Sister Julia McGanty was astonished by her prioress’ request; so much so that she said she needed time to think about it.
Become a hairdresser? she thought. Work outside the monastery? At that time, McGanty was working at the Benedictine Nursing Center, now the Providence Benedictine Nursing Center. She had set up the kitchen and worked on the floor caring for patients. A change of ministry, such as the prioress was asking, was a surprise.
The next day when McGanty saw the prioress walking down a hallway, she ducked into another corridor to avoid her.
“When I saw her the next day, I knew I couldn’t avoid it any longer but I did need to think and pray about it,” McGanty said. “Even though I wasn’t sure about her request and I was happy in my current work, I knew when I took my vows that I better do what I was asked to do.”
“Ora et labora.” Pray and work are the words that capture the essence of Benedictine life, describe McGanty’s dedication to her faith and her service to her Benedictine vows. Heeding the prioress’ request, McGanty attended the Academy of Hair Design. She worked first at LaDonna’s and now at Visions Salon, both in Silverton.
After serving 35 years as a cosmetologist, McGanty, 80, is retiring. Community members are invited to a party July 30, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Visions Salon, 114 W. Main St.
“Julia has always been a very dedicated, hard working employee,” Visions owner Traci Mosher said. “She is very kind-hearted and caring to her clients as well as everyone that she sees.”
A humble woman, McGanty frankly doesn’t see the reason for the fuss. She has simply done what was needed. “I have always loved my work and I love helping others,” she said.
Before she became a hairdresser, McGanty worked at an Indian residential school in British Columbia and also taught religious education classes for many years
At first McGanty’s clients didn’t know she was a nun but over time nearly all came to know she was. “I love people and I think it’s important to listen to them,” she said. “Some people told me their problems and I just listened. I think by listening, it helps relax them and puts them at ease.”
Growing up in Yamhill, McGanty said she rode horses and helped with farm chores. She attended boarding school at the Mount Angel Academy. It was there she decided to become a sister. “Being a nun seemed like an ordinary way of living.”
Prioress Sister Donna Marie Chartraw said McGanty has dedicated her life to helping others. From cutting the sisters’ hair to arranging flowers, McGanty helps wherever she can, Chartraw said. “She is a very spiritual person and very caring of others,” the prioress added.
A Benedictine Sister for 61 years, McGanty said her dedication stems from making a commitment and then being faithful to it.“I wouldn’t put all the energy into this if I didn’t think it was worthwhile, but I know it’s worthwhile. I am dedicated to serving God,” she said. Even after she retires from her paid work, she said she will never retire from serving others. “I always want to be where I am supposed to be,” she said. “I am committed to my community and to my prayer life.”