Sister Sheila Novak knows how important it is to be welcomed. Signs welcoming Sister Sheila to the Center are posted throughout the homey confines of Wellspring.
Just days into her new job as executive director of Wellspring Women’s Center she said, “I feel a real warmth from the staff, guests and volunteers.”
Sister Sheila is just beginning to appreciate the lives of many at the drop-in breakfast center for women and children in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood. She is filling a role vacated by Sister Judy Illig, a mainstay at Wellspring for 14 years. Sister Judy was recently elected to be the provincial leader of the Sisters of Loreto.
Like Sister Catherine and Sister Claire, who founded Wellspring Women’s Center, Sister Sheila is an activist within the Catholic Church. She is a member of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, founded in 1888, an international group of sisters. Sister Sheila reflected that her order broke the mold by advocating that nuns should be able to work to serve humanity in occupations other than teaching or nursing.
Sister Sheila’s lifelong ambition has been to work to improve the plight of women. An outspoken advocate for women’s rights, she is tickled pink to be working at the pink-painted firehouse.
Before working at Wellspring, she served as co-director of Hope House, a six-bed transitional shelter for victims of human trafficking based in North San Diego County, California. She has also worked as an elementary school teacher and as the provincial leader of the Sisters of the Divine Savior.
A year ago she moved to Sacramento to be closer to her religious community. Sister Sheila appreciates Sacramento’s tree-lined streets and its beautiful fall colors. “It’s a homey town,” she said.
Sister Sheila is looking forward to listening to the hopes, dreams of ambitions of Wellspring’s guests, volunteers, staff and board members.
“The staff and volunteers truly care about serving the guests,” she said. “To me, that is religion. Religion is caring for people and wanting the best for them. I’m happy to be working with kindred spirits.”