Nun, prolific author, has been writing her whole life
BLUFFTON — Sister Pamela Smith has found writing is a daily activity that gives her great joy.
“I’m always working on something,” said the author of nine books and more than 130 articles, poems and booklets. “It starts from the fact that I tend to use meditative writing as a form of prayer. If it is something I think that I can share with people later on, I do that.”
Sister Pam is a Sister of SS. Cyril and Methodius and the director of parish administration at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton. While in the lowcountry on a mini-sabbatical in 2004 — a break that led to her involvement with the Diocese of Charleston — she was able to work on her latest book, “A Journal of Love: Meditations on John’s Gospels and Letters.” It was recently released by Twenty-Third Publications.
“Some of it was written at the perpetual adoration chapel at Blessed Sacrament Church or on the pier at Folly Beach,” she said. “I think for me, it’s just a matter of sitting still with whatever Scripture I choose and writing down my thoughts.”
Sister Pam started writing when she was only 7. She has been a published author since the late 1960s. She said that her latest book focuses on the Gospel of John because it’s a different Gospel from the other three, and one that many people consider difficult to understand.
“The whole theme of love in John’s writings grabbed my attention,” she said, adding that her book is “not a big theological work. It’s supposed to be more of a heart encounter … It comes out of my own prayer experience that can be shared with other people.”
Sister Pam also has a new booklet available in time for Lent. “Delighting in the Holy” contains five to 10 minutes of daily meditations to be used during this season, focusing on prayer, penance and charity. The meditations are drawn from the responsorial psalms of each day.
It is especially important during Lent to spend each day reflecting on the Scripture readings in order to focus on where we are with God, she said. David’s words in the psalms “speak as true today as they did 3,000 years ago,” she added.
Sister Pam’s journey to the Diocese of Charleston was one of varied experiences as a teacher and administrator.
A native of New York who grew up in Pennsylvania, she began considering life as a religious because of the social problems that were rampant during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
At that time, Sister Pam was a high school English teacher who was trying to figure out what she could do to make a positive impact.
After her discernment, in 1972, she joined the Sisters of SS. Cyril and Methodius, based in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Penn.
Her entry into religious life helped her continue her career in teaching. She has taught and offered lay ministry formation classes and retreats in the dioceses of Harrisburg, Scranton and Charleston and the Archdiocese of Detroit.
“I love teaching, I really do. I find it exciting to have people think in new ways, see new things. I see teaching as a real ministry of hope for people,” Sister Pam said.
She has a doctorate in theology from Duquesne University, as well as two master’s degrees.
At one time, a doctorate in theology for a woman would have been unthinkable, she said. “I’ve taught seminarians. I’ve taught deacon candidates.”
She wrote her first book, a collection of 50 poems titled “Waymakers: Eyewitnesses to the Christ,” in 1982.
She said that people like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini have been excellent role models for women in the church.
“The explosion of lay ministries has created many, many opportunities for women,” Sister Pam said. “One of the things that has been clear to me is that religious life has given women many opportunities to lead in the church.”
Sister Pam has had that opportunity for leadership.
After being a teacher for years, she served as general superior of her order. She completed her term and decided to take that mini-sabbatical in Charleston, teaching part time in the diocese and doing a lot of writing.
She began serving the parish in Bluffton in August 2005 and teaches adult and youth religion classes.
These days, however, she has to work around a busy schedule to find time to write each day. St. Gregory the Great has seen membership grow from 95 families in 1995 to more than 1,800 families today.
The church staff has found ways to make sure people don’t feel lost in such a big parish that has a rapid growth rate, she said.
“We’re trying to help people connect with one another … It’s so important that people have a sense of home,” she said.
Sister Pam feels at home in the burgeoning St. Gregory the Great Church because the theme of the parish seems to be what she calls the “three Fs — faith, family and fellowship.”
“They make a great effort to bring people together here,” she said.
And through her writing, she makes the effort to bring people together in Christ.