Sister Paula Vaghi, CSJ
"A True Spirit of Joy, Simplicity and Hospitality"
Sister Paula Vaghi has served for six years at the Intensive Education Academy (IEA), a school for special needs children and youth in West Hartford founded by Sr. Helen Dowd, a Sister of St. Joseph of Chambéry (CSJ), in 1971.
It is Sr. Paula's fourth CSJ ministry since professing her vows in 2007 at age 50, after working in the retail and corporate worlds as a department store counter rep for a high-end cosmetic company, and as an administrative assistant to the vice presidents of engineering for two manufacturing companies.
In the 14 years since becoming a Sister of St. Joseph of Chambéry, Sr. Paula has served as secretary to the principals of The Cedar Court School and Sacred Heart Academy, executive director of Jubilee House (run by the House of Bread), and currently as secretary to the Director of Education at IEA.
At the school, Sister Paula interacts with staff and students, and in addition to her many duties, her main job is liaison between IEA and the districts in scheduling Planning and Placement Team meeting where parents and educators help chart the course of study for special needs students. "That in itself is challenging with an enrollment of more than 70 students," Sister Paula says.
She finds that mission and ministry are twofold in her position.
"Working with a myriad of dynamics such as districts, parents, staff and, of course students, the mission is very much present in building relationships with others in a true spirit of joy, simplicity and hospitality," she says. "Which is part of our mission statement as Sisters of St. Joseph. That's what it's all about for me.
"That's who we are as Sisters of St. Joseph, always moving towards a profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction especially those in greatest need. IEA is a school built on love and that love extends to everyone in special ways to help them reach their full potential."
Sister Paula said she has seen such growth in students served at IEA.
"It's so very obvious that the staff also imbues the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph in all that they do at IEA,' she says. "It's amazing and very rewarding to see that lived out in so many special ways, not only in helping students reach their full potential, but helping each other. God's work is certainly being lived out at IEA."
Sister Paula said she loves being a Sister of St. Joseph and encourages women who feel that they are being called by God, no matter what stage in life, to serve in special ways to keep their heart open and explore those feelings. "You just might be surprised," she said.
In photo, Sr. Paula in her office at IEA.