Sister Virginia (Agnes Raphael) Scally

Sister Ginny Scally was first drawn to religious life by two factors: the witness of her own mother’s deep faith and her experiences while in high school Sodality. Here, she was exposed to the practices of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Both of these realities have guided her through the many turns her life has taken since.

The Sisters of Notre Dame were a steady presence in her life from kindergarten onward. “I was steeped in the Sisters of Notre Dame,” she recalls with a laugh, “and I loved them.” In 1963, after graduating from St. Gregory High School in Dorchester, Mass., she entered this community herself. “To me, it felt like an invitation to a deeper calling,” she reflects.

Her “Entrance” coincided with the changes brought about by Vatican II. “Vatican II came at the perfect time for me,” she says. The Mission was very important to me.” Reflecting now, she feels blessed to have been able to experience both the older, more monastic community lifestyle and the newer expressions of communal living that we know today. This gave her a depth of perspective that would prove to be valuable in her lifetime as a Sister.

After earning her BA from Emmanuel College, Sister Ginny was missioned to teach First Grade at St. Mary’s in Shrewsbury. She recalls her initial experiences as “a disaster!” Young and inexperienced, Sister Ginny had wanted specifically to avoid the First Grade – but there she found herself! After eight years, however, she had grown to love this age group of children.

While teaching, she also worked with mothers who were preparing their children for First Communion. “The women I was working with had a hunger for God.” All of us were growing frustrated with some of the local parish realities. “I decided I couldn’t just sit there and be critical. I needed to put my body where my mouth was.” This led her to pursue a graduate degree herself from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California.

After studying for her Master's degree, she was offered a Co-Pastor’s position in an experimental parish in Chicago, an experience she recalls fondly. After five years, however, she was elected to the Leadership Team of the Boston Province. This experience both broadened and deepened her perspective of the congregation.

When her term in leadership was completed, Ginny responded to an invitation from the Sisters in South Africa. It was an invitation to come and walk with them, to walk and live among their people suffering under apartheid. Sister Ginny shared this journey in South Africa then returned home after spending some brief, additional time in both Zimbabwe and Kenya.

By then, it was the mid ‘80’s and Sister Ginny joined the Pastoral Team at St. Anne University Parish in the Back Bay. This parish was primarily composed of college students from Northeastern University. She enjoyed working with young people and graduate students but began to feel stifled in her ministry, compared to what she had been able to do in Chicago. Here, as a woman, she felt held back by the guidelines of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Seeking greater freedom in her calling, she applied for a parish position in the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. There, Bishop Kenneth Untener appointed women to the role and responsibilities of pastor. (C.213) In 1991, Sister Ginny became the pastoring person in residence of St. John the Baptist Parish in Carrollton, Michigan, where she completed her tenure of nine years of ministry as parish leader.

It was now the Jubilee Year of 2000. In the biblical spirit of a Jubilee Year, Ginny wanted to “re-distribute” herself! A pastoral position was offered by the Peru Unit. The big question was could Ginny learn Spanish? After studying in Bolivia at Maryknoll’s Instituto de Idiomas, Ginny spent the following two and a half years in Peru, falling in love with the Sisters there and their people and serving on the Leadership Team. While on this Team, she was privileged to share the mentoring of the first Peruvian woman to be elected as the Unit’s Canonical Representative.

In July of 2004, Sister Ginny returned to the Diocese of Saginaw where she stayed for the next twelve years. During that time, Ginny served as the pastoring person of St. Maria Goretti Parish and also of St. Vincent de Paul Parish. She would lead the successful combining of these two parishes into the new entity that became St. Catherine of Siena Parish as requested by Bishop Joseph Cistone.

When she turned 70, with the merger mentioned above completed, she felt a sense of closure. At that time, she wrote a letter to Pope Francis, sharing her experiences as a woman in leadership in the Church, urging change within the Institution. “The Catholic People of God will accept women as ordained priests,” she assured him, “if they have the charism for ordination. Their call needs to be heard and tested and affirmed if true.”

Following her time in Michigan, she served as a Hospital Chaplain in Charleston, South Carolina during a year’s Clinical Pastoral Education internship. Now, once again in Boston, she is one of our three North East regional Support Coordinators in the East-West Province. 

At this time of her 60th Jubilee, she is filled with gratitude for her family, her faith relationship with God, her Sisters of Notre Dame and for all the rich experiences that have been hers as a woman religious within the evolving Church in this modern world!