“As witnesses to the absoluteness of the God-quest, we are emboldened to cross boundaries– whether generational, gendered, educational, ideological, material, racial, ethnic, institutional, national …”
Canadian roots anchor the ministry experiences of Sister Dolores (Dodi) Poelzer. Raised on the family farm near the Hudson Bay wagon trail in Saskatchewan by a self-educated peasant father and a university-educated teacher mother, Dodi is the ninth of twelve children, all of whom were teachers at one time or another!
Her life as a teen-age catechist, parish organist, and student was shaped by Benedictine monks and Ursuline nuns in the Abbacy of St. Peter, by Basilian Fathers at St. Thomas More—a federated Catholic College of the University of Saskatchewan, and by Jesuits at Seattle University.
God’s plans for her life after entering Maryknoll (1956) led her to minister as a missioner, sociologist, and Catholic feminist: in South America, she taught and studied in Chile; in Central America, she conducted research in Guatemala and El Salvador; in North America, she engaged in a variety of ministries in Oregon, California, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
Sister Dodi’s graduate studies in sociology, which specialized in social change, religion, and Latin American studies, began with preliminary coursework in the Licentiate program of the Universidad Católica de Chile; subsequently with funding from a Ford Foundation grant, she earned an MA and PhD (1972) at the University of Oregon. Later, she was awarded and pursued post-doctoral studies on Civil Religion at UC Berkeley.
Her ministry in academia began with an unexpected one-year appointment in the Sociology Department at Humboldt State University in northern California and continued there when the rise of Pinochet’s regime in 1973 prevented her return to Chile. She quickly earned full professorship for excellence in teaching, service, and applied research. She co-chartered HSU’s academic programs in Religious Studies, Women’s Studies, and Ethnic Studies. She conducted research in northern California on tribal decision-making, and in northern Saskatchewan on Metis women.
God’s providence took Dodi back to Canada twice as a visiting professor at St. Thomas More College, where she also served as one of the chaplains and as the Faculty Advisor for the STM Student Union. Beginning in 1981, she has periodically engaged in ministry to ailing or dying siblings and continues to do so; she had the privilege of accompanying her mother until this matriarch’s death at 102 years. During these periods of family ministry in British Columbia, she also promoted vocations to the single, married, religious, and ordained life.
Sister Dodi’s current ministry in Eugene includes “giving voice” as she advocates for and responds to immediate needs of undocumented Latino workers and their families. In addition to these justice issues, she also assists in the cultivation of the ministries in the Hispanic faith community. She continues to offer graduate-level academic mentoring as well as to accompany the elderly and the hurting at the grassroots level. Through electronic letter writing, she supports contemporaneous local, national, and international efforts to care for God’s poor and for the rest of God’s creation.