May 5, 2010 // Uncategorized

Sister Jane Carew retires

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades congratulates Sister Jane Carew on her 23 years of service as director of the Office of Catechesis.

By Tim Johnson

FORT WAYNE — Sister Jane Carew has seen the fruits of the diocesan Office of Catechesis, which she directed for 23 years, blossom and flourish. Test scores of the national ACRE (Assessment of Religious Education) reveal the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend as one of the top dioceses in the nation in helping Catholic young people learn the faith.

Last week, the diocese honored Sister Jane who has retired from the diocesan office but will still assist with volunteer efforts.

Sister Jane told Today’s Catholic, “I am grateful to God to be in this ministry that I love and desired from the time I was 17. There is nothing I like more than nurturing the faith in individuals so they in turn can nurture others.”

The team that Sister Jane built over the years in the Office of Catechesis has helped coordinate various programs such as the Catechetical Institute Day for parish catechists (CID); Institute Days of Catechetical Formation for all Catholic school teachers; Education for Ministry two-year formation program for adults begun in 1992 and has over 800 graduates; and the masters in theology program through the University of Dayton and the University of Notre Dame, which were funded through a generous grant by Our Sunday Visitor. The office redesigned catechetical curriculum guidelines for grades kindergarten through eight for parishes and schools. Sister Jane’s initiatives have caught the attention of national catechists.

Sister Jane, of course, gives credit to the Holy Spirit in helping the diocese implement Bishop John M. D’Arcy’s vision for catechesis. He desired a strong catechetical program for parents sending their children to Catholic schools and religious education classes.

A catechist at heart
Sister Jane said she wanted to be a sister at the young age of 11. She was taught in grammar school by the Sisters of Charity in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. A friend of Sister Jane had an older sister who entered the Sisters of Charity in Halifax.

The young sister and another sister from Sister Jane’s parish, had just made their first vows and visited the parish. “I was so touched by them,” Sister Jane said. “I said, ‘This is what I’m going to be,’ and I never deviated. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a sister. From then on, I never questioned it.”

In high school, she was sent to a school run by cloistered nuns called the Convent of the Sacred Heart. “We had a tremendous education there,” she commented, and the sisters treated the students lovingly. The young Jane studied English literature works of Dante and William Shakespeare at every grade level and Cardinal Newman. “Those were the things that really evangelized me even more.”

At just 16, “we helped at the school of the blind with catechesis,” Sister Jane said. “I had a little girl who was part of that institution and I prepared her for her first Communion. That was such a touching experience. That’s kind of what led me to want to be a catechist.”

In Nova Scotia, the Sisters of St. Martha was the only order that did catechetics, and they did so in rural areas.

“I really didn’t want to be a teacher in the classroom,” she said, “so I was very attracted by the fact that they did catechetics in rural areas.”

Sister Jane entered the novitiate at 17 and made her first vows at 19. Sister attended St. Francis Xavier College in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where she received her bachelor’s degree. Still with the hope of being a catechist, Sister Jane was sent to rural Nova Scotia spending a year studying and getting certified as a teacher. “In retrospect it was one of the best things I did because the skills I learned as a teacher were so wonderful,’” she said. “I went to teach in these rural areas, which I loved.”

One of the superior generals knew Sister Jane desired to be a catechist. She allowed sister to attend Catholic University of America to study religious education. But Sister Jane needed more theology classes.

“I like to tell Bishop D’Arcy we had two foreign missions in the Archdiocese of Boston,” Sister Jane quipped. “I had to go and live with our sisters in Massachusetts and study theology in preparation to go to Catholic University.” The order had a hospital in Lowell, Mass., and Cardinal Cushing asked the sisters to work in family counseling.

Sister Jane prepared and went on to Catholic University and graduated in 1973 and returned to Nova Scotia only to find there wasn’t a catechetical position open to her. Sister Jane returned to Lowell and taught high school religion for five years at two all-girls’ Catholic academies.

Sister Jane first met Bishop D’Arcy in 1969. He got Sister Jane involved in some committee work while she was teaching high school religion. The major work was that of a committee studying the renewal of the permanent diaconate.

After the study, Sister Jane worked as an assistant with Father Thomas Foley, then the director of the permanent diaconate. Sister Jane indicated that every other year, 60 couples would apply for the permanent diaconate. It would then take a whole year to screen the couples. “We worked on a program of study for them, and I worked on a wives’ program,” she said.

Sister Jane ministered in the permanent diaconate program until a request from Bishop D’Arcy came for Sister Jane to be the director of religious education in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Fort Wayne move
Sister had served on an evaluation team that reviewed the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocesan office of catechesis in 1986. Bishop D’Arcy hired three people from Boston, including Sister Jane. They were known as the Boston Mafia, Sister Jane quipped.

But the move to Indiana posed some difficulties. The focus her congregation, the Sisters of St. Martha, was changing. Sister Jane wasn’t comfortable with some of the changes and she began the transfer process to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston near the time Bishop D’Arcy made his request for Sister Jane to minister in Fort Wayne.

In the meantime, Bishop D’Arcy and Msgr. J. William Lester had met with the mother superior of the Sisters of the St. Joseph and requested a transfer for Sister Jane to Fort Wayne. The mother superior obliged, but Sister Jane was required to return to the community for a week every five weeks. Sister Jane was also uncomfortable with some of the things she saw with her new order. At the end of two years, the new order wanted Sister Jane back in July.

The best solution was for Sister Jane to leave that order and be a consecrated virgin, living as a sister but not in a religious community.

In those early years in the Office of Catechesis, “you could see the growth in the office. There was constant growth in terms of the Catechetical Institute Days and the various programs that we provided for adult formation,” Sister Jane commented. “But to keep those programs running and to constantly be educating people, those were the positives that carried us.”

So now, just beginning to enjoy some of the fruits of retirement, Sister Jane appreciates the time for more prayer and reflection. She enjoys reading. She also plans to volunteer for the diocese and may write a book — a dream she has held dear for some time. Sister Jane plans to remain in Fort Wayne in her retirement.

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