Editor’s Note: This is the seventh article in a series “Nun Better,” which takes a look at the lives and the service of women religious in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
WILLIAMSBURG — Sister Carol Woods, SFMA, has been a member of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi for more than 40 years. But rather than rest on any of her past accomplishments, she’s busy helping her religious community plan for the future.
Sister Carol recently completed a stint working for the Franciscan Federation of the Sisters and Brothers in the United States, an umbrella group of communities of sisters and brothers. The federation is focused on promoting vocations and fostering closer ties among various religious orders.
“It’s for the purpose of sustaining the Franciscan voice, the Christian voice, the Catholic voice in our world today — who we are and how we do it,” she explained.
“There were Franciscan colleges there to listen to our speakers but also to address some of their own searches for their ministry, their service in the world today, and how to collaborate better,” she explained.
Doing the Lord’s work has taken Sister Carol to different places. Over the years, she has lived in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and Baltimore. She currently lives at Most Holy Trinity Church in Williamsburg.
She grew up in East Greenwich, New York, a town located in the northeast part of the state, near the New York-Massachusetts border. She went to St. Mary’s Catholic School.
But when it came time to attend high school, she had to go to a public high school because it was free. “It was a financial choice at that time,” she recalled.
She started writing poetry in high school. “I was a poet of sorts, a deep thinker,” she remembered. “It’s something that I haven’t always kept up with. But it’s still something I go to when I need to.”
One of her favorite poets is Mary Oliver (1935- 2019), the Pulitzer Prize winner whose work was largely inspired by nature.
After graduating high school in 1975, Sister Carol attended the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York. In 1978, when she was a college junior, she entered the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi community, something she had been considering for a couple of years.
She had good experiences at retreats she had attended and found that she was intrigued by the sisters and their work.
“It was their simplicity, their joy, their sense of service,” she said. “When I met them, they had just bought an old building in Holyoke, Massachusetts. … So, for the three years that I visited before I entered, we were painting or scraping or doing something around a different part of this big old house every time. And I felt like being a real part of some- thing that was going to grow.”
Sister Carol completed her bachelor’s degree in religious studies as a postulant.
She had started out as an English major but changed course.
“I was interested in learning more and creating more — seeing where God was bringing me in my life,” she remembered.
She professed her final vows in 1987. She remembers how happy she felt on the big day: “It was a great gift.”
That day coincided with the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar.
The readings that were used for her profession of vows were the same as those used at regularly scheduled Mass that day.
“It was the reading about David asking for wisdom,” she remembered. “One of our sisters said: ‘We’d like to have Carol’s final vows where she’s working … among the people where we want to be seen and where she is being seen in ser- vice.’
“And we used the Sunday readings. It takes me back to those moments, that commitment, but also a real sense of community.”
In 1990, she earned a Master’s Degree in Religion at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. She was living in a convent in Baltimore at the time.
While she looks back on her life of service with gratitude, Sister Carol remains focused on the future.
“It’s always best to look ahead,” she said.