We gather to celebrate the grace-filled life of Sister Juliette Marie Houser, formerly Sister Peter Claver, a Sister of St. Joseph for 64 years.
Born to Edward and Dorothy Houser, Julie grew up in St. Margaret’s Parish in Middle Village where a vibrant spirit of community and family life nurtured Julie’s sense of compassionate service and outreach to the needy
Julie proudly attended The Mary Louis Academy where the lived charism of our sisters ignited her passion to wholeheartedly say “yes” to God’s call to enter our community. After graduating from Brentwood College Julie taught in St. Bernard’s for four years and in 1966 came to Our Lady of the Snows where she taught 7th and 8th grades for 13 years.
The turning point in Julie’s ministry was vividly recounted in her note to Sister Joan de Lourdes where Julie described her passion for working in Pastoral Care. Along with Father Joe Dolan she developed a multi-level training program for the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. Julie’s quest to do more ~ to walk the extra mile ~ to heighten awareness of the need for an in-depth training for the Ministry of Pastoral Care locally and nation wide brought her full time to Catholic Charities as Coordinator of Pastoral Educational Programs and Prison Ministries.
For the next 44 years Julie tirelessly devoted herself to this sacred work ~ always educating herself in every aspect of the human condition that enhanced her work in Pastoral Care. Julie knew deeply the love and talents God lavished on her and with prayerful reflection she widened the circle of her outreach traveling around the country to share the fruits of her vision of care rooted in the Gospel of Jesus.
Awards and recognition of Julie’s astounding work were plentiful, but in her own focused way the real reward came when she met one of her student graduates ministering to a needy patient in a hospital room. hey were the face of God who brought hope and healing to the sick and suffering.
To share a personal insight into the power of Julie’s ministry we invite Elizabeth Meehan, Pastoral Care Director in St. Joseph Convent to give a short reflection –
I first heard of S. Julie during my studies of Clinical Pastoral Education. S. Julie was a legend and a pioneer. She was a CPE Supervisor, an Educator, she was one of the first women elected to the NACC Board of Directors and she also served on the Certification Commission. I had the honor of meeting S. Julie when I served as an Interviewer for NACC. The Interviews were being held at Queens Hospital Center which was where S. Julie ministered.
I was new to interviewing and I journeyed with two other Chaplains to Queens. When we arrived, S. Julie was outside the main entrance of the hospital – with her beautiful smile and a warm hug for each of us. We proceeded to walk through the hospital to our meeting room. I remember there was a surgeon who came running after S. Julie. He told her that he wanted her to see a woman he had just operated on. He said he would call S. Julie when the woman was in the recovery room; S. Julie thanked him. He then said, “No, thank you; this woman will need you more than she will need me right now.”
We proceeded to the meeting room where S. Julie led a beautiful prayer service. I noticed a bowl in the middle of the table with little papers around it. During the middle of the prayer, S. Julie invited us to write down anything that might be troubling our hearts. We did that and at the conclusion of the service S. Julie placed the bowl in front of a picture of Jesus, the Wounded Healer. She remained there in prayer for a moment and then she said she had a message for us from Jesus – she said Jesus knows what is in our hearts and that he “has” it. He will take care of everything and we had no need to worry.
Then S. Julie told us that as we went to our individual interview rooms that we should pause before we walk over the threshold –to remember that we are walking on very holy ground. And then she said that when the applicant came into the room that we should pause again – to remember that the God in us will greet the God in that Chaplain and that all would be well.
I have carried those practices in my heart; I pause before I enter a room and before I begin a visit. I am grateful for these words of S. Julie and today I know that she is walking on the holiest of ground with the God she loved so much and served so well.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your meaningful words that capture Julie’s vibrant spirit. I’d also like to share words of Sister Maryann Seton Lopiccolo, Vicar of Religious for the Diocese of Brooklyn who was unable.
Julie has been lovingly called the Grandmother or Foundress of Pastoral Care Programs and today we memorialize that awesome and sacred title.As a sign of Julie’s total commitment of faithful service to the People of God as a Sister of St. Joseph for 64 years, I place our Constitution in her hands.May Julie’s deep sense of the needs of others and their quest for a personal relationship with an all loving and compassionate God grace us all.
Sister Juliette Marie Houser, CSJ, formerly Sister Peter Claver, died on November 14, 2021, in the 64th year of her religious life.