"IHMness"Sr. Babette Opferman, IHM
I could say that "IHMness" was a hereditary character which was passed on by a mother who was taught by IHMs at St. Mary of the Mt. School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the time of the famous Mother Cyril Conway.
Many of her friends from that school had become IHMs, and when I was growing up in New York, our mother took us regularly to visit some of those Sisters in various NYC convents. After moving to Queens, four of us were enrolled with Mother's beloved IHMs at Our lady Queen of Martyrs School in Forest Hills. By my third grade, my oldest sister, who had only known the sisters through visits, entered the Congregation in Scranton.
From that time on, I felt that this "wonderful Sister" scene had become too much of a good thing, and I definitely did NOT want to become one if this was expected of me just because of my big sister! However, by my third year of High School at Marywood Seminary, I began to feel that the "Hound of Heaven" was not about to let me be.
Half reluctantly, I left home to enter the community after graduation- sort of hoping that someone would tell me my attempt was enough and I could go home and forget that it ever happened. But, here I am in the year of my fiftieth jubilee, and have long since committed and recommitted my life to God as an IHM Sister.
I have had a most interesting life-- with never a boring moment since. I am very artistic, and also have a knack for "fixing things"- both inherited from my parents. My talents have been gifts to be shared with others during all the years of teaching. I've always helped when people needed bulletin board ideas or creative classroom aids. I learned later how to make rosaries and these along with other beaded creations have been for sale at our Congregation's gift shops. I have repaired or restored statues for many people as well, and enjoy doing so. (I am a "go to" person when something breaks!)
My ministries in the past have included teaching and the formation of children for Sacraments while developing programs that would bring their families closer to the Church as they participated. The greatest reward was seeing numbers of families returning to church if they had been estranged, and in a few cases, families who were non-Catholic joining the Catholic Church family.
"Join the Convent--see the world" became true for me as I served in New York, North Carolina and Western Pennsylvania as educator or later as parish ORE. In one city of North Carolina I was invited to be part of the Arts Council, an exciting time while I served as Art teacher In the school.
In MO, I continued serving as DRE, but then moved to a new ministry at the Basilica of the National Shrine (of the Immaculate Conception) in Washington, DC, where I met much more of the world as I greeted or assisted many interesting visitors at the reception office.
For a while, I kept a world map on my wall so I could check off the different countries whose residents I had encountered. Highlights were:
- Meeting the artists who had done various sculptures or chapel designs at the Shrine
- The Priest-Director of Our Lady of Altotting in Bavaria, who gave me his personal antique medal of Mary under this tide.
Presently, I live at IHM Center and teach in the Education Enrichment Institute, where several of the Sisters tutor students from Kindergarten through High School. I enjoy my time with younger students, especially if I can help a child develop self-confidence and achieve even a little progress.
Ministry of hospitality is an opportunity for me also, when I serve at the reception desk at Our Lady of Peace Residence for our retired IHM Sisters.
In free time, you will find me either working on crafts, fixing statues, rosaries, books or other things in need of mending-- or engrossed in a good book. I also enjoy an opportunity to play cards or other games with some of the sisters, or go to a good movie and lunch with friends.
I am most passionate about our call to joyful, loving service and being sent to be a witness to the presence of God in our world. The opportunity for rich prayer and faith-sharing experiences has been a treasured gift. I may have been reluctant to start out as an IHM, but have never regretted answering God's Insistent voice, which still calls each day.