2014 Jubilarian – Virginia (Marie Amata) Celmer
Sister Virginia Celmer (Ginny) was introduced to the IHM Sisters at Immaculata High School, Detroit. Having had Sisters of Charity (black habits) in grade school, Sister Ginny thought IHMs were “funny looking” because of blue habits. Over her years at Immaculata, IHM spirituality drew her to community
Sister Ginny’s first mission (1968-1969) was teaching junior high school in a shared-time program at St. Mary, Monroe. This was a valuable experience both in education and in small town culture. She had seven students, all cousins with the same last name within two of the grades she taught. She went on to teach at Marian High School (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) and at Immaculate Heart of Mary High School (Westchester, Ill.).
During 1975-1976, Sister Ginny spent her year of renewal, teaching “survival” English to Vietnamese refugees, making a 30-day retreat in Guelph, Ontario and returning to Chicago for clinical pastoral education at Lutheran General Hospital. She then spent a year teaching at St. Thomas the Apostle High School in Hyde Park, Ill., before beginning ministry as a counselor and chaplain at Mercy Center for Health Care Services in Aurora, Ill. During that time, she earned her master’s degree in theology from Saint Louis University.
With the encouragement of the Department of Psychology at Mercy Center and the support of the IHM congregation, Sister Ginny began doctoral work in psychology. She was soon accepted into the program at Texas Tech University and earned her doctorate in 1986. While studying, she was also vicar for religious for the new diocese of Lubbock. “So much in my life is pure God because so many opportunities were created out of nothing for me,” she reflects.
As vicar, she advocated for continuing education for the sisters in Lubbock. Her creativity and innovation were noticed and appreciated by those in San Antonio and she was offered a position at The Consultation Center for Clergy and Religious upon graduation.
While in that position, teaching at Oblate School of Theology, managing a private practice and doing spiritual direction and retreat work, Sister Ginny was involved in a serious car accident. During her long recovery, she realized she “did not need to save the world.” When she was able, she put her energy into her private practice and other creative endeavors. “This has given me the flexibility to serve where there are needs.”
Sister Ginny has been a licensed psychologist for more than 25 years and utilizes the services of a therapy dog in her practice. If you would like to know more about Ginny’s ministry and her current “assistant,” Grace, go to www.VirginiaCelmerPhD.com.
Sister Ginny says that among her greatest joys “is to see people appropriate freedom and wholeness and joy for themselves. My ministry is pure gift as I witness the power of redemption firsthand.”