Judith “Judy” Roach, RSCJ, graduated from Santa Clara University June 11 with her master’s degree in pastoral ministry. Sister Roach is 87 years old.
Sister Roach began her studies in 2017 and worked hard over the next five years, persevering through the setbacks and limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while also having endured the loss of several family members who were near and dear to her.
Her motivation to return to school was to sharpen her theological education. She remarked that she entered the Society of the Sacred Heart pre-Vatican II and that most of her theological background was rooted in that time, so she wanted to “update” her theological understanding and learn skills that would help her better serve her parish of St. Raymond (Menlo Park, California) and
the community at-large.
When asked about achieving this degree at her age, Sister Roach shared that she thinks “the whole attitude of aging is archaic. I wish everyone my age would take on a new field that they want to learn about and do it.”
She expressed that her time and studies at Santa Clara University have impacted her greatly, that she is more familiar with scripture and how to better study it, more in touch with her religion, and has a better appreciation for all religions. “This program really opened me up to the fact that we are all beings loved by God, and that we are all one,” said Sister Roach.
“This degree is a way to further my life and round it off because it makes me more capable of ministry.”
Sister Roach has a background in elementary education, having worked in both public and private schools. She spent more than a decade volunteering with, and ministering to, those in juvenile detention. She also spent several years serving with the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians at the Soboba Indian Reservation in Riverside County, California. Currently, she volunteers as a sacristan at St. Raymond Catholic Church in Menlo Park, California.
Reflecting on this accomplishment as an RSCJ, Sister Roach said, “My life has been a life of so much joy. I cannot begin to express the awareness of God’s love that came to me when I entered the Society of the Sacred Heart. That is the most important thing in my life. This degree is a way to further my life and round it off because it makes me more capable of ministry.”
Sister Roach earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the former San Francisco College for Women (now University of San Francisco), and a master’s degree in history from the University of Iowa. She recalled that when she attended the University of Iowa in her early 30s, one of her classmates was a woman in her 50s. She thought if she can do it, then I can do it! Years later, she now hopes her graduating may inspire others as well.