Sister Janelle Sevier

"For from [the Word’s] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."

John 1:16

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one of four children. My mother and father met in the Navy, where they were pharmacist mates. My father was from Baton Rouge and my mother from New Bedford, Massachusetts. As a result we lived in both the north and the south at different times, and I claim both as “home.” Most of my early schooling was in Baton Rouge, but at the end of my sophomore year we moved north, where I finished the last two years at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth, where I first met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

After high school I worked a year at bookkeeping and selling shoes. I must have been an early advocate of equal pay because I quit the first job when the owner refused to give me a raise when he had given a boy, who started at the same time as I did, a raise. My work was actually more complex and it didn’t seem fair!

After a year of saving money and garnering some work experience, I entered the Sisters of Notre Dame. Even before high school I had a desire to join religious life. And I was absolutely smitten by the joy and commitment the SNDs had in high school. They were smart, joyful, and in love with God–and I wanted to be like them!

In the mid-to-late ‘70s I taught math and science at Our Lady of the Angels School in Worcester and Math at Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro, MA. But I realized I wanted to be more fully involved in people’s lives than classroom teaching at that time allowed, and I had already felt a call to missionary life. So after two years at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and with a Masters in Theological Studies with specialization in Cross-Cultural Studies, I headed to join our Sisters on mission in our Kenya Unit from 1980-1999.

During that time, after language school in Tanzania, I worked in Kisumu for eight years as part of the pastoral team of the diocese–doing work in the area of human development and spiritual development. This included anything from running a program for street boys to being a chaplain for the women’s prison to doing “Life in the Spirit” retreats and spiritual direction.

From there I went to Nairobi for 10 years where I began doing vocation and formation work for our SNDs while teaching theology at two seminaries. Following that I worked in a local large and very poor parish in the heart of Nairobi (St. Teresa Parish), giving directed retreats to parishioners, training lay spiritual directors for the parish, and working in the development of Small Christian Communities. And finally, I spent a year in the northern desert of Kenya, in Kakuma, at the UNHCR Refugee Camp where I was part of a pastoral team for the diocese of Rumbek (Sudan) that had opened a Parish within the refugee camp. I was involved in working with small groups, reflecting on their experience of God and life, and providing weekly liturgical experiences and at moments of crisis.

Following work with AIDS patients and their families in Zimbabwe and establishing a program for children affected by AIDS in the diocese of Bulawayo, I went to Haiti and, with another SNDdeN, began our ministry to very poor women and children in Les Cayes, Haiti.

Since returning stateside, I have been involved with a variety of ministries and activities. I feel very graced to have lived the life I have had thus far–and I am deeply grateful to God for all the people and experiences that have been part of it. I have been privileged to have been with “the poor in the most abandoned places,” to share deeply in the experience of God in people’s lives, and to have known God’s touch in my own. God is indeed good.


Pastoral Ministry

St. Jude Parish, Baton Rouge, LA
Immaculate Conception Parish, Denham Springs, LA
Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish, Peabody, MA
Gonzaga Retreat House, Gloucester, MA
Miramar Retreat Center, Duxbury, MA
St. Aloysius Parish, Baton Rouge, LA
St. Thomas More Parish, Baton Rouge, LA
Freelance work in Spirituality (Retreats and Spiritual Direction)

AIDS Ministry

AIDS and Orphan Care Project, Archdiocese of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA

Ministry to Those Living in Poverty

Kisumu Diocese Peri-Urban Team
St Teresa Parish- Nairobi
UNHCR Refugee Camp- Kakuma, Kenya/Diocese of Rumbek
Work with AIDS Care Teams in Zimbabwe
Research and Initiation of a Pilot Program for Destitute Families,
Diocese of Les Cayes, Haiti

Service to the Sisters

Member of SNDdeN Kenya Leadership Team
Formation Director and Director of Vocations, Kenya Unit
Director of Mission Integration, Ipswich, MA