Congratulations to the 2020 Jubilarians!

2020 Jubilarians

The year 2020 has been marked by many changes and challenges for us all. The lives of each of the Sisters whose Jubilee is celebrated this year give the rest of us food for reflection, encouragement and hope as we look at the changes and challenges they have successfully faced in their years of commitment. In spite of difficulties, and not without sacrifice, these remarkable women have lived 40, 60, 70, 75 or 80 years as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, and been women “with hearts as wide as the world” . They deserve our gratitude and emulation.

The Jubilarians met by ZOOM to discuss plans for their celebration.

With regret, yet realistically, the Jubilarians agreed that the scheduled September 19 Jubilee celebration should be cancelled. Some are reluctant to travel, and others are uneasy about inviting family and friends to the celebration, given the uncertainty of the still-lurking coronavirus.

We continue to celebrate their Jubilee Year even though we will not do so in person on September 19; we thank the Jubilarians for the gift of their lives of service to the mission of Notre Dame.

80 Years

Sister Cornelia Curran SNDDeN ( Sister Paulina)

Entered religious life August 4, 1940 – Waltham, Massachusetts

There are no extra pieces in the universe.

Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill,

and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.

 ~ Deepak Chopra

For a long time, I did jigsaw puzzles. I almost always worked on one at night, finding it a quiet challenge to find the piece or pieces that fit. Today as I sit in my chair at Notre Dame Health Care Center, I think of the last five years since I celebrated my 75th Jubilee!

I hear even less from without. I see even more from within.  I am less concerned about what others think of me.

My spirit is freer and I am forever grateful. I echo the words that Henry David Thoreau (one of my favorite New England poets) wrote in 1856, “I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” In 2020, as I celebrate my 80th Jubilee, I share his sentiments. In fact, I believe I have been gifted with length of years, not to solve, but to continue to probe life’s glorious big jigsaw puzzle.

Today, I immerse myself in the gift of life; being present in the moment and working on letting-go and letting God. And I’m able to help the people around me feel good about themselves. .  I let myself be nourished by the works of art that surround me.  Most are masterpieces of our own Sisters. I let them touch and nourish me. My soul, taste and savor the goodness of the Lord…daily!          ALLELUIA!

75 Years

Sister Ann Gormley, SNDDeN (Frances)

Entered religious life August 12, 1945 – Ilchester, Maryland

I knew by age 9 that I wanted to be a “nun” but with some early wisdom I never mentioned the idea to anyone. Then, at 17, I had no idea why I chose to go to Trinity College in Washington, D.C. In April of my senior year, however, it came to me in the Trinity Chapel, with mysterious clarity, that I was to enter not the Canadian CND but the Trinity SNDdeN.
Being a New Englander with a tinge of Calvinism, I arrived at Ilchester with a work ethic and I knew that rules and rulers were to be obeyed and that money was to be saved, not spent. What I did not know was how to cook or sew. I asked to be taught and I got a “no.” I got moved twice from my part-time teaching at Trinity Preparatory and I have always been grateful that the novices who inherited me as their teacher never complained!
After 3½ years of high school teaching in Philly, I returned to Trinity College and was asked to change my major from French, which I had loved since kindergarten, to Spanish. It turned out to be a perfect match for me. I loved my international students. I loved organizing student trips to both rich countries and poor ones.
My next long-term position was as Associate Director of the U.S. Catholic Mission Association. I had a great boss whom I taught the meaning of “Primus Inter Pares.” Learning trips to Third World countries introduced me to missionaries in some 80 countries on five continents. The best was getting to all the countries where SNDdeN missionaries were serving.
I have been very healthy and happy and I often catch myself singing silently in my head our old “Institute Song:” “By far, by far, I’d rather be an SND.”

Sister Mary Patricia Hale, SNDDeN (Patricia Marie)

Entered religious life August 12, 1945 – Ilchester, Maryland

John and Mary Louise Hale raised seven children;  they sent two of their teenage sons to war in 1942 and, in 1945, their twin daughters entered religious life—Mary to the IHMs and Pat to the SNDdeNs.

My first mission was to Notre Dame Academy in Philadelphia (the Square), a most enriching and spirited experience living with 50 Sisters—ages ranging from 25 through 98.  I learned what segregation was in South Carolina when we would teach the white children during the day and after school go to the mission and teach the little black children. I didn’t last long because I brought my black and white kids together for a baseball game on a public field. It seems that I had the whole town of Florence on a powder keg!

 Then it was on to Queens, NY to SS Joachim and Anne School. After school I had the high school “CCD” students. My class was a very well-known “gang” in the neighborhood—the “Lil’ Imperials”—a great experience.

From there, I was assigned to St. Martin School in Washington, D.C. as Principal and then to St. Camillus School in Silver Spring, Md. After six years, I went to work at St. Hugh School in Miami, Fla. and was there for almost 30 years. In 2001 I retired from school but was available as a substitute teacher and still had time to spend with my “old folks friends.”

Now, in my final years of retirement, I chose to come to Mount Notre Dame Health Center- a reward for all of us who gave all we had and willingly worked to make Julie’s message “Our good God is so very good” become an integral part of the life every student we ever taught.

Over my 75 years it has been a great and privileged run to have traveled with a wonderful group of Notre Dame de Namur Sisters, especially my “Band,” those celebrating in heaven and the Sisters who walk with me at the Jubilee celebration. I hope and pray that I “did Julie proud.” God is so good!

Sister Louise Mayock, SNDDeN (Marie)

Entered religious life August 12, 1945 – Ilchester, Maryland 75 years

Seventy-five years as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur marks a most joyous milestone for Sister Louise. She had remarked on her Diamond Jubilee that “her years in Notre Dame have been involved and extraordinarily happy.” Add another fifteen years to those 60 years and Sister Louise is all smiles and full of pride.
Most of her years have been spent in teaching. She began with elementary education and then onto high schools as a Math teacher. Her goal, her dream during all these years of teaching were years of inquiry, searching for a way “to free our children to learn.”
In her later years after additional study, Sr. Louise taught primarily at the graduate level. She concluded her classroom teaching activities after 19 years as a full-time faculty member at Chestnut Hill College in Pennsylvania.
Sr. Louise first met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur when she was enrolled as a sophomore in West Catholic Girls’ High School in Philadelphia. These Sisters were among the seven religious communities teaching there. As time passed she knew that the SNDdeNs were different. Their charism took them to mission lands, as well as to United States schools, carrying the message of their foundress, St. Julie Billiart, that God is Good. Their joy, their concern for one another, and their strong contemplative spirit beckoned Sr. Louise to join them.
Sister Louise now happily resides at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center in Cincinnati, Ohio where she is lovingly cared for as she continues to witness daily that indeed God is Good.

Sister Natalie Scibilia, SNDDeN (formerly Sister Anne Christine)

Entered Religious Life August 12, 1945 – Ilchester, MD

Sister Natalie Scibilia has always rejoiced and been very proud that she is from Sicily. Yet she is well aware of God’s mysterious ways and His plan for each of us. She marvels that her family came to the U.S.A. in September 1929—one month before the Great Depression! She is grateful
for the deep faith, courage and fearlessness of her parents to cross the Atlantic to bring them into a new land where many good people came into their lives.
Sister Natalie was fortunate to attend 12 years of Catholic education. It was during her high school years at Notre Dame High School, Moylan, Pa. that she first began thinking about joining a religious community. Her high school teachers—Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur—were an
inspiration to her. Their life of prayer, mutual care and support for each other spoke to her as did their respect and impartial dealings with each student they encountered. From these Sisters, teaching became the career that she was determined to follow!

Following her Novitiate training and educational learning she spent the next 45 years teaching kindergarten to grade 6 from New York to Georgia.
After her years teaching, Sister Natalie began several years of working for her community primarily as a secretary. In this role she shared her delightful personality and was most efficient in handling administrative tasks that ensured the smooth functioning of any details requested
of her. Her service in the Medical Records Office and the Accounting Office at Villa Julie in Stevenson are remembered with much appreciation to today. Her years in Maryland gave Sister Natalie great enjoyment as she watched the Baltimore Ravens play football. It became well known that Joe Flacco was her favorite team member. Another treat for her is car racing.

70 Years

Sister Margaret O’Connor, SNDDeN (Thomas Margaret)

Entered religious life on August 6, 1950
Ah! How good God is! I praise and thank Him for my vocation to Notre Dame!
I praise and thank Him for His fidelity throughout these 60 years.
I first met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at SS. Joachim and Anne School in Queens Village, N.Y., where they taught me from first through eighth grade.
In first grade, Sister Magdalena Marie, SND, made such a wonderful impression on me that I told my parents I wanted to be an SND when I grew up! My experiences with my other SND teachers only reinforced that desire to follow in the spirit of St. Julie Billiart. And God bless my loving parents who fully supported my vocation!
As an SND I served in St. Catherine of Genoa School, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Norfolk Catholic High School in Norfolk, Va.; Archbishop Ryan Girls’ High School in Philadelphia, Pa.; and finally, at St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, Queens, N.Y.
I am grateful to God for such a variety of experiences as an SND educator, and for the many Sisters, students, families and colleagues whose lives have touched mine through the years. Special gratitude is reserved for the faith community here in Westbury, N.Y., who share in prayer and outreach with our SNDs at St. Julie Convent, hopefully bringing us all closer to our good God!

Sister Kathleen Haughey, SNDDeN (Eileen Patricia)

Entered religious life on August 6, 1950

The Thread

Something is very gently,

Invisibly, silently,

pulling at me-a thread…

a stirring of wonder makes me

catch my breath when I feel

the tug of it…

                Denise Levertov

It is August of my 70th year in Notre Dame.  I have been gently, wondrously thinking about a lot of those threads in my life-the threads before and since Aug. 6, 1950. I think of memories of 12 years of my youth in Wernersville, PA that included Saturday catechesis and reception of the Sacraments at St. Isaac Jogues Jesuit Novitiate. My siblings and I knick-named our Novice teachers “Baby-teeth” and “Cookie” etc.! Then we lived for six years in Philadelphia before I  entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. I still marvel at the education I received at West Philadelphia Catholic Girls High School where I met the impressive SND’S.

Ministries I have served still inform my very being. Did I ever dream they would include Scotland, Nigeria, Mexico and the Title I Program in Baltimore City (Parochial and Public Schools)? Currently, life-giving service includes volunteer pastoral ministry with my beloved St. Thomas More Parish and Notre Dame Associates.

Messengers I feel so grateful for have led me on my journey. This thread I like to think of as the Holy Spirit in my life. I could name so many messengers beginning with my family, friends, teachers, mentors and caregivers…especially my Sisters of Notre Dame who have loved, nourished and counseled me.  And put up with my many stories!

My brother John {RIP} and I often talked about the sacredness of each person’s story. We would recite the verse of the hymn PRECIOUS ASSURANCE : “This is my story this is my song…”  My parish began to sing it too! I sang it with the nursing home residents where I minister for the parish!  My story is full of grateful memories, incredible ministries and God-sent messengers. There is not as yet a closing,

As I write I am mindful of those who entered with me 70 years ago. Some are in the Cloud of Witnesses; some still carrying out the mission of Jesus along with us SND’S. God bless us all!  

60 Years

Sister Rosemary Donohue, SNDDeN (John Margaret)

Entered religious life on August 14, 1960
I first became acquainted with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur as a student at Saint Bernadette School in Drexel Hill, Pa. As my desire to respond to what I considered God’s call to me to become a religious, it became clear that I was bound for the SNDs.
Entrance day at Ilchester, Md. was August 14, 1960. Following the early years of formation, our band went to Trinity College in the District of Columbia to complete our courses. After graduation in 1965 I launched what has become a lifetime of ministry in Catholic education. My formal teaching began at SS. Joachim & Anne School, Queens Village, N.Y.
and in 1970 continued at Trinity School in Ilchester. During these years I was sent to summer school and eventually earned a masters degree in educational administration from the University of Virginia. In 1972 I was missioned as principal to St. Albert the Great School, Huntingdon Valley, Pa. For the next 16 years I enjoyed the challenges and appreciated the importance of Catholic education in the life of the Church and in the lives of those I was honored to serve. During this time I was privileged to be involved in many boards and committees in the Archdiocese.
In 1988 I was given a great gift by our Province. I was sent to Boston College to complete a doctoral program in education administration and supervision. My four years at Boston College were extremely happy and rewarding. While working there I had the opportunity to meet and associate with some of the most gifted Catholic educators of recent decades. This experience clearly refocused and renewed my belief in Catholic education as an important part of the church’s and Julie’s mission.
Since 1993 I have had the great privilege of serving as the Superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools. Since the Diocese of Portland includes the entire State of Maine, distance becomes a challenge but Mainers are folks used to travel—thanks to my colleagues I have become much more tolerant of travel constraints. I truly enjoy my ministry here since I believe that daily I am faced with the opportunity to continue Julie’s work of bringing God’s goodness to all whom I encounter.
Throughout my life in Notre Dame I have willingly served on numerous boards, committees and even leadership. I thank the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur for their continuing support and love. Please know that I remember all daily in prayer.

Sister Cathy Fleming, SNDDeN

Entered on August 1, 1960 at Waltham, MA

I once told a gathering of SNDs  that the two things I consider being the most important things in my life were that I was my mother’s daughter and I was a Sister of Notre Dame.

My mother was a remarkable woman, mother of nine. She said to her dying day that she loved us all the same. And she did. I used to pray that I would have her personality and spirit. But, never quite achieved it!

Being an SND is who I am and have been for 60 years. I was educated by them from grade 1 through college. It was hard not to breath in their spirit.

During the course of those 60 years, I have accomplished many things: I was in formal education for 50+ years as a teacher and administrator. My own teachers were my inspiration for what it meant to be a good teacher. I was taught well. That included the history and work of St. Julie. I served in leadership and in service to my unit in many capacities.

I have loved being a Sister of Notre Dame.

Sister Patricia O’Malley SNDDeN

In her sixty years as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, Sr. Patricia O’Malley made great contributions to education and support for marriages, in the spirit of St. Julie. She served from 1964-1973 : teacher, parochial schools, Boston, MA. From 1975-1981: Montessori educator, Julies’ Children House, South Boston and from 1981-1992 : Director of Family Life and Outreach, St. Margaret Mary Parish, Winter Park, Fla.
Changing focus, she served from1992-1997; 2008-2019, Diocese of Orlando:Regional Advocate for Annulments
1997-2002 : Annument Advocate and Marriage Preparation, St. Mary Magdalen Parish. In 2005-2008 she served in Boston Province Leadership.

Sister Christina Murphy, SNDDeN (Christina Joseph)

Entered religious life on August 14, 1960
As this anniversary becomes a reality I look back and can’t believe the years have gone so quickly. The initial thoughts I have are of gratitude. Gratitude to my “band members,” to the Sisters of Notre Dame, and all the friends who have cared for me and supported me in all the ministries I have been privileged to serve.
A well-known educator and author (Seuss) wrote, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go;” what he didn’t say was, “Oh, the Things You’ll Learn as you Go!”
Each mission and ministry taught me so much. Beginning in the classroom at St. Martin and later going to St. Anthony in Florence, S.C.—first as teacher; later as school principal—the opportunities were present each day to learn more about other people and, in doing that, learning more about the life we share as women religious.
My elementary education days ended in June 2004 as principal of St. Joseph School in Columbia, S.C.; then, a new opportunity presented itself. In August 2004 I began ministry as a pastoral associate at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia, S.C. I am happy to say that I continue in this ministry—working with parish staff, parish members and women who are in prison. God has been and continues to be so good to me.

Sister Kathleen O’Brien, SNDdeN (Mary Terrence)

Entered religious life on August 14, 1960

I first met up with Sisters of Notre Dame in Kindergarten at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal School in Ridgewood, New York…that was okay.  In the seventh and eighth grades I met up with Sisters Frances Therese and Corinne Manzi … that was pretty good.  During my high school days, I often returned to “help” the good Sisters and met up with Sisters Catherine Shanahan and Catherine Charles …something clicked and I decided I wanted to BE like those Sisters.

So, on August 14, 1960 with my family, relatives and friends in my cheering section, we rented a bus and headed for Ilchester, Maryland and a whole new World!  That day along with forty-two other brave souls we began a journey of reflection, training, action and loads of fun!

During that journey, I met up with Sisters Mary Reilly, Marguerite Schaefer and Rosalie Murphy….it was then I knew that I was in for the long haul. But not too sure what they thought!

Since the time of my 50th Jubilee, I have been in ministry among the sisters, always something I enjoyed doing. We worked well together and they were good years for me.

Having completed that ministry, I now find myself in a time of transition, looking ahead to new horizons at a slower pace with gratitude for the many wonderful opportunities I’ve had in Notre Dame.

In her book, Circles of Grace, Jan Richardson writes…

“Within the joy, pain and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that unfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace to find our place of belonging within it and to receive the strength the circle holds for us.”

 I have found my place of belonging, within the Circle of Grace of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  Each day I feel blest to receive the strength and joy that Circle holds for me.

As I celebrate sixty years as a Sister of Notre Dame, I thank God for you, my family, friends, co-workers and the many young people and elders from whom I have learned so much.

40 Years

Sister Gwynette Proctor, SNDdeN

” “

Entered August 1980 at Ilchester, Md.

Born into the long-time Catholic culture of Southern Maryland, I am daughter of Yolanda and Leon Proctor, raised in Baltimore with four siblings and innumerable foster brothers and sisters.

 From high school, I went on to study at Frostburg State College and became a teacher in Baltimore City.  During that time, “I was invited.” That’s how I came to realize a calling to be a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. I met a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who was involved in an Adult Peer Retreat Program as I was and she asked: “Have you ever thought of being a Sister?”

My dedication to education in its many forms matched the mission of the Congregation.   As the daughter of a school teacher, I valued the profession and emulated my mother in following it. After pronouncing my first vows in 1984, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I worked as the Coordinator of Urban Youth Ministry and founded a program of spiritual, educational and leadership development for young Black lives, the Harambee Catholic Youth Organization.

Later I served in a variety of educational and leadership positions: Principal of Academy of Notre Dame  in Washington, D.C.; Executive Director of the National Black Sisters Conference; Director of Baltimore’s Catholic Charities programs—Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen and Christopher Place Employment Academy, a residential program of education and job training for formerly homeless men.

Notre Dame Education Center in Lawrence, Ma. called in 2002. As Executive Director , the center offered ESOL  and Citizenship classes, and a Certified Nursing Assistant Program. I learned from people of many different cultures and was inspired by their determination to learn the English language, or to obtain a GED, or acquire appropriate job skills.  After serving on the SNDdeN National Leadership Team for several years, I was asked to serve as Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

My years as a Sister of Notre Dame have been enriching and challenging. As a daughter of St. Julie for forty years, I continue to be inspired by her commitment to “stand with and for the poor and oppressed in the most abandoned places.” I will continue to work toward “right relationships” that empower people and promote “justice, equality and equity” for all in our communities.

“God is good…all the time and all the time…God is good.”

Sister Evelyn Fitzke, SNDDeN

“How Can I Keep from Singing!”

(American Christian folksong from the late 1800´s, frequently used by Quakers)

By Evelyn Fitzke, SND

My early years were spent in Germany (land of my birth) and France, in a loving, secure family.  From early on, I learned to respect cultures different from my own, and my two brothers and I had the great privilege of growing up in a tri-lingual environment.  I was truly blessed during my childhood!  How can I keep from singing!

We moved to the U.S. when I was in high school, and after college in Baltimore, I spent 5 years in Malaysia, working in different hospitals as a Peace Corps volunteer.  Three more languages were added to my repertoire, and I was introduced to the beauty of Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures, all the while learning to cherish my own Catholic Christian faith more deeply.  It was at this time that I began to feel an attraction to religious life.  And I knew:  I wanted to spend my life serving the poor through health care, living in community among peoples of many cultures.  I was truly blessed during my Peace Corps years!  How can I keep from singing!

When I returned to Baltimore in 1978, I met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, with their strong commitment to the poor in the most abandoned places, their internationality and interculturality, and unshakeable faith in the goodness of God.  And I knew:  this is the Congregation for me!  I entered the Congregation at Ilchester in August of 1980.  I was – and continue to be – truly blessed!  How can I keep from singing!

Now I celebrate 40 years as a Sister of Notre Dame, having served in Baltimore, Congo (then “Zaire”), and Peru.  We proclaim in our Constitutions (Article 52), “As we live community-in-mission, we recognize the strength of belonging to a congregation of sisters who share a similar hope and vision, and we rejoice in the goodness of God and one another.”  I am truly blessed!  And so the words of the well-loved Christian hymn once again become my own refrain: 

“How can I keep from singing!”