Reflecting on her “50 wonderful and challenging years as a Sister of Saint Joseph,” Sister Susan Lindinger, SSJ, says that her ministry evolved over the years from one of teaching in schools and living in community into one of simply being present for others and making Christ visible to the world.
“It became more of a heart ministry,” she said.
Sister Sue, has spent the last five years as Volunteer Coordinator at Divine Providence Village, part of Catholic Social Services’ The Communities of Don Guanella and Divine Providence, an Intermediate Care Facility for men and women with developmental disabilities located in Springfield, Delaware County.
“I call her the Energizer Bunny,” says Sister Mary Veasy, SSJ, Pastoral Minister at Divine Providence. As Volunteer Coordinator, Sister Sue “brought in so many people, so many different groups to help out here.”
“She can’t stop because of her love and passion” for the work, said Angela Babcock, Administrator at Divine Providence.
Sister Sue grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and is the second oldest of five children – two sisters and two brothers.
The family attended Mass at Saint Jerome Church and the children attended the parish school.
“My parents were people of deep faith,” she said. “Both my mom and dad planted the gift of faith and family in all of our hearts.”
Her mother died suddenly when Sister Sue was a Junior at Archbishop Ryan High School. It was a Sister of Saint Joseph, Sister Debbie, who reached out to the teenage Sue Lindinger.
“She was my sister’s seventh grade teacher at Saint Jerome School,” said Sister Sue of Sister Debbie. “She reached out to my family, and she reached out to me, asking for help with coaching the school baseball and basketball teams.”
Sister Sue says the invitation to be more involved in parish activities made a difference in her life as she dealt with the trauma of suddenly losing her mother.
“Her compassion, her warmth, [she was] down-to-earth, I was drawn to that,” she said of Sister Debbie. “I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be that compassionate presence for other people.”
Following graduation from Archbishop Ryan in 1972, Sister Sue spent a year studying at Temple University.
Her dream was to pursue a career in Special Education, but there was no Special Education program at Temple. So, she studied Early Childhood Education and gained experience working with special needs children at her home parish as well as the local YMCA.
“My goal was always to pursue special education in some form,” she said.
After a year, Sister Sue “knew God was calling”, and she entered the Mother House of the Sisters of Saint Joseph on the grounds of Chestnut Hill College on Sept.8, 1973.
Sister Sue spent time at various area parishes teaching preschool and elementary school. She opened a preschool while serving at Saint Patrick Parish in Pottsville in the Diocese of Allentown. There, she first met Sister Mary, then the school’s principal, with whom she would eventually work within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
In 1981, the same year she made final vows, Sister Sue had two accidents, both causing neck injuries. She subsequently developed an autoimmune disease that affected her whole body. She underwent many surgeries to tackle “the chronic, piercing pain.”
“She really struggled, and wasn’t able to teach,” says Sister Mary of that time in Sister Sue’s life.
“As challenging as that period was for me,” said Sister Sue, “it brought me a new kind of life, and a new kind of ministry.”
Sister Sue was eventually assigned to Saint Anastasia parish in Delaware County where she spent almost 25 years serving the parish community. This is where her “heart ministry” developed.
She drew upon her own personal challenges and found herself providing more services to parishioners. She performed more outreach, more bereavement counseling in the school and parish, and helped with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
“It became one of being, not of doing,” she said. “It’s just being there, ready to walk with them, to go to their homes and listen to them.” She says she started to see her own hardships as a gift in this light.
She says it’s through “God’s grace” that she’s been able to continue her vocation while living with chronic pain for 42 years.
Sister Sue started working as a volunteer at Divine Providence during her time at Saint Anastasia Parish. She visited once a week to help and spend time with the residents. Five years ago, she was asked to be the Volunteer Coordinator. She now manages around 200 volunteers.
“It’s a joy to experience God’s smile, love, joy through the ladies at Divine Providence,” she says.
“She lives in a world of service,” says Babcock of Sister Sue and her work with Catholic Social Services.
“She’s so willing to listen with no judgment. She meets everyone where they’re at. She’s always fully present.”
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