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Being in South Africa is a “surprise of the Spirit” says golden jubilarian.

Professor of theology and well-known champion of the dignity of women, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary sister, Susan Rakoczy, celebrated her golden jubilee of profession at St Joseph's Theological Institute, Cedara. Russell Pollitt SJ reports on the celebration. 

Sr Susan Rakoczy IHM celebrated her golden jubilee of religious life on 28 April at St Joseph's Theological Institute, Cedara. She entered the novitiate of the sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) in the US in 1968.

Sr Sue Rakoczy kneels during the Eucharistic Prayer at the celebration of her golden jubilee

She has lived 35 of her 50 years as a religious in Africa, being sent to Ghana in 1982 when, she says, “I thought that I was only being sent to Africa for three to four years, definitely the surprises of the Spirit.” Rakoczy is a native of Detroit, Michigan. “Being here today—after 50 years—is a witness to the Spirit of God, not to a sense of perseverance that is simply 'year after year',” she said. Reflecting on her journey over the last 50 years Rakoczy says she has learnt that “small deaths lead to small resurrections and big deaths lead to big resurrections”.

Sr Sue Rakoczy, IHM with Fr Paul Decock, OMI, who presided at the jubilee celebration

At the jubilee mass, presided over by Fr Paul Decock OMI, professor of Scripture, and parish priest of St Joseph's Cedara, Fr Chris Richmond OMI, Rakoczy said that she was reminded of the African-American spiritual: “We have come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord…” She said that commitment to religious life, to marriage, to a profession is a statement of faith and hope. “Faith: I am called. Hope: I trust that God will lead me in this, whatever the pathways that open up.” After the homily Rakoczy renewed her vows which were received, on behalf of the provincial, by fellow sister, Judy Coyle.

Sr Sue with fellow Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters (L-R) Peg O'Shea and Judy Coyle

Sr Sue, as she is known to most, is well known in theological circles in South Africa. She holds a PhD in theology from the Catholic University of America and is professor of spirituality at St Joseph's as well as honorary professor in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN). She says that she has always, in her professional life, “focused on trying to bring spirituality and justice together.” Rakoczy teaches courses in: the History of Christian Spirituality, Women Doing Theology, Spiritual Direction and Mysticism and Social Justice.

Sr Judy Coyle presents Sr Sue Rakoczy with a cake to celebrate her golden jubilee

Rakoczy has published widely on a number of topics. She is well know for her work in the area of feminist theology. She has worked extensively on the writings of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, amongst others. She is the author of In Her Name: Women doing Theology and Great Mystics and Social Justice. She supervisors Masters and PHD students at St Joseph's and UKZN.

“Fifty years is a long time—but it is not an end for me but a continuation of the call affirmed in 1968 in the US and now lived out in South Africa in 2018,” Rakoczy said.

Images: Russell Pollitt SJ

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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Russell Pollitt SJ
Director of the Jesuit Institute South Africa and Editor-in-Chief of He studied the social sciences, theology and communications. He worked as pastor of the Jesuit’s downtown parish in Johannesburg, South Africa, for 7 years before moving to the Jesuit Institute. He is interested in the relationship between faith and society and the contribution that faith can make to public policy. He regularly comments on politics in South Africa and issues in the Catholic Church. He conducts workshops in South Africa on social media and the human person.

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