Sr. John Says Feature Part 1: Social Work and Service

Rachael Eyler


Photo credit/ Rachael Eyler

Amanda Duncklee, Community Editor

As the Community Editor for The Wood Word, much of my job entails managing feature columns such as the Group Spotlight and the Student Spotlight, where I choose groups or students on campus to highlight. One column, however, features the same person each time.

Sr. John Says is a column that belongs to Sr. John Michele, IHM, assistant director of Campus Ministry, where she delivers advice and speaks to the Marywood community directly. When I reflected on the column, which was present before my time at Marywood, it occurred to me that I had no idea when or how the column originated.

This, I thought, would make for a great story. I went to Campus Ministry in hopes of discovering the origins of Sr. John Says, but I left with more than I bargained for. Below is the first installment of a three part feature about Sr. John. This portion revolves around her status as an IHM sister and the importance of service and social justice.
Social Justice
Having served at Marywood for 31 years, Sr. John is an IHM sister who chose that particular sisterhood because she was drawn to their “sense of hospitality and openness, and sense of service,” as well as their spirituality.

According to Sr. John, there are close to 370 women in the sisterhood and around 14 IHM sisters at Marywood. The outreach spreads to 10 states and two foreign countries.

“I could talk forever about [the IHM sisterhood],” said Sr. John. “We work in various ministries of teaching and pastoral work, and healthcare, social work … we reach out to the poor.”

Social work and social justice in particular strike a chord with Sr. John. She said she believes helping others is “what life should be about” and said social justice and social work entail “reaching out to those in need.”

Additionally, Sr. John discussed her disdain for injustice as well as noted how a very prominent figure stood up against what he perceived as injustice.

“I can’t stand injustice. An injustice done to somebody- it just makes me crazy,” said Sr. John. “I can’t understand how people can do [acts of injustice against] other people … I think about the time Jesus was in the temple and he threw the tables in the temple when he was mad because [merchants] were selling stuff in the temple, and I could understand how he could get angry.”

However, according to Sr. John, there is more to social work than fighting against injustice.

“I think [social work is] about empowerment. To empower people to do for themselves what they’re not able to do at the moment,” said Sr. John before talking about a fellow sister who works with refugees in Scranton.

“Sister Margaret Gannon … teaches [refugees how to cope with] immediate needs, like how to find a doctor, how to say certain phrases … Then they transition into housing and Catholic Social Services helps them find housing,” said Sr. John of her fellow sister, who is a Marywood alumna and former professor.

Sr. John encourages any student who is interested in furthering the cause of social justice to talk to her.

“Come and see me,” said Sr. John. “There’s a lot of social justice stuff that needs to be done, and I’m ready.”

Service at Marywood
IHM Sisters are not the only people who serve at Marywood. Sr. John spoke of the generosity the students, faculty and staff.

“We go out and we help people who are in need,” said Sr. John, who specifically discussed the Thanksgiving Adopt-a-Family service in which volunteers purchase food items that go to families in the Scranton area who otherwise would not have a Thanksgiving dinner.

“We help nearly 200 families … and we do that through [Friends of the Poor],” said Sr. John. “They usually get about 2,000 requests from families who are way below the poverty level, so [the families] need to register with that organization and we are one of the organizations in Scranton that help them feed those 2,000 people.”

Service is not only limited to the holiday season. Sr. John spoke of other ways students at Marywood can get involved and give back.

“We have volunteers that go down to the Valley View Housing Development in South Side twice a week,” said Sr. John, referring to the service program called Big Friends Little Friends.

Sr. John noted that this particular housing development has had a history of violence, resulting in many of the children who live there not always getting the help they need.

“The children that live there come from broken homes and so they don’t get the help at home for their homework,” said Sr. John. “Our students go down twice a week to help them [with] their homework. [Valley View students] get a hot meal from the food bank, then they do activities with [Marywood students] one-on-one, so it’s like a mentoring program.”

It is not only the younger members of society who benefit from service, but also the oldest. Sr. John spoke of the Holy Family Residence adjacent to Marywood University and how students volunteer their time with the residents by making cookies and attending the Junior Senior Prom that occurs each Spring semester. The service, however, does not end there.

“There’s all kinds of different activities that go on,” said Sr. John. “Every Friday, some of our students go up to the animal shelter to walk the dogs or to visit with the animals.”

Sr. John urges anyone who is interested in service to go to Campus Ministry or to visit the website for more information.

Contact the writer: [email protected]
Twitter: @ADuncklee_TWW