Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 6, 1977
Savannah Nun Is Coordinator In Plains
ALBANY, Ga. (NC)
One of these days when hes back home in Plains, Jimmy Carter may look out a window and see a van driven by a nun passing through town.
That van is a home, classroom, theater, library and office for its driver, Franciscan Sister Ruth Marie Hensler. She drives it 25,000 miles a year in the 10,000-square mile Albany deanery in southwest Georgia in her job as religious education coordinator. She serves about 1,500 Catholics in the area. Plains is on route.
The major emphasis of Sister Henslers program is teacher training and preparation. She visits each of her more than 50 teachers each month and also encourages their attendance at diocesan workshops.
Sister Hensler also visits lapsed Catholics and encourages return to the sacraments, providing whatever instructions are necessary. She also meets with groups of parents and trains them to assist in preparing their children for the sacraments.
Sister Hensler and the six priests who serve the 10 churches or parish centers and two stations where Sunday Mass is regularly celebrated plan the program for each year.
My goal is to strengthen the faith of the Catholics living in this area so they can make the Church more present in this extensive territory where our Catholic witness is limited, said Sister Hensler, the only nun in the area.
When I first began my mission work I tried to have each of my instructors meet with me at a central location, said Sister Hensler. Although this was more convenient for me, it was difficult for my teachers so I began to visit their homes or other places where meetings could be held on an individual basis.
Initially I traveled the territory by car, but I found it difficult to store my classroom aids and I had no real place to meet with my instructors, she said.
When it became apparent that Sister Hensler needed a different means of transportation, the Savannah dioceses Department of Christian Formation received money from the Extension Society to buy a mobile home. The Chicago-based Extension Society is an organization dedicated to serving home missions in the United States and its protectorates.
The van provides storage for teaching materials, a sleeping area, kitchen facilities and a table that will seat four comfortably.
Sister Hensler has also outfitted the vehicle as a library.
My instructors and the parents of some of the students had been requesting use of some of my texts and brochures, but I never really had a way to fill their requests. Now I am able to carry along a good selection of books and lend them as needed.
Sister Hensler also worked out a system for previewing audio-visual materials with instructors. I simply pull the shades on the windows, set up my projector in the rear of the van, pull down the screen installed above the drivers area and my van becomes a theater.
The nun can also sleep overnight in the van when she is not able to return to her home in Albany, giving her some break from a schedule which can keep her on the road 12 hours a day.