Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation.

Sister Cecelia Joseph Olinger hits the road for Jesus

One of Sister C.J.’s favorite pastimes is to visit Big Springs near her home in Van Buren, Mo.


(This article was written in 2013 and currently, Sister C.J. is located here at the Mount serving as a postmaster and head of the Guest House.)

The distance between the tiny Ozarks town of Van Buren in southern Missouri and St. Louis is roughly 150 miles. That’s about as many miles as Ursuline Sister Cecelia Joseph Olinger drives on the weekend – just to go to Mass.

That’s because Sister Cecelia Joseph is the pastoral associate for three churches in Van Buren, Piedmont and Williamsville, a tourist area that features the Current River and the Mark Twain National Forest. It requires 144 miles of driving to attend the four weekend Masses at the three churches.

“I go to Piedmont for 11 a.m. Sunday Mass because they have religious education beforehand. I’m usually a Eucharistic minister or lector on Saturday night in Piedmont,” she said. “I’m usually always at Van Buren for the 8 a.m. Mass.” Once a month she attends the Saturday evening Mass in Williamsville when the parish has its potluck.

She just finished her second year in this ministry and is glad to be back in the diocese where she grew up, just 66 miles from her hometown of Glennonville. She coordinates religious education for the children and works with RCIA and the Arise program with adults.

Being on the road for the Lord is nothing new for Sister Cecelia Joseph, who almost everyone calls “C.J.” She spent 15 years ministering in New Mexico, first as a teacher and then serving three Native American churches in a pueblo. She’s ministered in Clinton and Benton, Ky., which are areas with few Catholics where she went out to visit the sick or worked with parishes in neighboring counties.

“She never runs out of people to see, places to go or ideas to share,” said Sister Elaine Burke, her friend since the two ministered in New Mexico together 25 years ago. “If you visit her, she makes sure you see things you’ve not seen before.”

Sister C.J. has a gift of joy, Sister Elaine said. “She’s a very cheerful, fun-loving person. She loves to laugh, sing and entertain. But she sees prayer as a top priority.”

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