By LINDA BEHRENS
“Sometimes we plant seeds, literally and figuratively. We establish connections and hope that something grows from that.”
These words were shared by Sister Barbara Hudock, ASC, who is celebrating her 50th jubilee as an Adorer of the Blood of Christ this year.
Sister Barbara said this when talking about the “Be a Blessing Garden” project located at the Adorers’ Ruma Center in Ruma, but the heart of these words could apply to her 50 years as a woman religious.
At age 70, Sister Barbara is not working full time. She recently completed 12 years in leadership positions for the Adorers – as an ASC councilor for the United States Region (2006-2012) and ASC regional leader (2012-2018). From 1973 to 2006, she served in education.
“During these 50 years, I had an amazing experience of community and internationality, and I can view the world that way,” Sister Barbara says. “I was able to see different cultures and how everyone lives out charism in their part of the world.”
Sister Barbara, however, was looking to find ways to connect with people at “this age and stage in my life,” so she adopted two projects that fulfill her desire to connect with people – one involves sewing with immigrant women and the other is the “Be a Blessing Garden,” which provides fresh produce to ministries in East St. Louis.
A pipe-fitters daughter
Barbara Hudock grew up in Wood River with her parents, two brothers and one sister. Her dad was a pipe-fitter at the Wood River refinery, and her mom was a homemaker.
She was taught by Ursuline sisters at St. Bernard School in Wood River.
“They talked about religious life a lot because many of us in our class were looking at convents and seminaries in fourth through eighth grades,” Sister Barbara remembers.
When she was in eighth grade, she met two Adorers of the Blood of Christ sisters. They invited her to a vocations day at their convent in Ruma. “I liked what I saw,” she says.
She attended the former Precious Blood High School in Ruma as an aspirant. The school was closed at the end of her junior year, so she attended Gibault High School in Waterloo her senior year. She then graduated from Saint Louis University and took first vows on November 19, 1971.
“There were 30 aspirants in my high school class freshman year. Only four remained my senior year. I was the only one who became a postulant,” Sister Barbara says.
“I feel I was called to live in community and live in religious life.”
Her first teaching positions were at St. John the Baptist in Red Bud and Guardian Angel in Oran, Mo. She was then asked to teach second grade at St. Patrick School in East St. Louis, where she taught for five years and served as principal for five years.
When St. Patrick School closed, she became principal at St. Mary in Mount Carmel, where Adorers of the Blood of Christ founded the school in the 1800s. After five years, she was principal at St. James School in Millstadt for seven years.
Wanting to work with a more diverse student population, Sister Barbara became principal at St. Mary in Anderson, Ind., where the students were white, black and Hispanic. And then the invitation came to join her community’s leadership.
As a councilor, she lived in St. Louis and worked with sisters and ministries in the United States. She also went to Liberia, Guatemala, Bolivia and South Korea to work with Adorers in those areas.
As a regional leader, she met with other regional leaders from around the world.
Sister Barbara today
The “Be a Blessing Garden” resulted from Sister Barbara wanting to be involved in a project that connects people, East St. Louis and her religious community.
“Caring for the Earth is important to us. We have this wonderful land at the Ruma Center,” Sister Barbara says. “Actually, we used to have a large garden when we had more sisters living there.”
She doesn’t do this alone. Currently, five volunteers from St. Patrick in Ruma and 10 volunteers from St. John the Baptist in Red Bud take care of the garden.
“These wonderful volunteers do the planting, till the ground, pull the weeds, harvest the produce and deliver it to St. Vincent de Paul center in East St. Louis. They take over and do it.”
The produce is distributed as needed to Cosgrove’s Kitchen and Catholic Urban Programs in East St. Louis.
“We each can be called to be a blessing for others, like growing this food,” Sister Barbara says.
During this time of “retirement,” Sister Barbara had a desire to be involved with people from other cultures. She also renewed her sewing hobby and started making masks to practice her skills.
Sister Barbara began volunteering for Forai (Friends of Refugees and Immigrants), a program that empowers refugee and immigrant women in St. Louis, enabling them to earn additional income for their families while producing handmade jewelry and crafts.
Sister Barbara is currently working with four women from Myanmar (formerly Burma) on various sewing projects, such as baby bibs and onesies, bags and pouches, and napkins. She puts together packets with the materials they need and shows the women what to do. The projects are then finished by the women in their homes. They meet with Sister Barbara every other week.
When projects are finished, the women are paid. These items are then sold on the Forai website or in stores that have contracts with the organization.
The four women are from the same country but they speak two different dialects. Recently one of the women tried to teach Sister Barbara how to count in her language.
“It was such a different perspective. I could hardly make the sounds,” she says. “But I kept trying.”
She adds, “It’s important to relate to people from other cultures, to step outside of our comfort zone. It can be a tough thing to do.”
Sister Barbara lives in St. Louis with Sister Kris Schrader, ASC, who is transitioning back to the United States after 36 years serving in Guatemala, where she started a school.
“Living in community and religious life is an amazing experience. The places I’ve been. The people I’ve connected with,” Sister Barbara says. “Listen to what God is calling you to do and to be. How can you spread God’s love?”
To give thanks for Sister Barbara’s 50th jubilee, a prayer service will be held at the Ruma Center in October.