Four professing vows to Millvale Sisters of St. Francis
By Deboarah Deasy
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, 4:20 p.m.
A former legal secretary and FedEx employee are among four women set to profess vows to the Millvale branch of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
"I always assumed I would be married and have children," said Sister Amy Williams, 40, the former legal secretary.
Sister Laura Hackenberg, 36, worked in the pricing department of Fed Ex before she decided to become a Franciscan sister.
"That wasn't real life-giving," she said about her Fed Ex job. "I just felt God calling me to a more intentional way of living the Gospel," said Hackenberg, who now works as a hospital chaplain.
Sister Yvonne Dursh, 69, of Bellevue, and Sister Jonathan Lunskis, 64, of Millvale also will pledge their time and talents to the Millvale-based Franciscans during a Mass at 10 a.m. Aug. 11, at Mt. Alvernia in Millvale.
Dursh and Lunskis are departing the smaller, approximately 100-member Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God to join the larger 485-member Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
Five priests will concelebrate the Mass set for Aug. 11 when Williams professes her perpetual vows to the congregation.
Dursh and Lunskis also will profess their perpetual vows to the Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
"We are delighted to have these women follow in the footsteps of St. Francis," said Sister Patricia Burkard, general minister of the congregation.
"It's just a joy for us to have them among us."
Sister Amy Williams
Williams is the daughter of Judith Williams of Millvale and the late Harvey J. Williams, formerly of the North Side.
A graduate Northgate Junior-Senior High School, Williams grew up in Avalon and entered the Franciscans' community from the Church of the Assumption in Bellevue.
Williams worked 15 years as a legal secretary for the downtown law firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney before she attended a retreat at St. Paul of the Cross Monastery, South Side, to explore the idea of becoming a religious sister.
"I went more to close the door on the idea," Williams said.
Williams changed her mind after meeting the Millvale Franciscans' director of vocations. The vocations director invited Williams to accompany some of the Franciscans on outings ranging from hikes to service projects.
"I started to see that the religious life was a good fit for me as I came come to know the sisters," Williams said.
Williams entered the Franciscans' community in 2006 in Syracuse, N.Y.
Two years later, Williams experienced a new sense of fulfillment while working at Francis House in Syracuse, a home for the terminally ill.
"I really discovered that was my call within the call," she said.
Since then, Williams has become a registered nurse and completed an associate degree in nursing at La Roche College. She is looking for a Pittsburgh-area hospital job, but hopes to eventually work in home health care.
Sister Laura Hackenberg
Hackenberg is the daughter of Errol and Katherine Hackenberg of Moon. She is a graduate of Moon Area High School and West Liberty University in West Virginia.
After departing Fed Ex, Hackenberg joined the Franciscans in 2006 in Syracuse, N.Y. She now works as a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Syracuse. In addition to distributing Holy Communion, Hackenberg prays with people of all faiths.
'"I'm there to offer a listening ear, and to give the gift of presence, which is the most precious gift of all," she said.
Hackenberg entered the Franciscans' congregation from St. Margaret Mary Parish in Moon after attending a "Come and See" retreat at Mt. Alvernia.
"I was welcomed at the front door. I just knew it was home from that moment," she said. "There's nothing better than Franciscan hospitality."
Sister Yvonne Dursh
Dursh is the only child of the late Alphonse and Helen Dursh, formerly of Carrick.
Dursh entered the religious life 62 years ago and now counsels boys referred by courts to the residential Youth Development Center in New Castle.
Dursh is chaplain to the center's 12-to-17-year-old sex offenders, drug abusers and other troubled youths, plus, the center's staff.
"Some of these kids do have outbreaks of violence while they're there," Dursh said.
"It's a pretty volatile place."
As a teenager, Dursh, who grew up in Carrick, wanted to enter a prep school run by Sisters of Divine Providence. She felt drawn to that religious order after attending a retreat at the sisters' MCandless motherhouse.
"I just remember sitting in their chapel and feeling that I was being called to the religious life," she said.
Dursh's mother, however; insisted that she instead "have some fun," Dursh said, at the former St. Casimir High School on the South Side of Pittsburgh.
After high school, Dursh joined the Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God, who taught at St. Casimir High School.
"I love my ministry," said Dursh, who began working at correctional facilities more than 20 years ago.
Dursh works at the Youth Development Center in New Castle for the Diocese of Pittsburgh under a contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare.
Dursh holds bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in library science, plus, 18 credits in criminal justice, from Duquesne University.
Sister Jonathan Lunskis
Lunskis is the daughter of the late John and Aldona Lunskis, formerly of New Jersey.
She works as a radiologic technologist for the UPMC Department of Orthopedics in Oakland.
"I've been here for 23 years," she said. "I take X-rays. I deal with patients ... I consider my job my ministry."
Lunskis joined the Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God in 1968 getting her first job in a New Jersey hospital and sharing an apartment with two other young women.
"I decided to answer's God's call to the religious life. I just couldn't say 'No' to that," said Lunskis, who grew up in Elizabeth, N.J.
"The sisters that taught me were the Franciscans."
Lunskis is departing Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God in Whitehall to continue her religious calling as part of the more multicultural mix of religious women in the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
"I feel that I can do that better in a larger community," said Lunskis.
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