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Sister Peg begins new chapter as CSA vicar general

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The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes installed a new leadership team on Aug. 27 in Fond du Lac, Wisc. Sisters serving for the next four years will be: (from left) Councilor Lael Niblick, General Superior Sharon Pollnow, General Vicar Peg Spindler, and Councilor Madeline Gianforte. (Provided photo)


BY MARLENE A. ZLOZA / Northwest Indiana Catholic


      FOND DU LAC, WISC. – Many people spend their entire work life building a successful career, while others are blessed to have two successful careers.

      Northwest Indiana native Sister Peg Spindler, CSA, however, is one of those rare talents who, at the age of 74, is beginning her third career as a member of the new leadership team for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes.

      During their General Chapter 2022 in June – like an annual meeting of the congregation – delegates for the Congregation discerned their direction for the next four years and the new team of sisters who will lead their efforts. Invited to form the leadership team for 2022-26 were Sister Sharon Pollnow, who will serve as General Superior, with Sister Peg (Margaret) Spindler as General Vicar and Sisters Madeline Gianforte and Lael Niblick as General Councilors. “Once invited, we discerned whether or not to leave our names in, then we each gave a little talk on our strengths and limitations and what we envisioned for the future of our order,” said Sister Peg, who grew up in Cedar Lake. “After more discernment, a vote was taken.”

      In her declaration, Sister Peg identified herself as “someone who listens pretty well and sees things that need to be done. I can ask the difficult questions when needed.”

      Her Congregation “is all getting older, with the median age being 80, and we haven’t had any new vocations recently,” she said. Believing in God’s plan, she added, “Let’s hope we attract some new Sisters, but if not, we will continue to serve as long as we can and go out with a bang.”

      The Congregation of 149 introduced its new leadership team during an installation Mass on Aug. 27, at Holy Family Church in Fond du Lac, with Archbishop Jerome Listecki of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee presiding.

      Sister Peg earned a bachelor of science in biology with a minor in secondary education from Alverno College in Reading, Penn. and has master’s degrees in Secondary School Science from Villanova University and pastoral studies from Catholic Theological in Chicago.

      Her time in ministry was divided into two segments of 24 years each – the first career serving as a teacher in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Indiana, including 15 years teaching junior high science at the former Holy Trinity School in Gary. Her second 24 years was spent serving as executive director at Sojourner Truth House in Gary, which she helped to found in 1997. Upon retirement from that position in 2021, Sister Peg continued to volunteer with the Continuum of Care Network in Northwest Indiana and advocate for those experiencing homelessness in the region.

      “So much for retirement,” she said of her new position. “Every stage of life is important. ‘It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.’

      “This is an opportunity to serve my Sisters – all four of us were pulled out of other places to Fond du Lac. All of us gave up something else, but I am humbled and honored to be selected. Given the age and the frailty of our Sister, we will be walking with each other through this journey.

      “The world is in bad shape and however we can add goodness, we are about doing that,” Sister Peg said of her new direction. “Everyone has to get involved. In our Congregation, we have our associates, and they are involved in ministry work, too.

      “All human beings are called to love and serve, and that commitment does not end at 65. I live with a Sister who is 90, and she is still active. There is always something we can do at our age, no matter what age.

      “‘Justice is love made public,’” Sister Peg quoted Cornel West, co-founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. “That is part of our Chapter mission statement.”

      Sister Sharon Pollnow is originally from Milwaukee, and is a licensed clinical social worker with certifications as a spiritual director and a grief and trauma specialist. In 2021, Sister Sharon retired from her counseling position at Sophia Center in Sylvania, Ohio, which she helped to establish in 1993 and subsequently moved back to Wisconsin.

      Sister Madeline Gianforte is from Bensenville, Ill. with degrees in education and Holistic Health She is also a certified massage therapist, Reiki master/teacher, and infant massage instructor. Her first ministries were based in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and Canton, Mississippi. For the past 20 years, she has served as the Executive Director of CORE El Centro in Milwaukee, which she helped found in 2002.

      A native of Fort Wayne, Sister Lael Niblick holds a degree in education with minors in theology and science, and a master’s in religious education and youth ministry, as well as more than 20 certifications. She comes to leadership directly from the Diocese of Jackson, where she was a lay ecclesial minister for St. Helen parish in Amory, Miss.

      The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA), founded in 1858 in Barton, Wisc., has sisters across the U.S. and Nicaragua who strive to minister with simplicity and hospitality in the fields of education, health care, pastoral ministry, and social service. 

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