Remembering Sister Barbara Jean

Some of the liveliest posts on the SisterStory blog this semester came from Clare Wolz, a theology major with curly, red hair and an attention to detail. She chronicled the stories shared by her sister, Sister Barbara Jean Lubbehusen, OSB, with great affection.

There was the time Sister Barbar Jean delivered a baby in Peru, having gone into a dental clinic because of a toothache and then encountering a woman in labor. Sister Barbara Jean held the woman’s hand, prayed with her and helped deliver a beautiful baby girl – who was named Barbarita in her honor.

There was the story of Sister Barbara Jean’s teen years, cleaning a monastery as her summer job. “Cleanliness is Godliness,” the sisters at St. Ferdinand kept remarking. They were convinced she had a religious vocation because she cleaned so well.

And then there were Sister Barbara Jean’s adventures as a novice, climbing the bell tower and getting into a bit of trouble, her white habit covered in dirt. Clare chronicled it skillfully, ending with a “lesson” for readers: “You may never find out more about yourself unless you explore all options and paths laid before you. Curiosity can lead you on new adventures. Have the courage to take them!” she wrote.

Amid these animated tales, it was clear what had emerged: a genuine friendship between Clare and Sister Barbara Jean, a longtime missionary and teacher whose compassionate ministries inspired the theology major.

“Our weekly meetings quickly became the highlight of my week,” Clare wrote. “I could not wait to hear the stories she had to tell, or to see her eyes light up, or to share all the laughs we did. I never left a visit with her without sharing some outburst of joy and laughter.”

But those weekly visits came to a halt when Sister Barbara Jean lost her battle with cancer on April 6. Clare joined countless others in celebrating the remarkable life of the 66-year-old from Indiana. Her obituary noted the year she entered the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand and mentioned her missionary work in Peru. Clare’s blog posts flesh out those facts.

Each oral history captured through SisterStory has great value – and there is an urgency in adding each one to the under-reported history of women religious. Sister Barbara Jean’s takes on added importance now.

“I am forever grateful for the gift it has been to know her,” Clare wrote. “I wish I could tell her one more time how much she means to mean and how much she has influenced my life.”

Clare added: “I didn’t get enough time with her, but I did get to hear her story – and that I can share with others. She may be home now with God, but she’s still in my heart.”

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.