Local News Archive
Print Issue: July 5, 1973
Sister Madeline Will Head Atlanta Sisters' Conference
By Marie Mulvenna
Sister Madeline Roddenbery, RSM, has been named president of the Atlanta Sisters Conference, which represents 19 different orders of sisters active in various apostolates within the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Sister Madeline, who serves the archdiocese as director of elementary education, was also recently elected as a member of the executive board of the National Catholic Educational Association, representing the southeastern states.
Of her recent election, Sister Madeline said she felt the conferences leadership can be effective only with the interest of all the sisters. The conference can be as strong and as effective as the sisters of this area not only wish it to be but are willing to see that it will be. Sister had high praise for her predecessor, Sister Sharon Holland, IHM, who had headed the local conference for the past two years and said Sister Sharon exemplified interest, dedication and an excellent ability to relate well to all people. She guided the conference through a period of change which always implies struggle, Sister Madeline stated.
Sister Madeline is a native of Florida but was educated in Georgia at Mount de Sales in Macon, where she became a convert to Catholicism and later entered the Sisters of Mercy of the Baltimore Province. She received her BS degree from Mount St. Agnes in Baltimore and her masters degree in elementary administration from Boston College. She has taught in all levels of education, from kindergarten through high school and also does summer work at Loyola University where she conducts workshops in early childhood education. Sister did special work in education at the University of Georgia, at the child psychiatric clinic at John Hopkins, received a certificate in Montessori and studied Britains primary schools at Oxford, England.
In her community, Sister served as superior and principal at Immaculate Conception in Atlanta and at Mount de Sales in Macon. She is a past president of the education committee for the Sisters of Mercy and is supervisor for Mercy schools in the state of Georgia.
Sister traced briefly the history of the sisters conference, explaining it began at the time of the synod in Atlanta and was initially known as the Sisters Senate. Sister was one of the first originally elected to help from the present conference and has been involved with the group in various capacities since, including the educational committee, social action committee and this past year as vice president.
The local conference now maintains an open membership for all interested in participating compared to an elected basis of the past where members represented various orders. Sister Madeline said there are approximately 200 sisters serving in various fields in the archdiocese including sisters engaged in hospital work, religious education, social work, cloistered and Catholic education.
Sister described the role of the conference as vital to the sisters in the area in order to corporately find answers to some of our problems but also to be a vehicle or means to communicate with people and the spiritual leaders of the archdiocese. We want to reach the church community as well as civic leaders to strengthen our relations with other faiths in Atlanta.
The present conference, Sister stated, addresses itself to different problems from the problems encountered in the beginnings of the group. Initially, Sister related, the group was a step toward unity for all the sisters and we were tremendously interested in how we could better develop the spiritual aspects of our lives. When we all came together we found we could have fine speakers, spiritual directors, confessors who were available to all of us and we shared days of recollection and retreats as means of building ourselves up spiritually. Sister added, with the changing of the times our needs here have now been directed toward other people and their needs, rather than our own particular needs.
Present activities of the conference, Sister reported, address themselves to several areas of concern: 1) the spiritual development of the sisters themselves 2) education and all phases of the field 3) the social needs of our time especially in areas of Christian justice and the dignity of human life and 4) social contacts and means of getting to know other religious communities. Sister Madeline smiled, adding she would like to think of this particular aspect as more than a welcome wagon whereby the sisters could share many things together.
The present conference maintains committees on membership, education, social action, public relations and communications. They also have a committee studying sisters salaries. Sister explained that the financial needs of the sisters has become more critical because of their immediate concern for retired sisters and those who will reach retirement. In the past, Sister said, no provisions were made for any sort of retirement. In addition to the increased cost of living for everyone, Sister related, the sisters face increased costs as well and this ongoing committee was established to determine these needs and present them to the finance board for consideration. She explained that the archdiocese provides the salary for various sisters but health costs, insurance etc. are up to the order which receives money and must then budget it and handle it to meet the needs of the sisters.
Other newly named officers of the conference are: Sister Kathleen Steinkamp, RSM, vice-president; Sister Damian Schirmer, secretary; and Sister Barbara Suttko, treasurer. At the present, Sister Madeline is in England serving as a seminar director for Loyola University and leading a group of teachers in their observance of British primary schools. The group will observe schools in inner city areas of London and Birmingham as well as rural districts around Oxfordshire and Leicestershire. On her return to the states, Sister will journey to Loyola to direct an early childhood program that she has coordinated for the past four years.