[dropcap type=”4″]P[/dropcap]ope Francis declared that a Year of Consecrated Life be celebrated throughout the world, a time dedicated to the faithful whose vows of poverty, chastity and obedience serve to illuminate heaven on earth. To help mark this occasion, The Catholic Sun is featuring each month members of religious communities who serve the Diocese of Phoenix.
Sr. Cecilia Schlaefer has been a Sister of St. Agnes for 75 years. At age 93, she is still going strong and serving others in spite of having suffered eight heart attacks earlier in life. She has a doctorate in musical arts and taught music, Latin and English for decades in Catholic grade schools and high schools. She plays trumpet, piano, organ, guitar, violin and many other instruments.
Religious community: Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes
Community charisms: Missionary zeal, serving God’s people with simplicity and love as teachers, nurses and missionaries
Community founding: Aug. 12, 1858
Current role: Teacher, musician, chaplain
When she first heard God’s call: Age 3
Final vows: Aug. 15, 1947
These days, with the permission of her pastor, she brings Communion to the residents in the retirement community where she lives in Mesa. She’s currently teaching two Bible classes and plays music to entertain residents in eight nursing homes. “Retirement? What’s that mean?” Sr. Cecelia joked with The Catholic Sun.
The Catholic Sun: When did you first realize God was calling you to religious life?
Sr. Cecilia Schlaefer: I was 3 years old. I got to church and then we all went to the front pew. And we sat down and I heard the voice say, “Cecilia, I want you to be My spouse.” I touched [my sister] Mary and I said, ‘Mary, what’s a spouse?’ She said, “Quiet. We don’t talk in church.” She shut me up for the next 18 years. I never told her about it.
I ran home and my mother was ironing and I said, “Mama, what’s a spouse? She said, “Well, Daddy and I are spouses to each other. Why do you ask?” I said,” Jesus asked me to be His spouse.”
Tell us about your service as a religious sister.
I was a teacher and I’ve been to Nicaragua 14 times as a guest musician and started four marching bands down there. Our sisters were assigned there. We have the virtue of obedience. Wherever we were sent, we go. I taught music in every grade plus high school. I love teaching. I love to impart what I know. In three or four of the parishes, I had a grade school and a high school to take care of. I’m used to working hard and I loved every minute of it. The joy comes from Jesus, the presence of God. What’s greater? I talk to Him all day long and He tells me what to do.
What has been the most fulfilling about your life as a Sister of St. Agnes?
I was in union with Jesus all my life and nobody could ever take that away from me. He and I had something going and I knew it and I wouldn’t tell anybody. It’s a spiritual thing.