Spiritual Direction is a film by Laura Crepeau and Helen Garcia about their experiences with Sister Susan Oeffling, CSJ during the Spring of 2014 oral history project at St. Catherine University. Part of an ongoing project to support and promote the development of National Catholic Sisters Week.
Sister Susan Oeffling, CSJ:
I’m Sister Susan Oeffling, I’m a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet from St. Paul, Minnesota. I grew up in Minneapolis in a family of mother, father, two older sisters. Grew up in Ascension Parish, which when I was growing up was a very active parish in the north side of Minneapolis. I attended Ascension grade school. It was a Catholic school, at that time a very large Catholic school [of] about 1200 students. Went there kindergarten through 8th grade, and then attended St. Margaret’s Academy which was an all-girls’ school--quite a small school that was located, at that time, almost on the edge of downtown Minneapolis.
I was one of those little kids that, whenever the pastor came over and asked how many of us wanted to be nuns or priests, I would always raise my hand. So that desire to be a sister started when I was quite young. But then, of course, as I grew, I much more shifted toward wanting to be married, and having a family of my own.
I think it was during my high school years that I became really attracted to religious life again. One of the things I would say about my experience in religious life is that, through those relationships with sisters and other people I have met in ministry, I have been stretched to be a person probably very different from who I would have been, left to my own devices.
I [experienced] being a principal in three different schools. Seeing the faculty and how they work with students in their own commitment, but then also seeing the students grow in their learning. I believe education is so important and such a key to people’s futures, that to be involved in education is a great privilege.
Then, the spiritual direction thing, I finally got back to after doing education and leadership in the community. I do spiritual direction on a one-to-one basis with people who really wanna come and talk about their own faith journeys with someone. And then I’m also doing some teaching of meditation in the Christian tradition. Doing spiritual direction I think is a very privileged ministry. People are coming [in] and they’re talking about things that are so core to them, and so core to their beliefs. They’re sharing what is very precious. It’s a very awesome kind of ministry to have.
Pay attention to the deepest desire of your heart. I think sometimes we talk about knowing the will of God for us. I don’t believe that the will of God is something ‘out there’ that somehow or other we’re supposed to discover, that God has this plan and we’re supposed to discover how we fit into that. I think the way we know what God’s desire is for us is by paying attention to our own deepest desires. Because that is where the spirit speaks to us.
There’s a saying about vocation, that our vocation is where our deepest desire meets the needs of the world. That’s what I think a call to religious life is all about: is this [my] deepest desire, and does [it] meet the needs of the world? Because that’s where God is.