Growing up in the St. Columbkille Parish (Los Angeles), Caroline knew the Sisters of Notre Dame at an early age. In fact her mother served as an “unofficial chauffeur” to the Sisters in those early days when Sisters weren’t permitted to drive. Interested in vocations throughout her teen years, in her junior year of high school Caroline was given the following vocation advice from a Sister: Make a novena, and at the end, make up your mind about entering or not and don’t change it!
Caroline did make up her mind and has never changed it! This year, Caroline celebrates 60 years as a Sister of Notre Dame. For 20 of those years she taught grades four to eight, with seven years at Mother of Sorrows School in Los Angeles. She also taught in Sacred Heart (Salinas), Notre Dame (Marysville) and Notre Dame (Chico) among others. She confesses that she wasn’t a natural-born teacher though she enjoyed it.
Sister recalls her 16 years as an infirmarian at the Notre Dame Villa in Saratoga a “perfect fit.” It was hands-on nursing with everyone sharing in the work, from washing and dressing patients to helping them with therapy. Later after becoming an LVN, she was able to give medications as well. During most of her years at the Villa, she also lived and worked the Casa de Clara Shelter for homeless women.
When a health issue necessitated a change, she was encouraged to return to Los Angeles to teach English to parents of St. Columbkille School students. Originally the daily class was held at the convent with space given for the mothers to bring their younger children. Later Sister took on the challenge of serving as the Notre Dame AmeriCorps coordinator in Los Angeles for what she calls “seven exciting years.”
Today Sr. Caroline serves as the director of the St. Julie Center at St. Columbkille School and volunteers in the afterschool Homework Help program, as she has for the past 11 years. She continues to be energized by being with the poor and the marginalized, “I particularly love working in the inner city. It enlivens me. And I love that the congregation is engaged in justice issues. Our first Hallmark Expressing the goodness of God is so important. It’s an antidote to violence, to all the terrible things in the world. It’s what I can do now.”
For Sr. Caroline, living and working at St. Columbkille’s School has created a lovely sense of coming full circle in her life and she remains grateful for God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of her community.