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placeholder November 24, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA

Sister Julia Shideler, second from left, is joined by her mother, Olivia Caulliez, left, her brother Gregory Shideler and Nathalie Caulliez, right, at the end of the Snohomish River half-marathon in Washington state on Oct. 26. Gregory ran the 10K with his sister.
Courtesy photo

Maryknoll Sister runs to help her students succeed

The nun can run.

Maryknoll Sister Julia Shideler clocked 1:59:18 as she crossed the finish line of the Snohomish River half-marathon in Washington state on Oct. 26.

She finished 31st out of 81 runners in her age group — women ages 35 to 39.

Her aunt described her as looking like a gazelle as she crossed the line.

'Nun on the Run'
Learn more about Sister Julia Shideler's mission:
"It was a wonderful experience (before/during/after), and I would definitely like to try a full marathon in the next couple of years," said Sister Julia, who added that she arrived at the finish line "feeling great."

But there are other numbers Sister Julia, who made her final vows in New York on Sept. 28, finds heartening. According to Maryknoll, she reached 60 percent of her goal of $10,000.

The money will send her high school students in East Timor to college. Now that's breathtaking, even for the woman who sprinted the last half-mile of a 13-mile race.

Sister Julia, who has served in the island nation of East Timor for six years, is scheduled to return there Dec.10. Her half-marathon run was inspired by her pledge to help her students, who come from impoverished families, attend college.

The fees for the highly qualified students to attend the national university are about $30 each semester, she said, with additional — and often daunting — fees of $300 in the first and last. Fees at the private universities are $80 to $120 each semester.

Sister Julia has already told her students entering their third year of college that she has them covered.

Her seniors — there are 30 of them — were scheduled to take the National Exams in early November, so they should get their results and graduate by the end of November.

"When I arrive, they will be starting to apply to local universities," she said. "I will gather my former students together for a 'pep talk' about college, encouraging them to apply for vocational and college courses."

She will also inquire into their family's financial situation and see who is in most need of help. "At Christmas time, I will let them know that I have some funds to help them get started," she said.

She will draft a set of criteria for them to apply for a scholarship. "I will let them know that I have limited funds, so I can only award the most deserving students with financial assistance." She said.

Their application will involve writing an essay, describing their goals and plans for the future, an affirmation of family support and good high school grades. "I will also require a family member to take responsibility for helping each student to meet their needs for housing, food, school supplies, etc., so that nobody depends 100 percent on me," she said.

Sister Julia said she will form one or two groups of student-scholars, so that they can meet regularly for sharing and mentoring. "I plan on following each one closely and working with their families to ensure they feel supported, form good study habits, and make good friends," she said.

"Mentoring these students will be one of my ministries next year. I know they will do better if they feel accountable to someone and receive consistent moral support. Moving from a small town to the capital is a big transition, and I know that success requires much more than money," she said.

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