“Hi Lynn, this is God.”

Oct. 9-15, 2003
“Hi Lynn, this is God.”
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Sister Lynn Abdelnour finally answers His calls

UTICA –– The yearning began when Lynn Abdelnour was 19. She ignored it and went on living her life. Her life included working full time as an administrator at a major grocery chain in Virginia, taking college courses and teaching religious education classes at St. John Neumann Parish in Reston, Va. Sister Lynn Abdelnour, CSJ, grew up in Cohoes near Albany, where she attended St. Patrick’s Elementary School and Cohoes High School with her five brothers and sisters. After high school, she obtained a degree in physical education from Hudson Valley Community College and then moved to Virginia. Her life was full and busy. While teaching religious education at St. John Neumann’s Parish, Lynn complained so much about the parish’s religious education program, that when the coordinator left, they put her in charge. “And so it began,” said Sister Lynn. “There was a need for a children’s program that would compliment the adult RCIA program at St. John’s,” said Sister Lynn. So she started one. “It was during that time that the real stirrings to go into religious life began,“ she said. “I talked to a good friend of mine who is in the Oblates of St. Francis about what I should do. He suggested I take some time away from my job, school and parish work to really think about it. With all that was going on in my life, I needed to take some time to talk God out of this.”

Sister Lynn went into the parish center and asked if anyone knew of an upcoming retreat. The office manager handed Sister Lynn a flyer that had just come in that day. The Dominican Retreat House in McLean, Va. was having a retreat in eight days. Confident that there would be no openings, Sister Lynn called the retreat house to inquire about availability. There was an opening. The real challenge was going to be getting time off from her job in order to attend. “I guess it was meant to be,” said Sister Lynn. “Because against all odds, my supervisor was able to find someone to work for me that weekend – with only eight days notice.” There were other odds Sister Lynn had to overcome. The weather forecast was predicting a foot of snow in Virginia for the weekend she was scheduled to attend the retreat. That much snow would paralyze the city and make travel impossible. Still trying to get out of going, Sister Lynn told her friends of her concerns about driving through all that snow. They drove her to the retreat and dropped her off.

“I was still really fighting the thought of becoming a nun,” said Sister Lynn. “When I arrived at the retreat, I walked in to see a sign that said, ‘This is a quiet retreat.’ Now I’m one of the most extroverted people I know. When I saw that sign, I wanted to turn around and leave. But I was trapped. The friends that had dropped me off had already left.” Sister Lynn decided to make the best of her weekend off. She planned to read and rest and stay in her room. She did, however, attend the opening presentation and dinner that was scheduled for the first night. “Now you have to picture this in your mind,” said Sister Lynn. “The Dominican Order of Nuns all wear white. They are a reverent group. I said to God, ‘If you want this to happen, it has to be in the Albany Diocese and it has to be with the Order of Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.’ In a setting steeped in Dominican nuns, around the corner comes one that stands out from the others. She approaches me and says, ‘I’m Sister Betsy VanDuesen, a Sister of St. Joseph’s from the Albany Province and I’m here visiting a friend.’” Sister Lynn said she didn’t have to be hit in the head with a brick. She got the message that God was sending her. “As long as God had gone to all the trouble to bring Sister Betsy into my life, I thought I should at least sit down and talk to her,” said Sister Lynn. That was in 1995. After meeting with Sister Betsy, Sister Lynn met with Sister Kitty Hanley, CSJ, who was at the time the vocation director for the Sisters of St. Joseph. “We started the process and here I am.” That journey led Sister Lynn to her final vows that took place on Sunday, Sept. 21 at St. Francis de Sales Church in Utica. In front of her family, friends, peers and congregation she professed her love and commitment to God. While these vows made her an official member of the Order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Sister Lynn has been leading a life of charity, community service and ministry since her days at St. John Neumann’s. She currently works with the underprivileged in Utica and finds the work fulfilling and energizing. “The people I work with have no expectations and therefore have a different mind frame than those who come from a middle or high income family,” said Sister Lynn. Does she find the work discouraging? “Not at all. For these people there are no guarantees. They have no idea where their next meal is going to come from and no idea how they are going to feed their children. But they still get out of bed every day. If they can, then I can too.”

Sister Lynn told the story of taking a group of twenty-three underprivileged kids to an amusement park during the summer. In order for them to go, the children held a number of fundraising events. At the end of the day, when the children were on their way out of the park, Sister Lynn told them they could each select a large lollipop from the gift shop. While waiting to pay for their purchases, Sister Lynn was approached by one teen who asked if they could buy a pair of earrings for a girl that couldn’t attend the outing and Sister Lynn agreed. When she got into the driver’s seat of the van, she turned to see that all the children were accounted for and asked them why they hadn’t started eating their lollipops. They had all put them back in order to buy the earrings. “This job is life-giving and challenging,” said Sister Lynn. “Sometimes it’s a roller coaster ride and at other times a flat line. It is all that I have ever hoped for and nothing that I ever expected.”

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