Friday, January 20, 2017

Sister Story: Sr. Walter Maher CCVI

While Sr. Walter Maher CCVI is the newest member of the Congregation’s International JPIC Committee, she is certainly not new to the work for peace and justice.  A Sister for over 50 years, she currently serves as the Vice President for Mission and Ministry at the University of the Incarnate Word.  She has been in that role since 2009 after leaving congregational leadership, and it is evident when speaking with her that she has a deep passion for the work she does to share and inspire the CCVI mission in others. 

For Sr. Walter, “Justice is not separate from mission; they are one.  Justice is about looking around, knowing what the concrete needs are, and figuring out how I can respond.  That’s our mission.”  And it is with great joy that she shares this mission with students, staff, faculty, and administrators at the University through various formation programs and opportunities. 

In addition to formation, another very important part of Sr. Walter’s ministry is facilitating the life of prayer and worship at the University.  She sees this as the real work of the University: to inspire students, faculty, and staff through opportunities of communal prayer and worship, in order to understand the heart of the mission and identity of the University and allow that inspiration to move them forward.  She also brings in the writings and messages of the global Catholic Church, reflecting on recent encyclicals and tying in the theme of the Year of Mercy to retreats and reflections last year. 

Sr. Walter believes that the shared life of prayer and worship can transform, and encourages all to participate, even those who aren’t Catholic, because they are one community.  The dignity of every student, of every religion, is respected and uplifted in an active inter-faith council at the University as well.  Sr. Walter says, “We can all come together, knowing we are working for the common good.”  What a beautiful lived example of social justice for our world! 

With a long history of ministry in education since she entered the Congregation, it is no surprise that Sr. Walter loves her work with students.  Just as she shares her passion for mission and ministry, the student’s passion for working for justice in the world inspires her as well.  She is particularly excited about one dream that became a reality last year when the University became a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) designated university.  There were about 30 students who attended an all-day training about CRS, and left full of energy and commitment to this work.  Some of the current foci of the group are on climate change, fair trade, and migration. 

She is also inspired by the dedication of the faculty and staff to the mission of the University.  Currently she is working with faculty of the graduate level programs to integrate Catholic Social Teaching into the curriculum.  There is a group of 20 people who gather together to reflect on issues of social justice from the lens of Catholic Social Teaching on a personal, communal, structural, and global level. 

When reflecting on her many and varied responsibilities in her ministry, Sr. Walter acknowledges that she is, “all over the place, but the power of presence is so important.  I really see my ministry as a ministry of presence.  As a representative of the Congregation I hear students, staff, and faculty acknowledge how important my presence is and that I’m not afraid to jump in where needed, doing what needs to be done while always keeping the larger vision of our mission present.”  This is also apparent in her open door policy.  She always has an open door for anyone in need to come in, share with her, and together they can help figure out a response to any problem as it arises. 

Even with her many responsibilities and busy schedule at the University, Sr. Walter was still willing to say yes when invited to serve as a member of the Congregation’s International Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Committee.  She brings with her an open heart, and many years of experience serving in diverse communities and responding to a variety of needs.  She sees this as just one more way she can continue to serve the Congregation which she says has so richly blessed her own life.   
Thank you Sr. Walter for your “Yes” to collaborate with the International JPIC Committee, and for all of the passion, love, and humility you bring to your ministry with the University of the Incarnate Word.  What a blessing to all who benefit from your many gifts, shared so generously!   

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