“I would often lay on the trunk of our car at night and stare into the stars. And in those moments, I could hear God’s call,” Sister Esther Dunegan said.
That call more than 50 years ago led to five decades of service as a Sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament.
Then, in celebration of those 50 years, Sister Dunegan joined seven of her community members in renewing their religious vows at the St. Patrick Church, Corpus Christi, during Mass on April 14.
Sister Dunegan’s vowed religious life began the September after graduating high school in May 1965.
In 1970, she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and was assigned to teach middle school and high school in Brownsville. After being an educator for almost ten years, she transferred to the Diocese of Brownsville in 1979 where she served as pension-insurance coordinator, Tribunal Advocate, and, later, Collegiate Judge in the Tribunal. In May of 1988, she completed a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Catholic University, Washington, D.C., and was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Brownsville from January 1989 to November 1995.
At the end of November 1995, she transferred to the Diocese of Beaumont, where she continues to serve to the present time as Chancellor and Diocesan Canonist. When Sister Dunegan was appointed Chancellor of Brownsville, she was among the first women (non-clerics) in the country to serve in that position. Since 2002, she has been coordinating the implementation of the U.S. Bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” for the Diocese of Beaumont.
At the start of January 2006 until the end of August 2017, Sister Dunegan returned to the path of an educator when she became the Associate Director of Diaconate Formation and assisted with the education and formation of men preparing for the Permanent Diaconate.
During that time, Bishop Curtis Guillory, SVD, presented her with a papal honor bestowed by Pope Benedict XVI – The Holy Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and Pope) in November 2009. This honor is one of the highest the pope gives to a Catholic for distinguished service to the Church.
In addition to her service to the Diocese of Beaumont, she was elected to the Leadership Team for her Religious Institute from 1996 to June 2004, and again from 2008 to June 2012.
Sister Dunegan has generously, faithfully, and excellently exercised the responsibilities assigned to her in service to the Diocese of Beaumont. Many have said that her friendship is treasured.