Beatitudes Sister appointed to interfaith post

Roxanne King

In April, Sister Magdalit Bolduc, C.B., was named the Denver Archdiocese’s liaison for Jewish-Catholic relations.

In the decree appointing her, Archbishop Samuel Aquila said she has the “necessary qualities, prudence and expertise to help carry forth this important task.”

“I am grateful,” Sister Bolduc, 50, said about her new role. “It will provide the opportunity to … encounter the Jewish community of Colorado and to share Church teaching concerning the Jewish people.”

A native of Montreal, Canada, Sister Bolduc is a 27-year member of the Community of the Beatitudes, which among its key ministries educates on the Jewish roots of Christianity.

She teaches a class on Judaism called “The Hebrew Experience” at area churches, including her home parish, St. Catherine of Siena. She served 12 years in Jerusalem as a guide and has led pilgrimages to the Holy Land for more than 20 years. She is there now with a group of 46 pilgrims.

In 2005, Sister Bolduc received the Micah Award from Denver’s Jewish community for a multi-media presentation on Jewish-Catholic relations called “A Man Had Two Sons.”

She has a bachelor’s degree in art from Ottawa University in Ontario, a diploma in spiritual theology from the Teresianum Pontifical Institute in Rome and she is a graduate of the Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Montreal. The daughter of a diplomat, early on she acquired an appreciation for different cultures, languages and religions.

She lived 10 years in France, where she served as spiritual director at a retreat center and as formation director for religious sisters of her community. She speaks French, English and Hebrew.

Sister Bolduc described her new position as the answer to a “deep calling” from God, who started her love for her current ministry when her community sent her to Jerusalem.

“(There) I experienced the richness of sharing the beauty of faith with the Jews,” she said. “This prepared my heart to an interfaith ministry with the Jewish people.”

The Second Vatican Council’s call in “Nostra Aetate” to live in renewed relationship with our elder brothers in faith began a slow healing of centuries of hurt and misunderstanding between Jews and Catholics that has led today to what Sister Bolduc calls a hope-filled “springtime” in the relationship.

“Trust is growing,” she said.

Her new role has opened a door in her own relationship with Jews and Catholics.

“I have talked so much to Catholics about the Jews,” she said, “that it’s time I talk to Jews about Catholics.”






COMING UP: Run, Betty run!

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Run, Betty run!

Even at 89, Betty Willis just keeps on running

Roxanne King

Twenty years ago, the Denver Catholic Register (now the Denver Catholic) featured a local 70-year-old who had recently run her 23rd marathon.

Betty Willis went on to finish four more marathons as well as numerous half-marathons, 10K and 5K runs. Set to turn 90 on Oct. 23, she plans to run a 5K on Oct. 7 to benefit her parish’s school, Sts. Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge.

“I ran in it last year,” Willis said about Sts. Peter and Paul’s Cool Duo race. Laughing she added, “I was 89 and I got first place in the 80 and older group—there wasn’t anyone else in my age group!”

That’s how it’s been since she started running in 1979 at age 52 when she competed in a 10K.

“I had never done a race before in my life,” Willis said. “I walked and ran and walked and ran. I finished next to last.

“Actually, I came in second place in my age group—50 and over,” she clarified. “There were only two of us.”

Two years later—after training—she participated in her first 26-mile marathon, placing first in her age group. She went on to compete in a total 27 marathons.

“I did 27 to honor my birth year, 1927,” Willis explained.

Her best marathon time? An impressive 3 hours, 55 minutes in 1985, which according to wellness website VeryWell, is 50 minutes less than the median marathon time for women of 4 hours, 45 minutes.

Her most memorable race? The Oct. 28, 2001, Marine Corps Marathon, which took place in Washington, D.C., just weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was dedicated to those who died, the survivors and the first responders. Runners carried flags as they ran by the damaged Pentagon.

Betty Willis, 89, shows just a few of the medals shes’s acquired in her many years as a runner. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

“That was the most patriotism I’d seen since World War II,” Willis recalled. “It was my favorite marathon.”

Born and reared in Springfield, Ill., Willis came to Denver in 1949 with just a small cardboard suitcase. She was 21 and on her way to San Francisco but needed to earn some money. She ended up finding a 39-year career with Security Life insurance. Starting as a file clerk, evenings she attended college and earned a degree in education and psychology. She retired from Security Life as an assistant vice president in 1988.

“I’ve had a very full life,” she said. “Lot’s of interesting things have happened!”

After retiring, Willis earned a master’s degree in Christian community development. She also completed the Catholic Biblical School’s four-year program. For 23 years, she directed the homebound ministry at Sts. Peter and Paul, where she’s been a 65-year parishioner.

Today, she still serves as a back-up extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and opens the door for the 7 a.m. Sunday Mass, which is convenient as she lives across the street from the church.

“Jesus has been my best friend for my whole life,” she said of her faith. “I’ve got through with help from the Lord, the Good Shepherd, who sent me good shepherds.”

A daily communicant for “many, many, many years,” Willis said simply of her dedicated Mass attendance: “You have to be close to the Lord. You have a reason to get up and get going, not just sit around.”

The same goes for her running habit.

When I get to where I can’t finish a race, that’s when I’ll call it quits.”

“It’s good for your health—mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” she said. “It keeps you agile and it’s a lot of fun. I run for all those reasons, and for the camaraderie with other runners.”

The benefits of running include slowing peripheral artery disease, which she was diagnosed with five years ago. She likes that runs benefit charitable causes and believes running has given her “bonus years.”

“I enjoy the challenge and just doing it,” Willis said. “I would really like to encourage older people to get off their duff and not shuffle their feet … to keep moving! They’ll be stronger and happier.”

These days, Willis limits herself to 5K races.

“When I get to where I can’t finish a race, that’s when I’ll call it quits,” she said.

Willis is looking forward to Sts. Peter and Paul’s 5k as last year some of the school’s teaching nuns ran in full habits, and the pastor and many students participated. The same is planned for this year, which she praised.

“I especially want to congratulate all the children who will run,” she said.

Twenty years ago Willis expressed a desire to travel, to write and maybe finally move to San Francisco. Running has allowed her to make trips there, and to Alaska, Hawaii and Ireland. Currently she’s working on freeing up time to write.

And some days, the dream of moving to San Francisco, where she lived a year as a teen, beckons.

“I loved the ocean,” Willis said. “But it might be to Los Angeles because my parents are buried there and my brother (her sole living sibling out of four) lives there.

“I still have my one little cardboard suitcase I brought with me,” she said. “I still might continue that journey to California.”

Benefits Sts. Peter and Paul School in Wheat Ridge
Sunday, Oct. 1, 8:30 a.m.