Sister Barbara Vano
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Sr. Barbara Vano

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Date of Profession:
August 12, 2000

Her grandmother, the late Angela Tata who was committed and passionate about her faith, and the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province, who modeled community life for her.

Spending time with family and friends, walking, museums, and concerts.

Best thing about being a sister:
“That sense of community, that sense [that] there are others who share this passion and this vision . . .  It’s a struggle and none of us do it perfectly, but we’re in it together.”

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“Something is Missing in My Life.”

She didn’t want to get married, she liked her teaching job, and she loved praying and volunteering with a group of Franciscan Friars in Southfield, Mich.

But Barbara Vano couldn’t see herself being a sister. When someone would hand her a pamphlet about religious life – it happened frequently – she would politely thank the giver and later drop the flyer into the trash.

“I think when you’re a young single woman, people tend to peg you as a potential sister,” she says. But as having lived alone, she balked at the thought of living with a group of women. “I just couldn’t imagine the day-to-day rubbing shoulders.”

Finally, after several years of saying she would never be a sister, she says, “I got to the point where there was just something missing in my life.”

Ironically, it was the sense of community she observed among the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province – men who shared the same values and passion. “It was in seeing this community of brothers who, for all their weaknesses and foibles, really found a great deal of joy in one another that I thought, ‘Well, if I don’t give this a shot now, I’ll never know.’”

Because of her positive experience with the friars, she decided to look for a community of Franciscan women and visited the Sylvania Franciscans in Ohio. There, she found the same joy, passion, and peace she had witnessed with the friars.

So at the age of 34, she gave up her apartment and moved into a house with four other sisters at the Sylvania motherhouse. “It was not as difficult as I anticipated,” she says. “It was the usual daily rubbing shoulder-to-shoulder with other people and every once in awhile I had to say to myself, ‘These are the personality traits and quirks that you would find in any life . . . There’s no ideal life-style.’”

During her formation, Sister Barbara volunteered at a soup kitchen and taught part-time at an area college. Eventually, she says, “I grew into a gradual realization that that gnawing ‘something’s missing in my life’ was gone, that I had really found peace . . . God doesn’t have this voice from on high. That was the way of knowing this is where I really belonged right now. This is where I belong in life.”

Three years after entering the community, she made her first vows in 1997, followed by final vows in 2000.

Of the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, Sister Barbara says she probably finds obedience the most difficult. “I can be rather headstrong,” she laughs.


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