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Sr. Barbara Hubeny "Retires"


Thousands have crossed the threshold of the Augustine Center in Conway to be greeted by Sr. Barbara Hubeny, OP, who has served as the director of the Center for the past 24 years. In January, Sr. Barbara officially retired, but is continuing at the Augustine Center as the Director of Development in a volunteer capacity. Her retirement also provides her more time to spend with the two Sacramentine sisters who continue to live at the Monastery, Sr. Mary Rosalie Smith and Sr. Marie McCormack, and to be more available to assist them when there is a need. It was the Sacramentines who initially established the retreat facility as Blessed Sacrament Retreat House when they moved from Petoskey to the current location in 1960. In 1986, with a variety of changes taking place, including the nature of retreats being offered, the retreat house was renamed to the Augustine Center in honor of Mother Mary Augustine, the foundress of the Sacramentine Sisters. It was at this time that Sr. Barbara was hired. “The years I have spent here have just been a joy,” said Sr. Barbara. “I’ve really enjoyed living with the sisters and they make the Center – they really do. I also really enjoy being able to greet people. It makes me feel good because hospitality is an earmark of Dominicans, and to be hospitable is just like, ‘Hey, this is just what I was called to do,’” Sr. Barbara added. Born in Chicago, Illinois, to John and Florence Hubeny on July 19, 1939, Sr. Barbara is the second oldest of five children which includes three brothers: Robert (Linda), John (Catherine), and Michael (Linda); and one sister, Nancy (who is also a Sinsinawa Dominican). Having been educated by Sinsinawa Dominicans in grade school, Sr. Barbara felt drawn to the order. “What I saw was their family connection,” she said. “We knew about their families and their families were important to them. They were also very much parish-oriented in the sense of wanting everyone to be included.” Another key reason? “They invited us. They asked, ‘Have you thought about religious life? Would you like to be one of us?’” The sisters also invited the students to the convent to see where they lived and shared their lives and their ministries. “But I guess I was really attracted by the fact that they didn’t forget family, and family was – and is – still so important to me,” Sr. Barbara added. Barbara Hubeny entered religious life on September 8, 1957, the Feast of Our Lady’s birthdate. In 1959, she was professed and five years later, Sr. Barbara professed her final vows in 1964 and celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2007. She went from the novitiate to Rosary College (which is now Dominican University). Graduating in 1961 with a degree in Latin and minors in Greek and Theology, her first assignment was to Regina High School in Minneapolis as the Latin and Religion teacher, a position she held until 1967. In the summers, she attended St. Thomas College (now a University) to complete a Masters degree in counseling. Sr. Barbara was then assigned to the motherhouse to serve as school counselor and director of counseling at St. Clara Academy in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. In 1969, it was decided the academy was no longer viable as a boarding school and so she assisted in placing all the freshmen and sophomores in other schools, while the juniors were kept at St. Clara for their senior year. That same year, Sr. Barbara was assigned to Trinity High School in River Forest during the week and commuted the 186 miles on the weekends back to St. Clara to teach and counsel. Questioned if the schedule might have seemed overwhelming, Sr. Barbara smiled and answered, “Well, I was very young then and you just multi-tasked. You could do all those things -- and we wanted the best for the young people at the motherhouse.” It was at that moment Sr. Barbara recalled with fondness the following year when she went to three graduation celebrations in one day, crisscrossing Wisconsin and Illinois. The marathon of celebrations began with baccalaureate at St. Clara Academy, followed by the graduation ceremony at Trinity High School, and culminating with the evening college graduation for her own sister Nancy in Madison. That year Sr. Barbara was also reassigned to Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, Minnesota. There she primarily served as a counselor, but also taught religion and Latin. A highlight of that experience was the opportunity to teach four deaf students. “These students went to a school where they learned to speak and read lips, rather than sign language,” Sr. Barbara recalled. “It was very interesting and I learned a lot. The two women who were running the school came over and explained to me how the students learned about different sounds by holding the vocal cords to see how the sounds were made and then imitated it with their own vocal cords. It was at that time I also learned there were different degrees of deafness. I had not known that before,” Sr. Barbara noted. “It was a really, really wonderful learning experience for me. Their other senses were so keen; they could go and enjoy plays, concerts, and other events. “At one point, I had a very high voice when I was explaining something and it was a real jolt to me when one of the deaf girls came to me and said, ‘Sister, please don’t scream.’ You see, for her, the pitch of the voice was perfect,” Sr. Barbara added, laughing. “The four years in Faribault were just a marvelous experience for me.” In 1974, Sr. Barbara was missioned back to Trinity High School to serve as Admissions Director, and in 1978, became the Director of Admissions for Edgewood College in Madison, the college sponsored by the Sinsinawa Dominicans. She stayed until her sabbatical in 1985. “I had worked in some capacity since I was eight years old getting a few pennies for working on my grandpa’s farm and at 13, I went to work at the local grocery store, but I had never interviewed for a job,” Sr. Barbara pointed out. “There I was trying to teach kids how to interview and I had never done so myself because I had always been handed a job or assigned as a religious sister. So on my sabbatical, I wanted to do some informational interviewing.” Hoping to travel to Detroit for an interview, Sr. Barbara contacted her Provincial for permission who told her of a different opening in the Diocese of Gaylord and asked if she would like to consider interviewing for it. With only a few days available due to commitments she had made to provide co-therapy for victims of family alcohol abuse during her sabbatical, Sr. Barbara skipped the Detroit interview in favor of meeting with the Bishop of Gaylord and the Sacramentine Sisters at their retreat house in Conway. “I really liked Bishop Rose and his method of delegation because it gave me some independence, and I am an independent person,” Sr. Barbara said, “And when I interviewed with the Sisters, I just fell in love with them.” The area is known as “Mazzuchelli territory” which also provided an attraction for Sr. Barbara. Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P, founder of the Sinsinawa Dominicans, began his ministry in Northern Lower Michigan in 1830 as a newly ordained priest. He served the territory from the Canadian border throughout the Great Lakes by himself for a year before Bishop Frederick Baraga arrived. The two of them worked together until they decided that two missionary priests were too many in one area and so Mazzuchelli moved on. He was declared venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1993. Sr. Barbara’s new position in Conway was planned for three years initially, and if successful, would be extended. That extension has been parlayed into a nearly 25 year relationship -- and counting. Upon her arrival, Sr. Barbara lived with the Franciscan sisters in Petoskey, but the difference between a school schedule and retreat schedule didn’t work well. So the sisters in Conway set up an apartment for her and invited her to occasional meals or prayer with them, “but I’m a very community-oriented person,” Sr. Barbara said, “and I was having a bit of trouble because I needed to live in community. So I asked Bishop Rose if I could live with the Sacramentine sisters and he agreed. It has been one of the greatest joys of being here,” Sr. Barbara beamed. “It also made it much easier to communicate with them because this was really an extension of their ministry. I didn’t want to just take over what they had been doing. They had input into the planning and any changes that were made.” Sr. Barbara credits the sisters and the staff at the Augustine Center with the success of the ministry. “We have a number of people who have been here a long time and they are each really good,” she said. Karen Derris has taken over as Director of Guest Services “which encompasses about 90% of what goes on here,” Sr. Barbara stated. “She has a really good personality for it and has been a real asset. The entire staff is a great gift and each comes with special talents and commitment to the Center.” Looking back over her years as director of the Augustine Center, Sr. Barbara highlighted that it has been a time of “Growth, growth, growth, both for the Center and for me personally. I have met people of all different church backgrounds and it has been wonderful. The combination of the experiences with all the different groups has brought me to a different level – another level of appreciation and that strong connection that we have as God-centered people,” she said. “It has also been very educational and as a Dominican, we are always looking to continue our education. “I’m also really indebted to my own Dominican community for my being able to stay here at the monastery – for supporting me in that and this ministry,” Sr. Barbara reflected. “It’s been really fun. I am also glad that I have been able to serve the diocese and the Sacramentine sisters – and now I’ll be doing it as a volunteer. I truly love the sisters,” Sr. Barbara added. “I’m a really happy person.” And for the future? “I’m going to stay put, and remain a happy person,” Sr. Barbara smiled.

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