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Getting to know Sister Edith Schneider

By: Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Last Updated: August 4, 2022

THIS MONTH, JUDY WILLIAMSON OF HERITAGE AND ARCHIVES BEGINS A SERIES TO HELP RIPPLES READERS GET TO KNOW THE PHJC SISTERS.

In my own understanding of myself, I was always a “simple peasant girl”, and from my parents I somehow understood that God has a special love for the poor. This led me to enter the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ and seek to serve the poor in whatever ways I was called. Through my love of languages and through Saint Archbishop Oscar Romero and Maryknoll Sister Ita Ford, I felt the strong irresistible call to work in Latin America. 

A few years of teaching in our orphanages (my big dream) convinced me that I was NOT Maria in The Sound of Music. This was not where God was calling me. From there I went into Hispanic ministry—in Bolivia 4 years, with Spanish speakers in Saint Augustine Parish Chicago—8 years, in Nicaragua—2 years, in Mexico—26 years. 

A Scripture passage that has always been key for me is 1 Cor. 1, 26-28 “God chose the foolish of  the world… the weak…the lowly and despised…” along with the Saint Louis Jesuits’ song “In Earthen Vessels.” By the time I celebrated my 50th anniversary of vows, THE song that spoke for me was the Spanish song from Latin America: 

“Señor, no soy nada.  

¿Por qué me has llamado? 

Has pasado por mi puerta y tu bien sabes,

Que soy pobre, soy débil. 

¿Por qué te has fijado en mi? 

Lord, I’m a nobody. 

Why did you call me? 

You came through my door, knowing well  

That I’m poor, that I’m weak.  

Why did you notice me?

I would like to be remembered for living the chorus of this song: “It’s impossible to know you, Lord, and not love you; it’s impossible to love you and not serve you.” 

In 2014, right after celebrating my 50th jubilee, sickness—and almost death—brought me home. In these seven years, I have accompanied our Sisters in the nursing home, taught English to the Spanish speaking at the Plymouth library, worked five months at the Mexico U.S. border, accompanied my sister through a year of horrible depression, and now serve as local leader for our Sisters in the Kasper Home. 

And based on my experience, I want to share in a convincing way, especially with young people, “Love your God, listen to God’s call, don’t be afraid, hold tight to God’s hand, and you will be led on so many journeys, sometimes difficult, always fantastic!” Go for it!  

The Annunciation scene on the High Altar in the Motherhouse main chapel is the artistic expression of our Congregational call: “Behold your servant, Lord. Be it done to us according to your will.” (Lk. 1: 38)  

In our early years in Mexico, we commissioned an artist friend to paint us a “Mexican Annunciation” scene, seen on page 1 of this issue. A copy of this painting hangs proudly on my bedroom wall, reminding me…whether in the United States, Guatemala, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mexico, or back in the U.S. again, “Behold your handmaid, Lord, I long to do your will.”