Sister Julia Costello, DMJ, of the Daughters of Mary and Joseph in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, recently shared a reflection on her life with SOAR!
My life as a Daughter of Mary and Joseph began when I entered our Irish Novitiate on August 15, 1948. There were six in our group; now we are four. After an initiating period of two years, we went to our Motherhouse in Belgium for six months, where we made our First Profession in 1951. After returning to Ireland for a few weeks, we embarked on our first assignment in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. We traveled to New York on the Mauritania and then flew to Los Angeles. A surprise greeted me at LAX. One of our DMJ Sisters in San Francisco was awaiting surgery and I was to replace her in the classroom. So I left the airport on a plane for San Francisco. This was a Friday, and the following Monday I found myself in the convent basement (classroom) with a class of about 20 Japanese children. Did I feel out of place? Of course, but I was ably assisted by Mrs. Miamoto, of happy memory. This was the beginning of my fourteen years teaching in San Francisco at both Morning Star and St. Michael’s.
In the mid 1960’s I was assigned to teach at St. Bernard’s High School, Los Angeles. I loved the high school format, with homeroom and “switching” schedules. English and History were my favorite subjects, but Religion was challenging. We were just entering the Post Vatican 11 era, a period of turmoil in the Church. Another surprise! In 1970 I was assigned to work in formation at the Irish Novitiate in Co. Longford. Times were changing. Religious life was undergoing various forms of renewal as Vatican 11 was impacting our Church and our lives. A year later we moved to County Meath and attended classes at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Maynooth. I had no prior training for this ministry, and I felt the challenge. The novices were lovely young women; one of them, Sr. Mary Carmel Walsh, is now a Golden Jubilarian with us here in Los Angeles. Still another surprise! I returned to L.A. in 1974, fully expecting to go back to teaching. That was not to be; my teaching days were over. Our Retreat Center needed a Sister Director; that became my new assignment: planning retreats, finding directors, keeping accounts, marketing, paying bills! Being manager was not one of my gifts. So after three years my community offered me the gift of a sabbatical. I chose a nine-month program at the Jesuit Spirituality Center in Toronto, Canada. This program prepared me for my future ministry. It ended with a thirty- day Ignatian retreat. My next assignment was Director of a House of Prayer in Camarillo. There my ministry involved home retreats, days of prayer, and spiritual direction.
In 1993 returned to Palos Verdes for the last time. The Retreat Ministry was alive and active, and I joined a busy staff, working on the Program Committee. Having received my certification as Spiritual Director, I found my niche doing the ministry I loved. I initiated the August Eight-Day Ignatian Retreat, a one-on-one directed period of renewal. In addition, short one-day retreats or workshops kept me busy.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I became interested in the Interfaith Community. With our collaborative effort we celebrated our first Kristalnacht gathering at the local synagogue, Ner Tamid. This multi-faith event honored those who had lost their lives in the Holocaust. At the end of the ceremony Rabbi Schulman reminded us, “This wonderful event cannot end here. It is like a New Dawn for the Jewish people.” And, so, our committee started the Dawn Unity Group, which assembles four times a year, to promote interfaith understanding and collaboration. After twenty years it is still active, meeting now via Zoom.
And, finally, no Surprise! Here I am today living out my final years in our lovely Marian Residence, our Retirement Home. I am peaceful and grateful. I thank God for my blessed and fruitful life and I thank my DMJ Community for their support and for the challenges and opportunities that helped me grow spiritually and professionally. Each day I pray for those who have been part of my journey.
Quoting St. Ignatius… All for the greater glory of God.”