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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Nun celebrates 50 years of service

Friday, July 22, 2005

Sister Mary Jane Jansen helps young children with their sacramental preparation at the Guardian Angel School library
(Photo by Michelle Felter, Staff)
ORAN - Sister Mary Jane Jansen's parents always prayed for a vocation in their family - and she knew it.

And that was the norm in those days. Families tended to be larger, so parents really encouraged one or more of their children to choose a religious vocation. "Today, parents don't always approve of that because they want grandchildren," Jansen said.

However, the Leopold family's prayers were more directed to Jansen's older sister, who was more sedate, while Jansen is a bit more social.

"But God's plans aren't always the same," said Jansen, who celebrated her fiftieth anniversary as a nun June 12.

The past 50 years haven't seemed that long to Jansen. And although she could have retired quite some time ago, she keeps involved. "I feel I really have a lot of energy and it feels good to help," she said. "Plus, a community like Oran really enjoys having a sister here."

And Jansen definitely channels her energy to helping the community. She does sacramental preparation for children who do not attend the parochial school in Oran, so they have the opportunity to fully participate in their religion. She also teaches part-time at Guardian Angel - this will be her fifth year - where she gives religion instruction to grades 3-8 and teaches seventh grade English.

"I do enjoy the teaching and working with the children," she said. She came to Oran after serving in the administration in Missouri, Illinois, Texas and Tennessee schools for 33 years, including being the assistant superintendent of schools in the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese.

"I have passed the torch on to the next group," Jansen said.

And she enjoys being in the Oran community. "It's close to home and good to be back," she said. "Their values are similar to Leopold where I grew up."

Jansen also helps Guardian Angel's pastor, John Harth, with Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), preparation for adults converting to the Catholic Church. And every three years, she helps prepare high school students for the sacrament of confirmation.

She helps with other pastoral duties as well, such as giving out community if Harth is out of town, or visiting hospitals and the homebound. "I just kind of take care of what needs to be done sacramentally - I do whatever I can to help," Jansen said.

Nuns have undergone quite a few changes in the 50 years Jansen has been a nun.

For starters, nuns were more sedate and kept to themselves - it was unheard of for the public to come into their convent houses. "The concept was for them to be nice and reserved," Jansen said.

When she entered in 1953, nuns didn't drive, go to meetings or go out in the evenings. "Sisters today are much more involved in many other things," Jansen said, adding that the entire parish knows they are invited to her home at any time.

Today, it is also very important for nuns to be comfortable around others and meet and greet with them - not just from their parish, but the whole community, including other churches.

While in eastern Tennessee, where the population is only about one percent Catholic, Jansen had to work very closely with ministers from other denominations. "And I loved it," she said. She performed many of the same duties there she does today, in addition to serving as a hospital and police chaplain.

Nuns tended to be teachers 50 years ago. But as more people are getting interested in teaching, nuns have been taking on other roles. "Whatever the needs of the people are, we meet those needs," Jansen said.

She has been a probation officer with the juvenile court in Cape Girardeau, and been involved in the Bollinger county outreach program with other church ministers.

"Today, we do other types of work, like working with the poor, taking care of people and issues of peace and justice," she said. "We are filling positions and taking care of needs that would not otherwise be taken care of."