Remembrance of the Life of Sister Barbara Anderson SL
Barbara Anderson was born in Springfield, Mass., the only daughter of Karl Eric Walter Anderson and Edna Victoria Clow Anderson. Her only brother, Carl, was six years older than she. Barbara attended public schools in Springfield, graduating from the Technical High School in 1947 and from the American International College in Springfield with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1951. She completed a master’s at Hartford Seminary and began a career as a director of Christian education in the Protestant tradition.
In 1968, Barbara entered the Catholic Church, and three months later she applied to join the Loretto Community. In her very complete application to be a Sister of Loretto, written when she was a mature and thoughtful 38-year-old, we find Barbara’s story of her inner search.
“From my youth, I have always been interested in a full-time church vocation. The influence for this came from both an active role in the Baptist Church where I grew up, and my experience each summer at a church-related youth camp – first as a camper and then as a staff member and counselor. My Dad died when I was a senior in high school, and I thought my college days would not be, but by working and living at home I was able to secure my undergraduate degree.
“My mother remarried, which made it possible for me to complete my [master’s degree] to become a ‘Director of Christian Education (DRE).’ This ministry involved many responsibilities, but those which I considered most important were my teaching and individual counseling opportunities with young and old … .”
From 1954 to 1968 Barbara served as DRE for Methodist churches in Dearborn and Lincoln Park, Mich.; and Congregational (United Church of Christ) churches in West Springfield, Mass., and Orinda, Calif. Barbara wrote poignantly of the 14 years she served as a DRE: “As time went on [the] work became more and more administrative, and I was having less time for teaching youth and adults. I discovered the truth of something a professor had told me: that I had entered one of the loneliest professions in the world. I spent much time in prayer and thought, trying to determine God’s way in this, for there was no other alternative for me in the Protestant tradition but to leave the church vocation and prepare for a teaching profession in the public schools. So in 1968 this is what I did.”
Living in northern California, Barbara enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, in the School of Education. She moved into graduate student housing at International House. In describing her time at Berkeley, she wrote, “The whole experience has been a miracle in my life. In coming to the university and International House, I was looking for more than just an education, for I felt used up on the inside and needed my ‘inner self,’ my ‘inner well’ filled. To my delight and thankfulness this all came about as I met and became friends with a number of Sisters who were at I-House, especially Loretto Sister Gabriel Mary (Hoare). As I heard them talk about their Christian faith, as I joined them in regular worship at Newman, as I heard them talk about all aspects of their communities’ lives, as I was privileged to share in a spirit of community with them, I realized that this was the type of support which I would have truly appreciated as a DRE.
“While at Berkeley I returned faithfully on Sundays to worship at the Orinda Community Church while still attending Mass weekdays at the Newman Center. [After just five months] I came to the realization that … participation at Communion at Newman had become a very special experience for me which I counted on for strength and help. I finally had to do something about this, so I started talking to Sister Gabriel Mary … and Father Seedorf at Newman. I felt the desire to become a Catholic, knowing I could share in its faith and practices and feel at-home within its tradition. I did not, and still do not, see this as a turning my back on what I have been taught, but rather as a means to go out on a new path which provides more meaning and spiritual resources for my life.
“As I talked further with Sister Gabriel Mary … I became aware of the Loretto Community and their works … and their spirit of renewal, [which] made a great impression on me and directed my attention toward becoming a regular member. … In becoming a Sister I saw the opportunity of coming together in a total Christian commitment to Christ, the Church and the world with other women of the same mind. I would truly experience the sense of Christian community whose absence I had experienced for 14 years as a Director of Religious Education.”
Barbara called herself one of the “the new breed of members.” Together with Anna Koop and Sue Kenny, she was joining Loretto at a moment between the traditional Loretto novitiate program and a later new member program. Rather than coming together as a “postulant class” at Loretto Motherhouse, each began as a member of a local community. Barbara moved in with the Loretto Sisters at Santa Clara, Calif., and began teaching in the new St. Lawrence the Martyr High School in early September 1968. The following August, she drove from California to the St. Louis Province House, yielding her red Dodge to Mother Rose Maureen, (Helen Sanders). She then drove a Loretto car to the Motherhouse and without ceremony began living on the second floor of the Novitiate Building with her two companions and their novice mistress, Mary Fran Lottes.
Barbara taught briefly at Nerinx Hall in St. Louis and made her first profession in the Loretto Center chapel April 25, 1971. She went to the University of Arizona in Tucson for a master’s in rehabilitation counseling and remained in Tucson for three years working at Catholic Social Services and St. Mary’s Hospital. She wanted to continue working with retired persons, but in a Loretto Community setting, so in 1975 Barbara applied for the position of Director of the Resource Project at Loretto Motherhouse; then in 1978, she joined the Loretto Work Development Staff, working for nine years with the broader Loretto Community. Barbara’s final full-time work was again in California, nearly 20 years at the Pacific School of Religion and Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley as support staff.
Barbara’s choices and her writings make clear the central role that community played in her lifelong Christian commitment. These words of Sister Gabriel Mary, written for Barbara’s final vows in 1977, apply equally well to the full span of her years dedicated to loving and building community life:
“At the time I met Barbara at Berkeley she had already decided that there must be a better way for her to fulfill the urge within her to serve. Once that way was made known to her, she answered this new call unhesitatingly and, in a sense, breathlessly. … Her years of living alone as a self-determined and self-reliant woman did not make it easy to adapt to life in a good-sized community. … Yet Barbara has been to me and to others a model of generosity, adaptability and unselfish love.”
– By Eleanor Craig SL