Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI
Reflection for Nov. 3, 2019

Reflection for Nov. 3, 2019

Life-changing encounter

When have you had a "Zacchaeus" moment?

by Sister Madonna Swintkoske

In Sunday’s reading we hear the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus. It says, “Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector and a wealthy man, wanted to see Jesus.” I wonder if this desire to see Jesus wasn’t a nudge from God.

Zacchaeus was a short man and could not see over the crowd, so he climbed a tree. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, he ordered him down from it and said, “today I must stay at your house.” It is interesting how now it seems Jesus is no longer “passing through” as he initially intended. Zacchaeus came down quickly and received Jesus with joy. He repented, offered to give half his possessions to the poor, and repaid four times over anyone he had defrauded. Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus changed his life. This encounter for Zacchaeus was intensely personal and yet not private. It had changed him profoundly and at the same time, by inviting Jesus to his home, Zacchaeus’ whole family experienced something new. Also Zacchaeus’ conversion changed the lives of those he cheated or harmed in some way.

As we celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week I can relate to the story of Zacchaeus. I didn’t climb a tree to see Jesus. However I am reminded that God always takes the first step. I had the desire to become a Sister as I listened and watched the Sisters teach over those eight years of grade school. Most likely this was my nudge from God. After my own sister went to the convent and came home after one week, I was quiet about wanting to be a Sister throughout my high school years. I was fearful that my family and friends would persuade me not to be a Sister, saying I would come home just like my sister did. I did pray often to our Blessed Mother if this was what God wanted for me that something would happen fast to accomplish this.

In my senior year I talked to a friend about my desire to be a Sister. A few days before classes were to start at Door County College for Teachers, I received an invitation from my friend and her pastor to visit the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross at the Chapel, now known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. During our visit one to the Sisters said that if I wanted to join them I should come soon because they were starting College classes the next day.

Now after 62 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, I am happy with my decision and grateful. I am aware that:

  • God always takes the initiative
  • We need to be attentive to God’s action in our life
  • We need to welcome Jesus into our life and enter into a relationship with Jesus
  • Be aware that this encounter will change our life and those of others.


Sister Donna Koch
11/01/2019 6:27 am

Well done. Thank you.

11/01/2019 7:24 am

Loved your reflection! Great tips to remember too! Thank you, Sister Madonna!

11/01/2019 9:06 am

It was inspiring to hear your story and how you listened.

Sr. Ruth Ann
11/01/2019 1:01 pm

Wow! I didn't know your beginnings, Madonna! Very inspirational!

Sue Bellin
11/03/2019 5:26 am

What a beautiful reflection. Thank you for sharing your inspirational words with us.

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