Whether teaching, counseling, praying, feeding the hungry or pursuing justice, Sisters of Notre Dame live the Gospel and seek to reflect the goodness of God. Here are their stories.
After high school graduation, Ann Carmel chose to work in the family business. But after three years, she decided to enter the Notre Dame community. Over 60 years later, she is still thankful for that decision! Read about Sr. Ann Carmel’s life and ministries.
During Ann’s freshman year of college, her growing attraction to a life of prayer eventually moved her to join the Sisters of Notre Dame. She has since spent her life teaching and praying. Learn more about Sr. Bernie’s ministries.
In 1939 Sr. Julie’s first teaching assignment was at St. Columbkille in Los Angeles. On her very first day, she walked into her room and saw 70 desks! Sr. Julie turned to the principal and asked “Are they all filled?” “Oh no! Three are empty.” Find out how Sister survived in those early days with 67 wiggly first graders.
While a junior at Notre Dame High School, San Francisco, Aileen and a good friend volunteered at a day care center run by the Holy Family Sisters. “I’m not sure how much we helped. I think we did it for the peanut butter sandwiches,” she laughs. But later her friend decided to join the Holy Family Sisters and Aileen realized she felt drawn to the Sisters of Notre Dame. Read about Sr. Aileen’s journey.
As a student at Notre Dame High School, San José, Joan admired Sisters who were vibrant and dynamic teachers with a sense of humor and freedom of spirit. She entered and soon exuded those qualities too in her many years as a teacher. Today her ministry is one of “kindness, prayer and presence.”
As Yvonne remembers it, Sisters had always been a part of her life. As a child, Yvonne and her brother John went to Sacred Heart School and later she attended Notre Dame High School, both in San Jose. As she says, “The Sisters inspired me. They projected happiness and were always kind.” These traits kindled her desire to become a Sister.
Gertie entered the novitiate and for nearly 20 years she enjoyed teaching children in Notre Dame elementary schools from Los Angeles to Portland. After a time of coordinating religious education programs she moved into an expected ministry of hospice care. You can read more about her journey.
Jeanette’s skills as an educator and a television producer brought her to ministry in many settings. Her her sense of beauty and welcoming spirit have infused much of her work. Read about her 60 years as an SND here.
Sister longed to be a missionary and was sent to Hawaii. Wonderful years were served there, but it was not what she had in mind. She was finally sent to serve in Kenya and there she felt at home. Today she continues to serve in Africa, but now in South Sudan.
Sister (Marie) Annette Burkart
Sister Annette’s musical talents have been applied in many ways, including as spiritual director in a convalescent setting in Fremont, California. She has established deep roots in the community, and advocates for justice and tolerance in the diverse community.
Sister speaks of the globe as “my village” and her ministries have taken her from California to New York City to France and Africa. You’ll want to read about Sr. Joan’s ministries.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.” These words from Ecclesiastes hold significance for Kathy because her journey to become Sister Kathryn Camacho, SND, did not follow the traditional roadmap. It was a decision that needed its own time.
By 1948, in her senior year of high school, June was dating a boy, playing violin in the Monterey Symphony Orchestra and riding motorcycles. She knew she could be happy marrying the boy and raising a family together. “But,” she thought, “if I become a Sister my life will be bigger, with wider influence.” You’ll enjoy reading about Sr. June’s “wider influence.”
From the time she was young, Natalia knew she had a vocation. “I felt my call when I was about 12,” she says. “From that time, I always knew I wanted to become a religious.” You’ll want to read about Sr. Natalia’s decades of ministries as a religious.
When Irma graduated from Notre Dame High School in Alameda, she knew one thing for certain–she wanted to teach music. She also liked the Sisters who had taught her and thought that maybe becoming a Sister was a path she should try. Find out where this path has led her.
While inspired by St. Julie Billiart’s simplicity and loving spirit, Phyllis wasn’t attracted to religious groups and felt she wasn’t “Sister material.” It turns out she was Sister material and you’ll enjoy reading about her 50+ years of ministry!
“There was no doubt in my mind that I was supposed to become a Sister of Notre Dame, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d stay for 50 years!” You’ll want to read about her 50+ years of ministries.
Phyllis attended Notre Dame High School where, influenced by the Sisters who taught there, she realized that she, too, wanted to serve and make a difference in the world. Find out how Sr. Phil “makes a difference.”
Terry is a lifelong artist, who currently serves as the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Stockton. Her service as a member of the Notre Dame Congregational Leadership Team inspired her deeply. Find out how, and learn more about her life here.
Liane is still in awe of where her life journey has taken her. Part of her many years of ministry were spent in Peru. Nowadays you’ll find Sister working in special education and in spiritual direction. You can read more about Sister’s journey.
At age 19, Helen announced her decision to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame and one brother warned, “Oh, Helen… they’ll never keep you.” But, of course, keep her they did, and her years as a Sister now number 75! Read about her life and a few of the things that help keep her young at heart!
Sister Ruth is the daughter of immigrant parents, and she grew up learning to overcome challenges and improvise. This served her well during her years of teaching at all grade levels on the West Coast, but was especially valuable when she served in Kenya.
Sister Nena (Giovannina) Fazio
As soon as Sister Nena saw the film The Bells of St. Mary’s, she knew she wanted to become a Sister, and she did! She even had to strike a bargain with her father to be able to attend Notre Dame High School, Belmont, but ultimately as an SND became a gifted teacher and much more.
While Sister taught in many schools throughout California, she found a home in the Los Angeles Archdiocese where, as principal, she brought new life to several schools and also continued this role at Notre Dame School, Santa Barbara. You’ll want to read about Sr. Judy’s educational impact in Southern California.
“For many years now, I have been privileged to work with and help others who are poor. I am very grateful to Sr. Mary Angelica and many others who encouraged me along the way.” Sr. Avelina is also very grateful for the education she received and uses it with joy. Find out more about Sister and what she’s doing today.
Although she has taught every grade, Sister’s favorite teaching assignment is kindergarten. She loves the age and the spontaneity of the children. You’ll want to read more about Sr. Bernadette’s ministries.
After visiting the novitiate in her junior year at Notre Dame High School, Belmont, Barbara said, “I immediately felt this was God’s call. Each step toward entrance, I had the same feeling – and I still do. I’ve been so blessed. I never dreamed as a young nun that I could do the things I’m doing.” Read about her continuing ministries.
Barbara describes herself as a “woman of few words,” but we can tell you that her actions reflect a lifetime devoted to helping others, first as a teacher and later in parish ministry and liturgical ministry. Read more here.
Sister especially enjoyed teaching religion and history, and was inspired by the enthusiasm, and idealism of the high school students she taught. Today she continues to do what she has done all her life, reflect the goodness of God and find it in others.
Geraldine intended on becoming a newspaper reporter, but thankfully changed her mind and entered the convent. As a Sister she ministered for many years with developmentally disabled women, providing a safe and loving home and fostering their dignity. You’ll want to read more about Sr. Geraldine.
Bernice became a teacher and found that teaching was a natural and joyous fit and one she excelled at for 63 years. Another great love for Sister was serving as a lector at Mass for 10 years. Reading and proclaiming God’s word gave her immense joy. You can read more about Sister’s teaching experiences.
Known for her creativity, Maureen has primaily served as a religious educator in many forms, and regularly leads women’s spirituality retreats. Learn here how Notre Dame San Jose students continue to learn and grow through a project she designed.
Sr. Margaret is a lifelong artist who taught high school , college students, Notre Dame novices and the elderly and disabled for many years. She found a passion for justice and peace causes and remains an active advocate to this day. Read what piece of artwork graced her childhood closet altar here.
Sr. Lucy was born and raised in Santa Barbara, and she returned as a Sister to serve in her home parish. A gifted teacher of young children, Sr. Lucy is devoted to her former students, as they are to her.
Mary Ellen’s choice to enter the religious life wasn’t entirely supported by her father who told her, “You’re not the type. Sisters are neat and organized and quiet.” Mary Ellen confesses, “I was none of the above.” But what she was, and is, a compassionate and fearless woman who serves the poor. Read about Sister’s life in Africa.
Pat grew up as the child of immigrants, always worried the possibility that her mother would be deported – to Scotland! A lifelong educator at the secondary and college levels, she now teaches English to immigrants herself.
Sharon began to pray in earnest about her future in high school, she explored three separate religious orders. In the end she remembers feeling such joy in the presence of the Sisters of Notre Dame that it was an easy decision to enter at the tender age of 17. You’ll want to read about ministries and love of creation.
Sister Barbara Ann Kavanaugh
Barbara was born in San Francisco to a close and affectionate family. She enjoyed the performing arts and brought them to her decades of work as a teacher. Then, a surprising request changed her ministry radically. Read about her life here.
From the first, the international mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame with its emphasis on the goodness of God and special care for poor women and children appealed to her. Read about Sr. Kathryn’s many ministries.
After years of teaching in elementary and high schools, Sister become a professor at the College of Notre Dame and later the Dean of Students. A street on campus bears her name, an anonymous gift from a grateful student. Though retired, she remains active.
After a high school singing trip to the novitiate in Saratoga, Teresa knew that’s where she belonged! She’s had a wonderful, life-long ministry of teaching and school administration that enabled her to help create “warm, caring places for children.” Now retired, she still volunteers.
Having been taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame for 12 years, it was not surprising that young Margaret entertained the idea of becoming a Sister herself. One Sister in particular swayed her decision by her simple, holy example. You can Margaret’s many ministries and the interesting job she fills today.
Sister enjoyed her early years as a teacher, but felt a calling to nursing, particularly working with the poor. For many years she worked closely with migrant workers on diabetes education and care. Today she has a vibrant ministry at a retreat center.
“First, I wanted to be a doctor to cure the world, then a nurse to help the world,” shares Sr. Anne. But after much prayer she found a different way to help people. She responded to God’s call to become a Sister of Notre Dame. Read more about Sr. Anne and her work in Sacramento.
Mary is a San Franciscan native who knows and loves The City. She had many successful years as a teacher and administrator, but her favorite assignment brought her to Saratoga where she could enjoy and help her family. Read this to learn why reading cookbooks was one of her favorite pastimes.
Sister always believed that if you tell students how good they are, they live up to it…and throughout her long teaching career it was proved true over and over again. Now retired, she volunteers in the Province offices. You’ll want to find out more about Sr. Joan’s life.
Sister has been a teacher and hospital chaplain and now helps plan retreats for staff and students on Notre Dame de Namur University campus. She is enjoying this time of “slowing down now and spending more time in meditation and contemplation.” You’ll want to read more about her ministries.
Barbara had always wanted to be a teacher and she loved the Sisters at Notre Dame High School (San Jose) who taught her. “Well,” she thought, “I can do both. I can be a Sister and a teacher.” You want to read about Sister’s life as a teacher and her many years of ministry in Salinas.
Mary Pat always thought about becoming a Sister. She taught elementary school for a time and then was asked to consider getting a degree in theology and teaching at the College of Notre Dame. She did both joyfully. Now retired from the university, you’ll want to find out what she’s doing today.
Nancy was attracted to the Sisters of Notre Dame by the spirituality of St. Julie, which focuses on the goodness of God and on education for justice. Sister has been a life-long educator.
Mavourneen felt the “wonderful mystery” of God’s call to become a Sister and counts her life as “pure blessing.” She has served as a teacher, hospital chaplain and child care provider. Find out what she is doing today.
Sr. Sharon was the first woman in the United States to receive both a Licentiate and a Doctorate in Sacred Liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome. Today she serves as liturgy coordinator at San Carlos Cathedral in Monterey.
When Kay graduated from the College of Notre Dame, she knew intuitively the path she wanted to take. “I saw all these happy, positive Sisters who were doing significant things with their lives…that’s what I wanted.” You can read about Kay’s path.
Sr. Claudia’s journey with the Sisters of Notre Dame began as a child when she was put into their care, and she has spent her life caring for students, others in need, and the Sisters themselves.. You’ll want to read about her work.
After working for years as an elementary teacher, Andrea earned a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and moved into parish ministry with an emphasis on working with the elderly. Today she enjoys working as a pastoral associate.
Prayer and mission drew Carol to Notre Dame and she spent her early years ministering as a teacher. Later, with a degree in pastoral counseling, she worked with dying children and seriously injured adults. These days you’ll find her teaching on the NDNU campus. You’ll want to read more about Sister’s ministries.
Sister enjoyed many years as a teacher and administrator in elementary schools from Los Angeles to Seattle to Honolulu. She especially enjoyed teaching the boys at Mission Dolores School in San Francisco. “That experience surely,” she claims, “taught me how to teach!” You can read more about Sister Joanne.
Roseanne entered the convent and went on to teach biology, general science, religion and English at her alma mater, NDHS, Belmont. Later she found her “true teaching home” at the College of Notre Dame (now Notre Dame de Namur University). Find out more about Sister’s ministries at her true teaching home.
Educated by Sisters from an early age, Katherine dreamt of becoming a Sister herself one day. By high school, the dream faded and she got caught up in studies, clothes and boys! But a still, small voice pierced her conscience. “Becoming a Sister was something I felt I HAD to do.” Find out more about Sister Katherine.
For Sr. Peggy, who recently celebrated 70 years as a Sister, each day starts quietly with prayer. Before her retirement, her days were filled with teaching rambunctious children with 5th graders being her favorite! Find out more about Sister’s life.
Outgoing, with a tremendous trust in people and with a great sense of humor, Sr. Susan brings many gifts and experiences to her work with the homeless. Find out what startled Sr. Susan the first night she worked in a shelter.
Sr. Louise has given her heart and gifts to many ministries, including teaching and 10 years on the California Leadership Team. She says of her life, “It has been rich and filled with unexpected blessings.” You’ll want to read about these unexpected blessings.
For Nancy, Notre Dame High School, San Jose, teachers like ebullient Sr. Helen Cecilia Miller (who recently died at 101 years of age) pointed the way to a good life: “I had thought about religious life for a long time and the Sisters of Notre Dame were so happy. I was attracted to that.” You’ll want to read about her many ministries.
Sister enjoyed many years as a teacher and a school counselor. Later as a social worker, she had 14 years working in the neurological rehabilitation unit at Community Hospital in Los Gatos–a faith-stretching experience for someone with an aversion to hospitals. You’ll want to read more about Sister’s life.
Rosalie is grateful for the “gentle nudge” that guided her to become a Sister. She has had a wide variety of ministries and remembers three very special years in Rome at the Notre Dame Generalate as a hospitality coordinator for Sisters, many of whom were on sabbatical. Find out more about Sr. Rosalie’s many ministries.
Sister knew she wanted to be a teacher and after decades of teaching, she discovered that kindergarten was her real love. She continues teaching today at Most Holy Trinity School in San Jose.
For this former Protestant, “religious life” was a foreign concept, but one that she embraced as she entered the convent after graduating from high school. She served for years as a primary school teacher before discovering her gift for working with the sick and dying. Find out how Sr. Karen is using her unique gifting.
One friend said of Sr. Sandy, “She has the spirit of an apostle, working where there is great need.” And indeed, Sister has lived in communities where the needs are huge, but rather than get discouraged she rolls up her sleeves and, with strength and compassion, ministers to the poorest. Read about Sister’s life.
After graduating from Notre Dame High School, Belmont, Carole enjoyed a year of college and a year of working at General Electric before deciding to enter the convent. Since that decision her ministries have included teaching and counseling and wonderful years in Africa. Read more about her life.
Sr. Rosa Dolores’ Mexican culture has had a strong place her life and ministry. Orignally a Daughter of Charity, Sister joined the SNDs after working with them in the Pajaro Valley to serve agricultural workers and others in need, and empower them to advocate for their needs. Read this to learn how Sister is a part of Olympic history.
Sister joyfully taught elementary school, but also found serving an infirmarian for elder Sisters a great fit too. Other ministries have included working in a shelter for women. You can find out what’s she’s doing today.
From teaching to running a shelter for women to caring for fragile children and babies, Sr. Michela’s ministries have helped many have a better life. You’ll want to read more about her continuing work.
During a school retreat in her senior year at Notre Dame High School, San Francisco, Sharonann felt a call to religious life. Her mother was thrilled because for any Irish family, a religious vocation was a sign of being blessed. Now over 60 years later, Sister feels this life has been a gift and a blessing.
Marilyn never intended on becoming a nun, but she’s glad she did. She loved teaching and had many happy decades teaching in parish and Notre Dame schools. More recently Sister has been begun a healing ministry.
Sister Dolores (Joseph) Steiner
“Dodie” first encountered the Sisters as a student boarder in Watsonville, and was inspired by the spirit of St. Julie. After many years as a teacher, she was able to pursue her desire to serve in Alaska, where she spent a decade living with Native people. Read about her life.
As a teacher Sr. Jean discovered how fun it could be helping young women learn trigonometry, geometry and math analysis. Now retired from teaching, she enjoys serving at the United Nations as the Sisters’ NGO rep. You’ll want to read about Sister’s many ministries.
After surviving polio as a teenager, Ann knew God had something special for her life, but she would have to make a deal with her mother first. Read about Sr. Ann’s deal and her special life.
Sister Jeanne (Marguerite) Sullivan
Sr. Jeanne is a gifted educator of students and teachers who went on to serve the Sisters in many ways, but her favorite role was as a hospital chaplain. Unlike most, Jeanne was already an established teacher when she joined the Sisters.
The idea of ministry and service was always part of Paula’s experience: her father was a Salvation Army officer in South Korea, and one of her sisters followed in his footsteps. Serving as a Catholic Sister, though, was definitely not anything she ever imagined! Read about what changed in her life and the wonderful years of ministry that unfolded.
Barbara has a commanding presence, a sharp mind, a heart full of compassion, and these attributes have stood her well as a teacher, administrator, campus minister and most recently in her many years serving as the chancellor of the Diocese of Stockton.
After she graduated from college, Julie Marie entered the convent on the hottest day of the year, donned a black wool habit and thought, “I’m here and I’m staying.” Much later, she would be missioned to a land of extreme cold–Alaska–and enjoyed life-changing experiences living amongst the Yup’ik Eskimos. You can find out more here.
With a sister and brother in religious life, Liz grew up thinking it was a possibility for her life as well, but she was worried, “I wasn’t the holiest one!” But her life has been one of great happiness and service.
As a young girl at St. Columbkille School in Los Angeles, Eloise knew that she wanted to be a Sister, “but didn’t let it show too much.” But she was always active, helping the Sisters teach catechism and bringing flowers and food to the sick in the parish. Find out how a young Eloise became a Montessori champion.
Virginia knew in her senior year at Notre Dame High School, Belmont, that she wanted to enter the convent. It was something she “had to try.” Now over 60 years later, Sister shares, “I am so grateful for my religious vocation and the remarkable women with whom I have shared life. Life is never dull!“
From South Korea to Minnesota, to Washington D.C. to California – Sr. Magdalena’s entire life journey has been marked by God’s mercy and goodness, she says. Her unusual journey includes her family’s Buddhist/Confucian background and a few years in the Methodist Church before becoming a Catholic. Find out more about her unusual journey.
From teaching to parish ministry to counseling to leadership, Sr. Cathy’s ministries have all been a joy and privilege. You can read more about her life and gifts.
When Sr. Cecilia reflects on her life, she finds a sense of fulfillment and inner peace. “It is hard to explain,” she says, “but it’s about being able to be there for people and the children.” Read about Sister’s many ministries.