Interview with Brenda Hawes, Agape Garden Community, Woman of Wisdom
"by Toni Hare, Agape Garden Community, Lafayette, Louisiana
It was with eager anticipation that I pulled up to Brenda’s house on that warm, sunny Friday afternoon. The stately home was obviously southern in its architecture while at the same time, welcoming with the grace of southern hospitality. Before I even walked up the brick steps to her porch, I knew at once that my time here would be amazing. As the hours with Brenda unfolded, I was truly not disappointed.
Brenda’s husband Truman, a tall, grey-haired, distinguished retired physician, answered the door saying, "You got here before I could complete my assignment. I was told to open the curtains before you arrived." Truman escorted me into a beautifully appointed, formal parlor where he immediately pushed open the heavy brocade drapes to allow the sunshine in, telling me that they tried to keep the curtains closed to prevent the sun from fading the fabric on the furniture and damaging the artwork. As he motioned me into the room, Truman pointed to a blue wingback chair, which he said was where his wife sat. Taking his cue, I sat opposite that chair on the sofa. He called for his wife saying that I had arrived. Brenda came into the parlor with the sweetest smile and gave me a warm, welcoming hug, which is our southern way. I had sent Brenda these interview questions a few days before. Truman reported that she had been giving much thought to how she would respond to them. Then he departed and we began our incredibly open and personal conversation, laced with laughter and tears.
Brenda has advanced macular degeneration. Since her eyesight is drastically impaired, she makes use of technology to aid in reading and responding to emails and texts. Brenda said, "I appreciate having the interview questions ahead of time, but I have to let you hear how the questions were read to me by my phone." Everywhere that the word “Theresians" appeared, it was interpreted as "virgin"! After listening to the recording, I replied, "Can you imagine how many Theresians there would be if it was a requirement to be a virgin!" We both had a good laugh which allowed us to relax as we began our time together.
Brenda, let’s talk about your experience as a Theresian.
How long have you been a Theresian? What drew you to join a Theresian community?
I have been a Theresian for twenty years. When my husband and I moved to Lafayette, Louisiana, we moved into the heart of the Acadian culture, better known as Cajun, a wonderful French community filled with faith filled Catholics. I was raised in the Baptist Church and later joined the Episcopal Church here in Lafayette. In the early 1990’s, thanks to Robin Hebert, many Theresian groups were started. As a devout Christian, I was curious to learn about the Catholic faith. A friend invited me to the Theresian community.
How has being a Theresian enriched your life?
My wonderful Christian Catholic Theresian sisters embraced me warmly and taught me so much about the Catholic faith that my own faith was deeply enriched. Much misunderstanding between the Protestant and Catholic faith evaporated in my mind when I realized we were of the same heart and soul.
Are there any Theresian programs you remember which meant the most to you?
Absolutely, one year at each meeting, the members of our group took turns sharing their spiritual journey. Their testimonies were so powerful. You sit with women monthly, maybe not knowing the trials and hardships of their journey. That year we all grew so much closer in love and respect for each other. Another program I enjoyed was when we had different speakers come in to teach us about their religion. This was truly eye-opening. There is so much we do not understand about other religious beliefs in the world. One other impactful program was when Fr. Champagne spoke to us about the three "Theresas" —our St. Therese, St. Theresa of Avila, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta.
What would you tell a young woman who is discerning joining a Theresian group?
I would tell her of my very positive experience and the lifelong friendships that I have made being a part of a Theresian community. I grew in my faith tremendously and I would recommend that she seriously consider joining Theresians. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
A note from Brenda: I would like to share with you the rest of the story. While we were visiting Toni shared her spiritual journey with me. It touched me deeply. As she left, I gave her an emotional hug and as she walked away, I thought, Toni is not only my Theresian sister, but a sister of my soul. Surely, St. Therese was with us, and she was smiling. I thought of my favorite words that she spoke when she was alive, “I want to spend my Heaven doing good on earth.” I never truly understood what that meant until that moment. To me, it means that as women who call themselves Theresians, we should endeavor to help her carry out her mission.