to hear the sisters laughing and decided they were a happy group of people.” She eventually joined the congregation as did her younger sister, Sr. Ellen Mary.
Most of Sr. Geralda’s years in ministry were spent on the west coast where she taught elementary school in Oregon, Washington, and California and ministered at St. Ann Children’s Home in Tacoma and St. Joseph Children’s Home in Spokane. In 1988, however, Sr. Geralda’s ministry took a different path when she became the house manager for the archbishop’s residence in Portland, Oregon—a ministry in which she gave dedicated service for the next 24 years during the tenures of three archbishops: Archbishops Laveda, George, and Vlazny. In late 2012 Sr. Geralda moved—not only to a new ministry but to a new location. “Archbishop Vlazny retired and I figured this was a good time to make a change,” she said. After she arrived in Aston, she began thinking about a new ministry. “I have no trouble being busy,” she explained. “I want to do something.” She heard other sisters talk about the Sisters of St. Francis Foundation office where there was a lot to be done. She inquired—and was gladly accepted as a volunteer.
Her main responsibility there is adding a short hand-written note on letters being sent out by the foundation. Her notes might include a short thank you, a seasonal greeting, or a wish for good health and happiness. Like any ministry, this one comes with challenges—the biggest being time. “The letters are dated,” Sr. Geralda said, “and getting messages written and the letters into the mail can be challenging. Sometimes there are just not enough hands!” The blessings, however, provide adequate compensation. Geralda explained that she enjoys the conversations with the people with whom she works and the opportunities to engage with former members who also volunteer. “I feel good when I’m contributing in some way to a sense of community right in the office,” she said.
Just recently Sr. Geralda was asked to help with a new project—knitting scarves and hats to be worn by those plan to participate in the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “I’m enthusiastic about projects like this,” Sr. Geralda said. “I like to be involved and in some way to make a difference.
Being “involved” is definitely part of Sr. Geralda’s life. Even in activities that she views as hobbies, there is definitely involvement and commitment. For example, she loves to knit and finds it relaxing but her knitting frequently involves making items for our Christmas Craft Fair. She enjoys cooking—especially baking and often volunteers to bake delicious scones for a friend’s birthday, for her area chapter meeting, or for the employee tea party.
Looking back over her life, Sr. Geralda had a unique way of viewing both her previous years of ministry and the service she continues to render. Describing the past, she said, “I’ve contributed to someone else’s life,” and referring to her current ministry, she added, “And now I’m contributing to us.” Considering that this very active woman will turn 90 in the very near future, I think that this distinction is somewhat moot! Sr. Geralda simply sees what is needed and gives what is hers to give to meet that need!
Ann Marie Slavin, OSF