Even the Sparrow Sister Barbara Rohe

In her position as Provincial Councilor for the Congregation of Divine Providence, Sister Barbara seems made for the role. Bright and decisive, she effortlessly quenches one administrative brush fire after the next, never losing her equilibrium, never showing the strain.

She didn't enter the convent to polish her management skills, though. In fact, she almost didn't enter at all.

"I was taught by the Sisters in grade school in Covington. I always wanted to be a teacher, so it just made sense to me (at that time, in the 50s and 60s, when Sisters were the only teachers I knew) that to be a teacher was to be a Sister."

She entered the aspirancy program at St. Anne's, but it wasn't immediately a good fit. "It was very pre-Vatican II. Very structured. Very much an emphasis on penance. Not really my cup of tea," Sister Barbara remembered.

Pursuing some other avenues, Sister Barbara filled the next nine years with a great job, college classes, travel, relationships, and community work. "I had a good life," she said, "but there was something missing."

"I always felt like a little bird in the hand of God."

Repeatedly, Barbara had dreams of being back in the convent. And once, while on retreat, she felt very clearly directed: "You should be back there." She discussed these things with a priest friend, who thought maybe marriage and family life was her true calling. She set aside the idea of returning to the convent.

Some time later, "Another friend of mine, who had taught at our school, asked me to come to St. Anne's for a visit. I said no. When she asked again, I said, 'No, I don't think so.' When she asked a third time, I heard myself agreeing."

As she walked through the front door, she was stunned to see a photograph of a hand with a little bird in it, perfectly capturing her own feelings. "What is that?" she asked. "That's our charism," her friend explained.

It was becoming clear that the charism of Providence resonated within herself. Perhaps this was where she belonged after all.

She still wasn't completely convinced, though. "I thought, 'Well, I can give it a try. If it doesn't work out, I can leave."

Soon she realized what had been missing from her life outside. "It was community, spirituality. I didn't have sweeping, romantic notions of religious life, but I felt very much called to share God's love with a world that needed it, and being able to do so with the support of a community of like-minded women."

Sister Barbara as a novice in 1976

Final vows, 1982

In Sacred Heart chapel

Ready to take on the challenges of religious life

In her life before and after the convent, Sister Barbara has served as a teacher, catechist, assistant principal, campfire leader, choir member, and missionary—and that was before taking a leadership position with the congregation. Some might find that dizzying array of responsibilities overwhelming. Not so Sister Barbara.

"I have loved every job I have had."

She really enjoys the variety of all the positions she has had, and especially has loved getting to know so many people.

"When you teach for 25 years, you meet a lot of people. I must have taught hundreds and hundreds of kids. But with a variety of ministries, you expand those communities, and encounter even more people, in even more places."

These days, Sister Barbara serves as Provincial Vicar/Secretary of the Congregation of Divine Providence. Her daily work revolves around the Sisters.

"Working with our Sisters has been wonderful. I have felt privileged and blessed to get to know some of them better and to see their ministries and community situations."

On this 40th anniversary of her final vows, she admits to sometimes getting a bit homesick for the excitement and challenges of parish life. But Sister Barbara takes each season of responsibility in turn, saying, "In each place I have worked, I have felt called there."

It's almost as if a little bird told her just where she needed to be.

Created By
Kathleen Carroll

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