By Sister Sallie Latkovich
For those of us whose life commitment keeps us from birthing children of our own, nieces and nephews are great blessings, providing the relationships that we might long for: to be with and to care for babies, watching them grow through childhood and into adulthood, and even watching them get married and bear their own children. I myself am blessed with thirteen “niblings” (another word for the children of ones siblings): eight nephews and five nieces. They have enriched my life in amazing ways for which I am so very grateful, and have taught me as much as I have taught them.
Here are some of my favorite stories. . .
. . .my first niece, Kelly, was born in the fall of the year. Early in December, my sister asked if I might sit with Kelly while she went out to do some Christmas shopping. I happily obliged, knowing that Kelly would sleep away the afternoon and I could tend to my own work. I sat in a rocker in Kelly’s room and watched her sleep. She hadn’t “done” anything as yet: not crawled, nor walked, nor began to talk. And yet, my heart swelled with love for her in her very being. Ah, the experience of unconditional love. Perhaps this is how God views us as well.
. . .my brother’s older two sons loved to golf at a short nine-hole course near their home. When I was in town, they invited me to go along. It was such fun to golf with those boys, who cheered me on and gave me tips. On one occasion, eight-year-old Patrick left us on the sixth hole to go to the clubhouse to use the restroom. He never returned to us or our game. When we approached the last hole, he was sitting on a bench with two older gentlemen, just “shooting the breeze” with them. What fun to observe our extrovert in action. Actually made me think of Jesus “sitting in the midst of the teachers in the Temple.”
. . .one time, I was being interviewed by a TV news reporter about a report that the Vatican suggested that women’s ordination not be discussed. At the conclusion of the interview, the reporter asked me if I thought women’s ordination would become a reality. I replied that if it didn’t happen in my lifetime, it would happen in the lifetime of my nieces. Of course, my nieces viewed the interview. The next time I visited, I was sitting on a couch, and eight-year-old Sara stood before me with hands on her hips and said: “You know what you said about our becoming priests? It’s not going to happen! I’m going to be a Doctor!” Okay then. And, she did! Sara had a clear goal that she made come true!
. . .as we all know, there are a variety of scrapes and bruises that happen to children. Nancy had come to learn that a little iced “boo boo bear” was always in the freezer and always used in an “emergency.” When her younger sister had a minor accident, Nancy was faster than the speed of lightning to get that boo-boo bear to her. I observed in her the desire to comfort and to heal.
Of course, these are all stories of nieces and nephews as children. There are so many more stories of their growing up and into adulthood, with decisions made, careers launched, families begun. And, even more significantly, pain and suffering encountered on life’s journey. It takes some intention and attention to stay connected with them, deepening our relationships. They remain so dear to me.
Perhaps my greatest learning in relationship to nieces and nephews is that I want what is best for them in life, and want them to be happy. Although that is my desire, I have no control over their life choices (nor do their parents.) But, I can be with them, loving them, accompanying them. And isn’t that God’s desire and presence to all of us as well?
About the Author
After nine years at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Sister Sallie Latkovich was elected to and currently serves on the Leadership Team of the Congregation of St. Joseph.