Vocation Story of Sister Wiona Engel
Sr. Wiona Engel PBVMI was born in Luckenbach, Texas, the youngest of six children born to Armin and Franciska Engel. I grew up on a farm where we raised mainly tomatoes and squash for a living. I attended a two room public elementary school my first seven years and 8th grade through 12th grade in St. Mary’s Catholic School, Fredericksburg, Texas from where I graduated as Valedictorian of my class in 1962.
Entering Religious Life never entered my mind until a German priest, Fr. W.W. Schneider, often mentioned it to me. Over and over he would say to me, “Wiona, you would make a good nun.”
My answer always was, “No, never Father, I’m not good enough.” “Yes, you are”, was his response. His constant remarks kept bothering me so during my senior year in high school I visited 5 different Congregations. In Sept. 1962 I decided to try the Presentation Sisters in San Antonio because they all seemed so happy, they were a small Congregation and I thought I would always be near home. I really entered with the hope that I wouldn’t like it and therefore be able to go back home with a clear conscience and be able to follow my dream. I loved dancing and always wanted to become a professional dancer. However, God is a God of surprises. I entered, I liked it and I stayed.
I have had a wonderful and blessed life with the Presentation Sisters. I was very happy teaching 3rd grade, 8th grade and Jr. High Science in St. Gregory’s Catholic School from 1966 -1978; being principal of St. Thomas More Catholic School from 1978-1986; and caring for my sick and ageing parents from 1985-1989. After their death in 1989 I began a Development Program for our U.S. Province. In 1991 I was transferred to Ireland where I served as Assistant Congregational Leader for 5 years and as Congregational Leader for ten years from 1996- 2006. Though leaving home, my family and friends and moving to Ireland was one of the most difficult times of my life, it was also the most blessed. Leadership was a ministry which I would never have chosen to be involved in. However, my experience of working with 3 different teams was a great learning experience plus I made many friends
Serving my Sisters and traveling to the various countries where our Sisters are in mission was very life-giving. Experiencing the culture of our Sisters in India, Pakistan, Philippines, New Zealand, Slovakia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ireland, England and ,of course, the U.S. was difficult but yet it was also awesome and a great learning experience. The welcome, hospitality, and care of me, not only by our Sisters, but by the people of these various cultures are experiences I will never forget. I experienced God’s presence in so many various ways and it was just wonderful to see how our Sisters carry out the mission and charism of our Congregation.
When I finished my 15 years in Congregational Leadership, I had a good rest and then did a month’s program in Ecology in Chicago, Illinois and a 4 month Sabbatical Program in “Berakah” located in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. Both helped me to concentrate on my own spiritual life and to reorient myself for a ministry in the U.S. Province.
After finishing my Sabbatical and returning to the U.S. Province, I was part of a Discernment Group of Sisters interested in working with those in need. The Provincial Team asked me to investigate areas of need in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Through that investigation I was lead to the Delta of Mississippi where I worked for one year with the Mercy Sisters in St. Gabriel Mercy Center in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Our Discernment Group chose to begin a new mission in the Delta and I was one of the three chosen to start this mission with two other Sisters, Sister Maura and Sister Una. In September 2009 we began our search in the Delta and after much research, discernment and prayer we chose Shaw, Mississippi to begin the new mission for the U. S. Province. We have opened Presentation Sisters Center in downtown Shaw and presently we have a tutoring program for children Kinder through 3rd grade after school. We have 19 students whom we tutor and are beginning adult literacy classes for high school and adults. We remain open to learning about the needs from the people and are willing to respond to those needs in whatever way we can.
My life thus far has been a very fulfilling and blessed journey. I trust that God who began this work in me will continue to guide and direct me for the rest of my years. May God be praised for God’s goodness and love for me.