Sister Julia Shideler is missioned in Aileu, East Timor, where she ministers to young adults, teaches in public and Catholic high schools, and develops curriculums that foster a culture of peace and raise the consciousness of youth.
In a mission-sending ceremony at the Maryknoll Sisters in December 2007, Sister Julia received her mission cross and committed herself to sharing life and mission with the people of East Timor. She’s part of small community of Maryknoll Sisters working in a rural Catholic parish. Sister Julia accompanies students from villages as they move toward higher education, empowering them through extra-curricular activities to find their own voices and develop inner resources of faith and self-confidence.
Born in Oakland, California, in 1978 and baptized a Catholic at the Newman Center in Berkeley, Sister Julia, who made her final vows at the Maryknoll Sisters Center on September 26, 2014, spent her early years at St. Augustine’s Parish in Spokane, WA, where she was raised in a bilingual French-American family. When she was seven years old, her parents left the Catholic Church and joined the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. She received a fine Unitarian religious education throughout high school and integrated its values and quest for spirituality and justice. Moving to Orcas Island, WA, in 1997, she began searching for a more personal relationship with God.
During college, she went to Guadalajara, Mexico, for a three-month cultural exchange program. She taught English and French lessons in a private school and lived with a Catholic family. In 2000, at Western Washington University in Bellingham, she explored her Catholic roots and returned to the Catholic Church within a year. In 2001, she was confirmed at Assumption Parish in Bellingham. Seeking to understand more personally the plight of post-colonial populations, Julia spent a semester in the Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa. She then served on the Catholic peer-ministry team of WWU and graduated with a B.A. in Spanish in 2002.
Feeling called to mission and religious life, Julia went to live in Korea and continued discerning her call to Maryknoll, teaching English for a year in Suwon. In 2004, she received pre-candidacy status with Maryknoll and underwent a four-month “live-in” with Maryknoll Sisters in Majuro, Marshall Islands. After formally entering the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in 2005, Sister Julia spent two years of orientation training in Chicago, learning to live in a multi-cultural community and taking courses at Catholic Theological Union. Along with prayer, Julia prepared for her religious life through ministry and inter-cultural relationships. She learned a lot from urban Native Americans at the Anawim Inter-faith Spirituality Center, where she ministered through her presence and prayer amid storytelling, sharing of food, and outreach. She also ministered to cancer patients at UC Hospital while serving on the pastoral care team of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Hyde Park.
On August 12, 2007, Sister Julia made her first profession of vows as a Maryknoll Sister in service to the universal mission of the Church. Her parents and extended family were present for this significant celebration. During a “home visit” to Washington State, she was heartened by local support for her mission vocation from parishes in Spokane, Bellingham, Orcas Island, and the Maryknoll Affiliates of Seattle. With a grateful heart, Sister Julia was sent in special ways by her local church as she left for mission in East Timor. On July 10, 2011, Sister Julia renewed her vows in East Timor.
Until 2013, Sister Julia continued to educate youth in the mountainous District of Aileu, using English and two official languages: Tetum and Portuguese. She organized small study groups to personally help her students to develop their self-esteem and skills for public speaking, translation, essay writing, environmental studies, photography, and more. Since 2011, Sister Julia has helped many students to complete high school and go to college through a scholarship program. She returned to Maryknoll in 2014 to prepare for her Final Vows and will return to her mission in December.