Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletSeptember 24, 2017

Sisters' Stories

Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, CSJ

I was 4 ½ years old and had started kindergarten at St. Brigid’s Catholic School in Watervliet, NY. My kindergarten teacher was a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Cyrilla. She was our teacher until March. Then Sister Mary Joachim was sent to take Sister Cyrilla’s place, so that she could become the full-time music teacher. My connections with the Sisters of St. Joseph continued from that moment when the seeds were planted.

I always wanted to make a difference in the world; I wanted to be of service to others. The Sisters were always happy and smiling and truly cared about each of us. Our neighborhood school was the center of our lives, and the Sisters were present at everything. As a community, they would attend daily Mass in the parish church, and I felt like I was praying like them. We witnessed the prayer and community life of the Sisters; the dedication they had to their ministry was evident in their daily presence to us. I wanted to be that witness for others.
Everyday of my life I have given thanks to God for the privilege of being a Sister of St. Joseph. Community life has been filled with graced moments. How wonderful it is when we come together, share prayer and celebrate our communal life! What wonderful relationships we have with each other! We are there for support in joy or sorrow. We love to get together just to have a good time.
My ministry began in teaching: I taught first grade for seven years in three different schools: St. Bernard’s, Cohoes; St. Mary’s, Hoosick Falls; and Cathedral Academy. When I completed my master’s degree in counseling psychology, I became the first elementary guidance counselor in Albany at Cathedral Academy. I so loved being there! After completing my Ph.D. in counseling psychology, I left Cathedral to begin Counseling for Laity with Miriam Ukeritis, another Sister of St. Joseph, and two priests. Our Counseling Center has grown, and our staff has increased since those days. We have been privileged to minister in the counseling field and, hopefully, to offer healing to hurting, depressed, lonely and estranged people. This ministry is such a blessing not only to our clients but to me! It is humbling to be present to so many people and accompany them on their journey.
Another aspect of my ministry for which I am grateful involves public speaking. I am filled with gratitude when I have the opportunity to give lectures and motivational speeches. How energizing it is to see people so caught up in laughter and even crying tears of joy! How rewarding it has been for me to be able to open the possibility of laughter, humor and happiness in peoples’ lives. Encouraging all to live fully each graced moment we are given, I believe I proclaim the Gospel message of Resurrection. I often receive notes from people telling me how something I said changed their lives!
First and foremost, I am a Sister of St. Joseph. I have academic degrees and have been given honors and awards, but I am always a Sister of St. Joseph. I have been blessed with a family that is central to my life and many good friends. And, I have many people whom I include in my community: we share prayer, we celebrate, we get involved in issues that empower those less fortunate.
If I were talking to a woman interested in joining us, I would tell her, “I may not have a husband, children, or grandchildren; I don’t own a car, and I don’t have lots of material possessions; nor do I have lots of money. Through the blessing of my vocation, however, I do have a life that frees me to serve others and be radically alive in this world! I have a community of Sisters who are happy, involved, intelligent, and caring. We are a group of dedicated women who believe we can make a difference in our world!”