Catholic Herald Staff
It’s the Word of God but the voice of Sr. Mary John VanderLoop delivering it.
The 95-year-old Servant of Mary has, for the past 10 years, recorded three-minute musings for the listeners of AM 1340, WLDY radio in Ladysmith.
“What I do, is I take the Gospel for the day, read that Gospel, and then spend about a minute or so with reflection on that Gospel,” she said. “That ends with a prayer.”
She draws on Catholic prayer books for inspiration.
“They’re not my own ideas,” she said, chuckling. “I’m not a theologian.”
Sr. Mary John professed vows more than 70 years ago. The Ladysmith Servite Sisters were invited to northern Wisconsin in 1912 to be teachers, and Sr. Mary John was initially an educator. Later, she later trained to be a nurse, working in hospitals in Ladysmith and Kewaunee.
“I did everything there was to do in a hospital,” she added. “I loved it. I worked 16 hours a day sometimes. That was the way we did it then.”
After Rusk County bought the facility, Sr. Mary John remembers being hired and working only eight-hour shifts.
Nowadays, she devotes much of her time to playing cards, doing puzzles and using the computer to keep up with her siblings and an ever-growing batch of grandnieces and grandnephews.
She heads into the WLDY studio every seven weeks or so to record meditations.
“I taped today for next week,” she said Jan. 2. The holidays went well, but too quickly, for the Rusk County native.
“The only thing I don’t enjoy is all this snow,” added Sr. Mary John. “We haven’t had this much in years.”
A local clergy association started the daily meditations some years back — she’s not sure when — and two other Servites preceded her in the recording studio. Both passed away, and the duty passed to her.
A total of six or seven religious denominations provide the meditations in rotation, according to the sister.
She has no idea how she sounds on the radio.
“I have never listened to myself,” she said.
Sr. Mary John no longer drives, but when she used to go shopping at County Market, locals would come over to tell her they’d heard her on WLDY.
Sharing God’s little lessons is in keeping with her life of service, teaching and healing.
“I know that people listen to it,” she said.