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Sister Youngs’ final assignment: listen to God

Sister Elizabeth Youngs’ parting words for Denver’s faithful are, “Listen to God and be quiet, and be open to what God is calling (you) to do.”

Especially for women considering a religious vocation, Sister Youngs of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, urged intentionally spending time with God.

Before her departure from a 14-year term as associate superintendent for the Office of Catholic Schools, Sister Youngs, 65, said her own vocation came by listening to God through the events of her life.

As a young girl in religious education classes in Denver, she developed an admiration for a nun.

“I wanted to be just like her,” she said.

Going to Mass at Our Lady of Grace Church in Denver with her mother also influenced her vocation. But she didn’t think of being a sister nearly as much as becoming a teacher.

“As the oldest of seven, I came home from school early on and was teaching all my siblings as my students,” Sister Youngs said.

After graduating from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana, Sister came to Grand Junction to teach with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. She was often asked if she was a sister.

“I think other people saw something in me,” she said.

She decided to explore a vocation and after a while, she said she realized she fit with them.

She earned a master’s degree in education from Boston College in 1985 and a doctorate in Catholic educational leadership from the Catholic University of America in 2013. She served as director of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Billings-Great Falls, Wyo. before becoming associate superintendent in Denver in 2001. While serving in Denver she earned a “Leading by Example” award in 2011 and an excellence award in 2014 from an accreditation group.

“The 14 years I’ve been here, I’ve really matured in my religious life,” Sister Youngs said.

Living with the “humble and highly-educated sisters” in her order in Denver has brought growth, she said, particularly during this Year of Consecrated Life designated by Pope Francis.

“I think any time you make a choice of a lifestyle … you close the doors to the other directions,” the sister said about her vocation. “So it’s scary for people to do this. But I have had so many opportunities, made so many friends and done so many challenging things.

This August she will mark 41 years as a sister. And in June she departs Denver for the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo. where she will lead as superintendent starting in July.

 

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