Sister Janet Marie Barnard

“What can I do with my life to make it mean something?”

Many young people assume they have the luxury of taking their time to answer such a question – if they answer it all. But with her grandfather’s sudden heart attack, the young Janet Barnard stood at the threshold of her adulthood grappling with the awesome and terrifying totality of life. She was barely through her first year of college and she felt keenly how crucial her choices would be in making a life with meaning. Her path seems so clear now – but at the time it was more difficult to ascertain.

Her Catholic upbringing would help her recognize the call of service. She left her immediate family in Phoenix, Arizona for Nampa, Idaho to help with her grandfather’s illness. And with the precision and mystery characteristic of divine hands, she began to receive her answers in a rapid succession of synchronistic events.

Upon her first visit to the local church in Nampa, she discovered the pastor to be none other than a former high school teacher from Phoenix. He remembered her clearly, as she had been among his first students immediately following his ordination. An upswing in her grandfather’s health allowed her to become more active in church. She enrolled in Vacation Bible School that summer – which was taught by Sister Mary Kay Henry, who became an immediate ally as Janet engaged in discerning the true calling of her life.

Soon Janet Barnard was attending retreats at the Monastery. “It made sense to come here to do my search,” she says. She recalls being “touched by the prayer” and “at home” with the Benedictine values of tradition and stability. Still, becoming a sister wasn’t immediately obvious to her. “I kept thinking if God wanted me to be a nun,” she laughs, “he would have given me a singing voice.”

Evidently nobody, not even God, thought her voice would be a problem. One year after her grandfather’s heart attack and her own illness, Janet entered the Monastery of St. Gertrude.

“I didn’t come knowing I was going to stay,” she admits. “I thought that after six months the sisters would figure out I don’t belong here and I would have my answer.” That was over thirty years ago.

Since then Sister Janet Marie Barnard has served as a registered nurse (primarily in labor and delivery units) and as director of vocations, employing the wisdom from her own experience to help women discern their true callings. “God’s deepest desire for each of us is to be fully human and fully happy,” she says.

Sister Janet has also served as Director of Mission Integration at St. Mary’s Hospital (with clinics in Cottonwood and Orofino). She has taught childbirth classes and assisted with deliveries. Now she is the treasurer/procurator of the Monastery and oversees care of the elderly sisters on second floor.

It is a dynamic time to be overseeing this aspect of Monastery operations, as the community is actively engaged in making decisions that will ensure sustainability for the future.

Sister Janet is excited about deepening the Monastery’s impact on the region, particularly in elder care and spirituality. “Living a life here with integrity changes the world,” she says. “Living a life well here has its impact.”