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Nun to celebrate 50 years of service

She walked Friday down the wood floors of Mount St. Mary’s Academy, dressed in a simple outfit and white tennis shoes.

She entered the same classroom she taught in more than 20 years ago, and sat by desks that looked remarkably similar to the ones she presided over when she was a third-grade teacher with a few more strands of color in her hair.

This place was home to Sister Mary Geneva Paluka for nearly a quarter-century, and a Mass this morning will mark the Omaha, Neb., native’s 50th year as a nun.



“I truly miss the people here,” she said, sitting in the classroom that, except for the dry erase boards on the walls, looks just like the room where she wore her modified habit in front of eager primary-aged children.

Paluka left Grass Valley in 2001, after the order of the Sisters of Mercy founded at St. Mary’s over a century ago disbanded. Paluka said Friday she still feels their presence when she periodically returns the old school.




“There are people here that say they hear footsteps of the Sisters of Mercy. The spirit of the sisters is still in this building, and the mission still goes on.”

Paluka wears a simple cross around her neck and a sterling silver ring on her left ring finger inscribed with “All For Jesus” on the inside.

Paluka entered the profession in 1954 and made her first vows as a nun three years later. She was called by the Lord to service she said, in part, because of the tireless work she saw being performed by nuns in prisons and in nursing homes.

Paluka made the decision to return to Grass Valley for her 50th anniversary celebration, or jubilee, in part because of the people she taught and helped during her quarter century with the St. Patrick’s parish family.

“I think people need ways to celebrate their commitment to God. I want to celebrate that happiness and I want to celebrate it with the people who helped make it happen,” she said.

Trudy Tyrrell met Sister Paluka a quarter century ago when the nun began a Bible study class at Tyrrell’s home, in an effort to bring wayward Catholics back to the church.

“She’s part of our family. It’s like a part of us left when she left.”

Later, Paluka counseled Tyrrell when it came time for her to teach a second-grade religion class.

“She taught me how to trust in the Lord,” Tyrrell said.

After leaving Grass Valley, Paluka moved to Portland, Ore., where she was asked to coordinate a nursing home for retired nuns.

At 69, the desire to use her religious training is still as fervent as ever.

“I really felt that my religion was very special, and I always wanted to share that feeling with others.”


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