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Sister's Journey: Across the U.S., Home in Ballston Spa
Sister Nancy Schmidt, CSJ, seems at home in her small office at St. Mary's School in Ballston Spa, where two red chairs and a small table have given her the opportunity to talk with parishioners so many times over the past seven years.
The adult faith formation coordinator seems to have settled there after serving everywhere else in the United States.
A Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for 54 years -- "give or take a few," she said -- Sister Nancy has seized every opportunity thrown her way since she entered the convent in 1958.
She taught junior-high science for 17 years: "Teaching gives you a lot of skills for your future." Then the Syracuse native moved to South Hollywood, Calif., to help impoverished people on the outskirts of the San Fernando Valley.
For four years, she assisted a parish priest in developing programs for the poor.
"One of the needs was just for people to stay the night," said Sister Nancy; "so we converted a bathroom outside the gym [into a bedroom]. They could stay there a certain number of nights. We stuck a bunk bed in there and made a shower."
In the early '80s, Sister Nancy went to work for Catholic Charities in Richland, N.Y. She helped build a medical clinic in an old farmhouse, staying for two years and then heading to Tucson, Ariz., for a similar project. She also worked with people joining the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. After stints in New York and Boston, she found herself working with RCIA candidates in Charleston, S.C., for seven years.
"Oh, I was in Texas, too! I forgot to tell you that!"
Sister Nancy spent four years in Houston, during which the Challenger space shuttle exploded. Some of the astronauts on the fateful 1986 mission were her parishioners.
These days, she's happy at St. Mary's in Ballston Spa, helping with RCIA and bringing communion to the sick and homebound.