2015 Jubilarian – Janet (Gabriel Mary) Hill
Sister Janet Hill was born in Ecorse, Mich. After her brother was born a year later, the family moved to another home in Ecorse that was quarantined during a scarlet fever epidemic. Later, her parents had four more children. Sister Janet attended St. Francis Xavier School in Ecorse, but when she was in sixth grade, she transferred to Our Lady of Lourdes in River Rouge and was taught by the IHM Sisters.
Being called to a religious vocation felt “very right” to her. She felt attuned to the Motherhouse while attending a reception there, and she joined the congregation right after high school. Her mother was very supportive, but her dad was concerned about her decision.
Sister Janet’s first mission was teaching first grade at St. Catherine in Detroit during a time of racial tensions. After three years, she went to St. Charles in Newport, Mich., where she taught second through fourth grades for three years.
From there she went to the valley town of Cayey, Puerto Rico, where she taught second grade at Colegio de la Merced. While there, she completed her master’s degree in catechism at Fordam University. She stayed in Cayey for three years before moving to Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, another valley town surrounded by mountains.
In Adjuntas, she trained catechists and led Christian formation classes. She also went out into the mountainous area and trained leaders to conduct Bible reflection activities, a ministry that had a great impact on Sister Janet’s life because it was the first time she had real contact with people outside of a structured context. “The sharing of life stories, and their own personal faith stories, impressed me,” she says. These stories deepened her own faith and she developed a “deep respect for the humble, the simple and the poor.”
After four years, she returned to Michigan to be closer to her family. She lived in Detroit and taught at St. Vincent before returning to Puerto Rico, ministering in Ceiba, where she served in parish ministry and led Bible reflection groups. In Ceiba, Sister Janet participated in a peace and justice movement to protest the presence of the Navy. From Ceiba, she felt a call to go to Vieques to work in pastoral ministry and she became part of the campaign against the Navy’s presence.
Following a year of renewal in Texas, Sister Janet returned to Puerto Rico for the next 26 years. She taught school, served in pastoral ministry, worked in the Peace and Justice Center in San Juan and as a school librarian.
One of her greatest joys since joining the community has been “the support of the community throughout all these peace and justice activities.” Sister Janet is grateful for the richness of the experiences she has had and the perspective they have given her. The strong support she received “made me conscious of world situations. It provided a much greater perspective,” and was very much appreciated.