Sister Jacqueline Fernandes is superior/administrator at St. Joseph Residence in Seattle. At the time of this interview, she readily said she was at a stage in her life when she preferred to be known as a Jacqueline and not a Jackie.
Don’t think for a moment that stereotypes this Hong Kong native as stuffy, though. A tennis player and admitted fan of the soaps (“I’m eager to learn what makes the characters tick,” she says), Sister Jacqueline knows how to enjoy life.
When did you know you wanted to be a sister?
I came to the United States from Hong Kong in 1960 and lived with an American family who had three children. I took care of the children and went to school. But before I came, I knew I wanted to be a sister and thought I would come to the United States, finish my studies and return to Hong Kong to enter a community. I took some classes at Seattle University and, while I was there, I made a retreat at Providence Heights and met the Sisters of Providence.
Why did you decide to enter the Sisters of Providence?
I was very impressed by the diversity of the community. I was also open to the community because I didn’t want to be a teacher or nurse. I was more into business and was impressed that I would be able to do that.
What kinds of ministries did you get involved in?
When I was a temporary vowed sister, my first assignment was working in the admitting office at St. Vincent Hospital in Portland. I really loved that work because I like people. I then returned to Seattle and worked with the sisters? budgets as an assistant to the provincial treasurer. I did that for nine years and then decided I wanted to have some experience with the schools. So I was hired at Providence High School in Burbank as the registrar. I then became treasurer, and then the office manager. I enjoyed that work very much.
Most recently, I was a member of the 2000-05 Leadership Team
How have you seen Providence in your life?
I’ve seen it in the ministries that I have done and in the people that I’ve worked with. I also see it in our community as a whole. We’re there to support each other. When there is sorrow, we have compassion for each other, and to me that’s very important. I’ve learned a lot from the other sisters. I watch them and see what they do.
How has prayer helped you?
I strongly believe that prayers help my life. I always feel that my guardian angel is watching over me. I know whenever I pray for something, it doesn’t happen when I want it to happen. But it happens, and I’m very grateful to God for giving me good, common sense to understand that.
What does it mean to be a Sister of Providence?
I think the way I treat people and my response to them helps them to know I’m a Sister of Providence. They know that I’m really sincere because of how I respond to them. I think my actions tell whether I’m a good Sister or not. I’m not perfect and I make mistakes.
When people tell me that I’ve done something that bothers them, then I apologize. I feel that honesty is the best policy. We all struggle together and I’ve learned that our life is just a part of life in general. Sometimes just talking to one another and listening help.
What has motivated you?
I think what has motivated me is working with different people and the energy of working together. It’s a joy to work with people that you know have the energy and enjoy the same things you do.
Do you feel you’re closer to your family?
I’m close to them and I’m getting closer to my brother and sister because they were young when I left. My closeness with my mother is more like a friendship. We were close when I was growing up but we didn’t talk a lot because, in our culture, children were seen and not heard.
What advice would you give to women who are discerning?
One thing is to be yourself. I’m glad to see that women who are coming into religious life now have a profession they can continue to use. I would say the most important thing is to ask questions; don’t assume anything.
You all have so much to give to this community and to the people you’ll serve. It’s not going to be easy, but just be honest and do the best you can. Pray hard and find someone to talk to.
I was more into business and was impressed that I would be able to do that.