Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletSeptember 24, 2017

Sisters' Stories

Sister Fran Eustace, CSJ (Sister Francis Regis)

There is a saying that “God writes straight with crooked lines.” This statement I find confirmed and validated by my own interesting, circuitous route to religious life and all that has happened there for me in the intervening years.

 During World War II, I was fired with zeal and patriotism as were so many young people in those days. I decided to leave Douglass College in New Brunswick, NJ, and my beloved English major and take advantage of a one-year, accelerated engineering program at RPI, where I would be prepared to work as a desk engineer for Curtis-Wright, a corporation doing top-priority war work.
It turned out that the Provincial House of the Sisters of St. Joseph was located adjacent to the grounds of the university, and I was not long in Troy before I met some of the sisters who befriended a group of us newcomers and invited us to benediction one Sunday. The peace of the chapel and the music of the sisters’ choir transported us out of the horrors of the daily war news into another dimension. These visits continued all year.
I returned to work for Curtis-Wright at its New Jersey plant and airfield. However, I soon realized that I had left part of my heart in Troy and, at the end of my year with the bombers, I made a retreat and a decision to return and enter the community. Thus did my wartime journey to Troy determine the rest of my life.
I had no idea at first whether I would stay or find the whole idea impossible. After minor struggles with the structures of religious life I was accepted as a Sister of St. Joseph in March 1945. In March of 1995 I celebrated fifty blessed and happy years as a Sister of St. Joseph. I had been given the opportunity to continue studying and then teaching English, my first love, and after graduate study for a doctorate at Catholic University, I spent twenty years on the English faculty at The College of Saint Rose.
Meantime, Vatican II happened and there was much discussion as to the direction religious life might take in these new times. During these years I had the opportunity to spend a year working among the poor in the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in New York. The goal was to discover whether there would be a place for women religious working in these areas. There is, indeed, such a place. I, however, returned to my place on the English faculty but not for long. After twenty years I felt called to another ministry and, after more coursework, I spent the next twenty years in hospital, parish and pastoral ministry, which I found as richly rewarding as teaching had been. At 70, I retired to our Provincial House in Latham where I do community work and write for our community newspaper.
There is another, somewhat facetious, comment one sometimes hears: “Join the convent and see the world!” That too has been validated in my life. With another faculty member from Saint Rose, I planned a tour of major cities of Europe; during a January term another sister and I took students for three weeks to the British Isles. I have also been blessed to visit a friend in Puerto Rico. More recently, a much traveled relative cashed in all his frequent-flyer miles to offer me a trip to Brazil where I spent three memorable weeks with my brother who was a Franciscan missionary priest.
Right now, it’s nice to be “retired,” with more time for reading, prayer and quiet reflection, and for enjoying the companionship of the sisters and the joys of our beautiful Provincial House.