Sister Jane Michele McClure named 2016 Albion Fellows Bacon Winner
Sister Jane Michele McClure, who is Major Gifts Officer for Habitat for Humanity, is the Albion Fellows Bacon Award winner for 2016.
The Women’s Equality Day committee chose Sister Jane Michele, a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict, for her life-long dedication to the Southern Indiana. She will receive the award during the celebration of Women’s Equality Day Evansville at the Old National Events Plaza in a luncheon on Friday, August 26.
Sister Jane Michele, 67, who some have dubbed “the Energizer bunny” doesn’t apologize for being perpetually optimistic.
“I live to see Evansville become cool,” she said. “I want that on my tombstone. And it is coming together because of the hard work and vision of many, many people who have never given up.”
For Evansville to be the best it can be you have to have opportunities for the people who live on the margins, Sister Jane Michele believes. “You need to cast your net as large as you can to include everyone. If everyone has opportunity the town is truly wealthy.”
She believes Habit for Humanities, allows her to help cast that net wide. By giving those who could never get a loan to buy a house, the opportunity to put in the sweat equity to help build it and ultimately a lower mortgage to pay off. Meanwhile they learned to live on a budget, pay off a mortgage and pay it forward, she said.
“I hesitate to say this because it doesn’t sound very nun-like, but I learned I was good at selling,” Sister Jane Michele said of her interest in development and fundraising. “You plant a seed, water and nurture it.”
“I learned development is about achieving a higher destiny for your organization,” she said.
Patsy Sproatt, a Habitat volunteer, nominated Sister Jane for the award.
“I can think of no one who works more tirelessly to improve the quality of life for the people of Evansville,” she wrote. Sproatt notes the Faith in Action breakfast that Sister Jane Michele organizes each year. She also “raises the awareness of the problems of substandard housing, promotes the benefits of Habitat for Humanity, works with community groups and celebrates the success of those who give,” Sproatt said.
Sister Jane Michele said she answered the advertisement for the job of Habitat for Humanities Director of Development because while working as the director of development for Evansville Catholic high schools (Memorial and Mater Dei) she was concerned about setting an example for the students.
“If we are not actually helping the poor there is something wrong with us,” she recalls thinking. “We were living in a cocoon with people of the same color of skin, same socio-economic class.”
She said she was thinking of getting a group together to take a trip to help those in need in Haiti. Then she saw the ad and realized the opportunities here.
Sister Jane Michele followed in the footsteps of Ann Enis by helping to organize a woman build projects where women come together to build a Habitat home.
She is also proud of the interfaith commitment from The Temple Adath B’nai Israel, The Islamic Center, and both Eastminster and First Presbyterian churches.
“In order to have an understanding we need to work together and get to know each other and do something of good for the community in the process,” she said.
Sister Jane Michele comes by her optimism honestly. She recalls her mother Agnes McClure would see someone downtrodden and say to her daughters, “And we complain. We have no problems at all.”
The fourth of five daughters of Arkla worker Glennis and Agnes McClure, Sister Jane Michele said the nudges toward ministry from the Sisters teaching at St. Joe Elementary and Mater Dei fell on deaf ears with her as a child. But one day a holy card she read had an impact with the phrase “Live your life for something that will outlast it.”
“I was very impressionable and the notion that everyone has a vocation, a calling from God,” she said and if you don’t follow it you won’t be as happy.
“I decided I better try this and told myself if I didn’t like it I could leave. And now, 50 years later, it has been a wonderful life.”
She was one of eight Mater Dei classmates who joined the order right out of high school.
First she felt called to teach English at Mater Dei for 12 years after a coupled of years at Christ the King. Believing that speech would bring self-confidence to the students.
When the number of young women choosing to join the order declined in the mid-1980s, the Sisters of St. Benedict encouraged her to apply her writing and speech talents to public relations and development for the Sisters’ Mother House in Ferdinand. Through the years she also worked for development of the boarding school the Sisters offered at Ferdinand.
When that school closed those who worked there were encouraged to seek employment outside the convent to provide the convent the additional support needed.
Sister Jane Michele, who in her spare time loves power yoga, watching Wall Street Week with Gwen Ifill each Friday, and following the St. Louis Cardinals, Indiana University basketball and Notre Dame football, dreams of traveling to Rome and to see the Grand Canyon.
Meanwhile she thinks often about a favorite Saint -- Barnabas. He was not one of the 12 apostles but was an early companion of Paul, she said. “His name means son of encouragement,” Sister Jane Michele said. “I always wanted to be the daughter of encouragement.”
Tickets for the Women’s Equality Day lunch are available through August 15 at http://www.womensequalitydayevansville.com or by calling the YWCA at 812-422-1191. Tickets are $18 each and sponsorships by corporations and Non-profit organizations are available.
The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Kristina Sheeler, the interim dean for academic affairs in liberal arts and IUPUI. She is co-author of “Women President” which looks at the campaigns of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton in 2008.
Interview and story by Linda Negro