Toledoans might have ‘talked’ to Sister Sharon Havelak without knowing it.
If you’ve honked for peace at the suggestion of a hand-held poster you’ve seen at a busy intersection around Toledo, you might have been greeting Sister Sharon and her friends in the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition (NWOPC.)
Sister Sharon joined the group in 2001. “After 9/11 things got crazy and all the talk was about war. I wanted to do something to remain faithful to who I am and be able to stand up for what I believe in, which are the Franciscan values of peace and justice,” Sister Sharon recalls.
When she saw the people and the posters, she decided to join the group.
“You never know who might see the quiet protests of war and be inspired to adopt a more peaceful stance. And, it’s nice to know that there is one peaceful corner in Toledo one day a week for a few hours,” she wryly adds.
Over the years the group has encountered some extremely supportive reactions as well as some definite push-back. She laughs and remembers a man who shouted at them to ‘Get a job!’
“We thought that was pretty funny, since we do it on Sunday because all of us work all week.”
Sister Sharon’s other ministry is in art and art education for the Sisters of St. Francis. She graduated from BGSU with a Masters in printmaking, but her mediums include silk screening, fabric, painting and glass.
This path of peace, justice and art suit Sister Sharon well. She is a gentle ‘care for creation’ soul.
She grew up in Northeast, Minnesota and her family members were devout Catholics and she attended Immaculate Conception School, where she had Sylvania Franciscan Sisters as her teachers.
She knew by the end of eighth grade that she wanted to attend St. Clare Academy in Sylvania, in preparation for becoming a Sister of St. Francis.
“That Franciscan spirit, I think, is something that each of us already had inside of us even before we knew or understood that there were others who felt the same way. For me, I remember Sister Mary Ann, the vocation minister, visiting us and showing us slides of the Motherhouse grounds. I saw it and recognized it immediately as my home,” she says with tears in her eyes.
When she was a student at St. Clare Academy her teachers did their best to get Sister Sharon interested in Math and Science.
According to Sister Sharon, she, and her left-brain, respectfully disagreed. While the Sylvania Franciscans were known as great Math and Science teachers, they also had a tradition of nurturing artists and champions of justice, which suited her perfectly.
As an artist, Sister Sharon is able to share her ministry with others and help them experience the transformative state of creating. Here we need a quote from a former student.
On many occasions, particularly when teaching Art Fundamentals, students tell her how art has helped them.
“Many times a student shares with me how they were having a difficult time with something in their lives and couldn’t get their mind off of it until they sat down to work on their art assignment. After they get lost in that creative space step away from their conscious mind for a while, they find that things are much clearer,” Sister Sharon says.
A student of mine tells me that she had a problem that was worrying her greatly and she felt too preoccupied to work on her art project. Finally she forced herself to begin. Soon, she got lost in that space of creating and when she stepped away from it she was no longer worried. She had let go and connected with something deeper for a short while. It delights me when I hear things like this from my art students,” Sister Sharon says.
Life as a Sylvania Franciscan has been wonderful for Sister Sharon. Need quote from someone in Christian-Muslim dialogue
“It’s been a blessing to be able to concentrate on justice and peace as well as work as an artist in my ministry as a Sylvania Franciscan.
Art brings me deeper into prayer and contemplation but the justice work roots me into what this whole thing is about, loving others and caring for them,” says Sister Sharon.
Originally published in the Sylvania Franciscan, 2018