At 100, Sister Natalie enjoys living a good, blessed life
By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
“I have no regrets. I’ve had a good life, it’s been a satisfying life,” Poor Clare Sister Natalie Hayes said as she reflected on having celebrated her 100th birthday Oct. 6.
The Poor Clares of Chesterfield celebrated the milestone birthday with “a special meal, cake and presents,” abbess Sister Etta Patton shared. Sister Natalie had enjoyed an earlier birthday observance with her family, friends and former students Aug. 19.
“My family all live in other areas so they all came in August,” Sister Natalie said of her nieces, nephews and family members who hail from Michigan and upstate New York.
It was in upstate New York, in Utica, where Sister Natalie was born in 1917. She grew up in Utica and was a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
Her vocation to religious life began while as a young woman she took piano lessons, and met a fellow student who was a Sister of St. Frances of Allegheny, who inspired the young Natalie to enter the community in 1945.
A highlight of Sister Natalie’s years as a newly professed sister was being sent to a new school that her community built in Haddonfield, and was where she mostly taught music. She spoke of how fortunate she felt to serve as an instructor in the Haddonfield school the entire time she remained an Allegheny sister, then noted that some of her former students had been present for her birthday celebration in August.
“Some of those students I haven’t seen for 60 years,” she said with a laugh.
In 1961 she experienced the desire to live a more contemplative life and transferred to the Monastery of St. Clare, which was then located in Bordentown, and remained there until the sisters’ new monastery in Chesterfield was built and completed in 2001.
Sister Natalie, who describes herself as a “plain, ordinary nun,” spends her days praying the Liturgy of the Hours and reading books. She shared that in addition to spiritual reading, she enjoys reading books about history. A favorite pastime she has enjoyed until recently was playing the organ.
“She’s an inspiration to us all,” Sister Etta said of Sister Natalie.
With quick wit and candor, Sister Natalie jokingly attributes her longevity to “just plain old dumb luck,” she said, then shared how she has been blessed with good health and the gift of faith.
“I am very grateful. God has been good to me; God has been good to us,” she said of herself and fellow Poor Clare sisters.