From an early age, Catherine’s teachers encouraged her to join religious life. Her parents were devout Catholics with an active spiritual practice. When her father’s work brought the family to San Jose, they found the Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Mary Elementary School and Notre Dame High School. As a family they helped with school fundraisers and social events. Catherine became immersed in the wider Notre Dame community and knew that she wanted to become part of the vowed community. However, when her older sister entered the novitiate, Catherine tried to hold off, determined to make her own decision! In a few months, though, she became very restless and knew that God was calling her to Notre Dame.
Sister Catherine (Andrew Marie) describes her ministry as “a privilege.” Looking back, she realizes she never equated entering the SNDs with becoming a teacher. “I was focused on being a member of a worldwide community communicating God’s love to the world,” she says. She did, however, manage to teach all 12 grades of elementary and high school in eight years, then was grateful to be able to move into parish ministry. She loved many aspects of parish life: preparing liturgy, visiting parishioners, sacramental preparation, tutoring and summer schools for young people and adult Bible study. She especially felt a part of the wonderful Afro-American parish community in Hunter’s Point, San Francisco. For her, that time was a marvelous blend of working with the materially poor and being enlivened by the Gospel Choir. Following this ministry, she was chosen for the California Leadership Team and, on completing that service, was able to choose a ministry that combined the best of all her previous ministries – counseling psychology.
The tumultuous ‘60s and ‘70s came with the Vatican Council calling the whole church and all religious congregations to renewal. In the midst of great changes and challenges, many of her friends as well as her two sisters left the SNDs. “The challenges continually begged the question of what I was doing with my life,” she says. “Yet I have never felt peaceful with anything but continuing to renew my commitment daily. Many of us who remained have become passionate in visioning a new religious life.”
For many years she guided five or more people, ages four to nearly 70, as they reflect on how to best understand, accept and redirect their life journey. She says, “I love being able to be an instrument of God’s love by listening to their rich life experiences and by acknowledging their pain as they struggle for transformation and a new life purpose. Many come specifically for faith-based understanding and interpretation.”
Sr. Eileen McCarthy has seen Sr. Cathy’s work in all these ministries and says, “She has shared her gifts with many, many people. She reaches out, gives unconditional acceptance and shows people their worth.”
Sr. Cathy has great hope for the SND community and is among those playing a significant part in its renewal. Currently she is part of the leadership team.