When Sr. Jean Margaret McDevitt made the decision to move to Assisi House in 2009, she did so primarily because the residence was ground level—a feature that would accommodate independence more easily than any of our available convents. She was also aware that, because of MS—a condition which was diagnosed in 1988—full time ministry was becoming more difficult. At the same time, Sr. Jean knew she was not ready to retire and inquired about part time ministry in the congregational offices. The outcome has proven mutually beneficial to Sr. Jean and to the staff in the foundation and communications offices where she volunteers.

Sr. Jean’s work in the foundation involves writing letters to donors and soliciting funds—for example, the letters that are typically sent at Christmas, Easter, and St. Francis Day. She also writes and coordinates articles for Connections, the foundation’s newsletter that is mailed out four times a year. This past year she was particularly pleased with the “tour” booklet she helped to devise to inform donors and the general public about the changes taking place in Assisi House. Jean decided that Sr. Catherine Georgine Portner would make an excellent “tour guide.” The booklet contains copy written by Jean and Sharon Tracy and accompanied by photos of Catherine Georgine pointing out the various areas of change anticipated by renovations.

Sr. Jean also volunteers with the communications office. She helps with proofing the final copies of both Good News, Community News, and the e-newsletter as well any miscellaneous projects. In addition, she writes the Death Notices column for Community News, combining basic info from the official obituaries with the reflections she writes, designs, and posts in Assisi House at the time of a sister’s death. Over recent years Sr. Jean has also continued to serve on various congregational committees, most recently the Wellness Committee and the committee that planned activities for the 150th celebration of Mother Francis’ death.

Like most of us, Sr. Jean finds both challenges and blessings in her ministry. There is, of course the ongoing challenge of wanting to do the best that she can in whatever she does. “I want to write in such a way that the message people need to hear is there,” she explained. “And,” she added, “there’s the challenge of keeping balance in my own life—of knowing when to say ‘No.’”

And the blessings? One thing that Sr. Jean especially treasures is to be able to interact with the other sisters who work and/or live at the motherhouse and—through her various encounters—to renew relations from the past and to initiate new ones. “My work challenges me to engage other people when I interview them,” she explained. She finds a blessing also in the willingness of other coworkers to help and cited particularly Sr. Helen Jacobson’s assistance in researching needed information from the archives.

And when she’s not busy working? Like many of our sisters, Sr. Jean enjoys quiet time to read and to listen to music. She also enjoys time with the other sisters who live in Assisi House. In fact, she begins each day by having breakfast with the sisters in Clare Hall. She also enjoys joining the Assisi House sisters for prayers and for times when they simply enjoy one another’s company. These times often include “game time.” You probably know about the TV show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” Well, creative as she is, Sr. Jean has her own version of that which she plays with the sisters at Assisi House: “Are You Smarter Than Mother Leandro?” She also makes sure that the Assisi House bulletin boards are decorated—adding an attractive and welcoming ambiance for the varied seasons and holidays.

Sr. Jean’s introduction to the Sisters of St. Francis came from several avenues. She was taught by our sisters both in elementary and high school—at St. Benedict’s in Philadelphia, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Doylestown, and Lansdale Catholic High School. Closer to home, however, the influence came from her aunt, Sr. Helen Aloyse Reagan. As a child Sr. Jean recalled visiting the various convents where her aunt lived. “I remember putting on the sisters’ black sleeves and aprons—my ‘little habit,’” she laughed. But on a deeper level, Sr. Jean was impressed with the beautiful community life and spirit she found in each of those local convents.

After graduation Sr. Jean decided to wait a year before entering the congregation. Then just a month before her actual entrance date, her father died. Despite her grief, Jean followed her mother’s directive on that September day: “Go right into that house and don’t look back!” That advice followed Sr. Jean through her various ministries—as an educator in various schools, as administrator of Assisi House, as vice president of planning and mission effectiveness at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, vice president of mission and ministry at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, and communications director for the congregation. In each instance Sr. Jean shared her own gifts and creativity and, in return, reaped the blessings that flowed from each unique experience.

Today Sr. Jean continues to share her gifts with others—both internally and externally—through her writing, her creativity, and her determined spirit. Whether she’s emailing work from her computer at Assisi House, busy at her desk in the motherhouse, or zipping up and down the main corridor in her Hoveround, Sr. Jean continues to give of herself in whatever way she can and to follow her mother’s directive to keep looking forward.