50 Years: Barbara Schamber, SP
Sister Barbara Rose
Sr. Barbara Schamber
The theme of “I will celebrate God’s love forever” has permeated Barbara’s call as a Sister of Providence. God’s Providence has been an ever-unfolding reality in her life. Her understanding of it began in the warmth of her family home with her parents Joseph and Hildegarde Schamber. They imbued their elder son Joe, daughter Barbara, and much younger son Tom with a living faith.
She was a sophomore at Immaculata High School in Chicago, had many friends and thought of entering the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) community. This was soon to change since her family moved and she enrolled in a new school called Providence High School in Burbank, Calif. The first Sister of Providence she met was the principal, Sister Maria Theresa (Sister Mary Gleason).
The call to enter the Sisters of Providence unfolded during the years at Providence High School as Barbara observed the sisters and their joy and dedication to God. Sister Rebecca Berghoff was her senior homeroom teacher and three young women entered the religious community from that class. Barbara was one of seven energetic young women who boarded a plane out of Burbank on August 15, 1961, to join 22 other women who were the first postulant class to enter at the newly opened College of Sister Formation, Seattle University, Providence Heights campus, in Issaquah, Wash.
A desire to teach
Sister Ignatia Marie Lindekugel welcomed them as postulants and, by her own example and prayerful life, modeled for them the spirit of the Sisters of Providence. She also provided a deeper understanding of the history and the origins of Mother Emilie Gamelin and Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The postulants only realized what great Providence women like Sisters Genevieve Gorman and Teresa Lang had prepared long after they had completed the college curriculum. What they learned was a gift to each of them and to the Church, whether they remained in their religious communities or whether they became part of the larger society.
Barbara always had desired to be a teacher of young children, so after profession and graduation she was missioned as a primary teacher at Holy Family School, White Center, Wash. That was followed by teaching at St. Joseph School, Vancouver, Wash., and St. Finbar School in Burbank. It was during her time at Holy Family School that she met Sister Carolyn Koreski. This initial friendship became a lifelong blessing as Carolyn and Barbara shared ministry and community living until Carolyn was called home to God on July 11, 2010, surrounded by the sisters, her family and friends at Providence Centralia (WA) Hospital.
After Sister Barbara’s initial teaching assignments, she was asked by the religious community to prepare to become principal of Providence Montessori School, in Portland, Ore., where she worked with Sister Julie Ziocchi, administrative assistant, and another deep friendship developed.
Chosen to lead
In August 1985, Sister Barbara was called by the sisters of Sacred Heart Province to serve as provincial superior. Serving in leadership with such dedicated members of the Provincial Council, and having the great pleasure of visiting with every sister in the province, listening to their stories of ministry, community life and life challenges, was a deep faith experience.
After completing her ministry as provincial superior, Sister Barbara was missioned as principal of St. Elisabeth School in Van Nuys, Calif., while also providing assisted living support for her mother, Hildegarde. Barbara’s father, Joseph, had died in 1984 and her mother had lived alone since that time. “Those were very special years of journeying with Mom though the aging process,” she said. “Mom always told us that if she could no longer live in her apartment with me, due to increased illness, she would like to go to St. Joseph Residence. After receiving wonderful medical care she was discharged from Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank. My older brother Joe drove our mother and me in an RV to St. Joseph Residence, where she spent her final six weeks of life until September 22, 1991. Her wish was granted, thanks to the welcome of Sister Shirley Smith, superior, and the sisters at SJR. Our family is forever grateful.”
Oversaw the merger of two provinces
The Crossing the Mountains discernment process between the two American provinces of the West led the sisters to embrace the call to form Mother Joseph Province in 2000. A new Leadership Team of Barbara as provincial superior, and council members Margaret Botch, Donna Burkhart, Lynn Chappell, Jacqueline Fernandes, Roberta Rorke and Kathryn Rutan, worked tirelessly to complete all the details needed to bring the two former provinces into one. During the first two years of the term, Sister Kathryn was elected superior general of the congregation at the 2002 General Chapter.
In 2010, Barbara, Sister Anita Butler, Johnny Cox, Chuck Hawley and Barbara Savage, PA, were missioned as sponsors of the newly formed Providence Ministries. It is another unfolding call of Providence in Barbara’s life journey.
“Over these 50 years, I am grateful to all who have touched me deeply, including Sisters of Providence, other religious, clergy and lay persons with whom I have had the pleasure of sharing ministry and friendship,” Sister Barbara said. “I am also grateful for the gift of faithfulness of my parents, my brothers Joe and Tom and their families, including my nieces, Susan, Linda, Kathleen, JoAnn, Kaitlin and Allison, and my nephew, Michael, as well as in my commitment as a Sister of Providence. Providence of God, I thank you for all.”