Sister Jeannie Masterson of the Congregation of St. Joseph was awarded the Full Stature Achievement Award for 2018/2019 after being an active member of the McNicholas community for 39 years through various roles at the school. Even though her journeys have taken her all over the world, it is obvious she still has a strong sense of love towards McNick.
“I believe God invites us constantly to be the best we can be, to realize the potential we’ve been given – this call comes from inside and from outside,” Masterson said. Aside from living in New Orleans for three years as a novitiate, she has lived her entire life in Cincinnati. She has been part of the religious order of the Congregation of St. Joseph for 57 years, but had been considering her calling long before her decision to enter the convent.
“I first considered religious life as an eighth grader, and changed my mind back and forth many times through high school,” she explained. Masterson added how times were different then and how the sisters would not accept a young woman into the community at the age of 18 now due to the belief that “adult life experience, including college relationships and work, are essential to discernment of a life choice.” Though Masterson joined early in her life, she shared that she has never regretted her decision.
Many of her years have been spent as a part of the McNick community. She was a student from 1957-1961, a faculty member 1970-1975, an assistant principal from 1977-1982, and a member of the school board from 1977-1996. As a student, Masterson was a staff reporter on the school newspaper (which at the time was called the Co-Ed), active in the Catholic Students Mission Crusade (a.k.a. CSMC), and other extra-curricular groups. Masterson was also selected to the Mardi Gras court as a freshman and a senior, and crowned the Blessed Mother as a senior.
As assistant principal, Masterson’s main responsibilities were to oversee all extra-curricular activities and faculty spiritual development. During her years as assistant principal, she hired Theology teacher John Norman, and the service opportunities, which at the time had been optional, became an expectation and a graduation requirement for the school. Masterson stands by her decision and believes the process has been of great benefit to the McNick community. “We are all one human family, all children of God, needing one another for completeness,” she said.
Masterson retired in August, so she is adjusting, sharing “retirement is still new to me.” Since 2007, she has been on the Congregation Leadership Team. Due to Masterson dealing with having had stage 4 cancer (which she is now clear of), she still spends time going to doctor appointments. She recently returned from a trip to the Holy Land, and is looking forward to returning to Japan in January.
“I was liaison with our Japanese sisters for the 11 years I was in leadership and was unable to travel there in June to say goodbye to them because I was in chemo. This trip is an added gift, both to bring closure to my ministry with them and to help the new Leadership Team transition into their new role with the Japanese women, all of whom I have come to love dearly,” she said. She also loves to read and spend time with friends, and due to her family being so far away, she often travels to spend time with them, which is extremely important to her. Masterson is focused on spending her time and energy for causes she believes in, including “anti-racism, women’s rights, voter rights, immigration – anything that creates deeper unity, that expresses our belief that everything is part of a huge oneness of God.”
God is a defining part of Masterson’s life, and she added, “Everything in life is a connection to God for me. Meeting people whose culture, experience, beliefs are different from mine has been an invitation to examine my beliefs more fully.” Every year she attends an 8-day silent retreat every year, which helps her to recognize God in all of creation. The sudden death of one of Masterson’s younger sisters, and then the “relatively quick” deaths of both of her parents, as well as her cancer diagnosis have all deepened her belief in an afterlife and a God who loves unconditionally.
She was surprised to receive the full stature award presented to her by McNick this year. She said, “I think of myself as leading an ordinary life, doing the best I can with whatever circumstances come my way – just like everybody else I know – that it took some prayer to accept it graciously as an acknowledgment of God’s love moving through me.”