Inspiring Catholic school educators with the charism of the Sisters of Notre Dame is one of Sister Marie Paul Grech’s top priorities. Put simply, that charism (or what the sisters believe) is that God is good and provides for us. They strive to look at the world with hope; and what could be more important in a classroom than a positive attitude?
Sister Marie Paul loves this part of her ministry. Her love for teachers and her respect for the role they play in the lives of their students shows in her dedication to faculty and staff retreats.
“These men and women who give of themselves so generously to touch the hearts of the young are always an inspiration to me. It’s a real joy to continue spreading our Notre Dame charism and spirit,” Sister said.
She taught secondary school for more than 30 years in Ventura and LA counties, as well as in the sisters’ mission in Uganda, Africa. Armed with her faith and a lifetime of experience as a sister, Sister Marie Paul shows others how to infuse their classrooms with joy and compassion.
“Teachers continue our mission in our sponsored and affiliate schools where we are no longer physically present. God’s call to teachers in every Catholic school is vibrant and it is my joy to be part of their ongoing response to that call,” she said.
Sister recently led a retreat for 20 teachers from Saint Jude the Apostle School in Westlake, Calif. The retreat began with a morning Mass and breakfast, followed by small group discussions and a video presentation.
“Your job” Sister Marie Paul told the group “is to help children connect the dots- between science and religion, between what they learn on the playground and in the classroom. Your job is to teach them how to learn.”
Deana Herrera (pictured at right in the photo below) has taught at Saint Jude the Apostle School for seven years. She was motivated to apply Sister Marie Paul’s lessons in her fourth-grade classroom.
“Her positive spirit reminds us to see the good in our everyday lives,” Herrera said. “Sometimes when things don’t go as planned, one of my students will say something really funny. Those moments are God saying ‘Lighten up!’”
Sister Marie Paul is the coordinator of Kindred Hearts Ministries (KHM). KHM offers prayer programs, spiritual events, retreats and many other services for local parishioners provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame. To learn more about KHM, visit www.sndca.org/khm or email Sister Marie Paul at email@example.com. Click here for the KHM calendar of events.
Sister Mary Therese Kirstein knows that it takes true perseverance to be a sister. She entered the convent during her senior year of high school, and will celebrate her 65th anniversary as a sister on July 11. Listen as she reflects on the highs and lows of her ministry.
On the meaning of Jubilee:
On growing up and entering the convent in Cleveland:
On her ministry as a teacher and a chaplain:
On facing the end of life:
On her trip to visit the former home of Saint Julie Billiart, spiritual mother of the Sisters of Notre Dame:
TOT is open to all young adults, ages 18 to 39, singles and couples, regardless of religious affiliation, who want to explore the role of faith in their daily lives. Created in 1981, TOT is a nationally recognized speaker and fellowship program that has brought young adults to the church for more than 30 years. In this casual atmosphere, you’ll hear straight talk and honest answers to your deepest questions about faith, love, work and other real life experiences. TOT provides an opportunity to learn about the Catholic faith, meet like-minded people and make new friends.
Saint Julie Billiart is the spiritual mother of the Sisters of Notre Dame, since she was not living when the religious order began, but the order is based on her spirituality and teachings. She was born on July 12, 1751; died on April 8, 1816; and was canonized on June 22, 1969.
Marie Rose Julie Billiart (as she was baptized) was born in the French village of Cuvilly during the French Revolution. Even as a young child, Julie’s love for the good God was apparent to all who knew her. She told bible stories and taught about Jesus to neighboring children.
As a young woman several things happened to her and her family which left them in poverty and traumatized her in such a way that she was paralyzed and had difficulty speaking. In spite of these physical handicaps, Julie served God by preparing children for their First Communion. She offered spiritual guidance to adults who came to her because of her wisdom, goodness and love of God, even in the midst of all her suffering.
With her friend, Francoise Blin de Bourdon, Julie, then 53 years old, began a religious community of sisters: the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. These women wanted to follow Julie and Francoise in their dedication to God, their spreading of the message that God is good, and their work teaching poor children. Julie was still paralyzed when a priest asked her to pray for an unknown special intention. This special intention was Julie’s cure, so after 23 years of being paralyzed, Julie began to walk. She was able then to travel to all the places her sisters were in order to help them become sisters and teachers. She wrote many letters and made many journeys to her sisters until she died in 1816.
Two other religious communities of sisters were founded after Julie Billiart died that are also called Sisters of Notre Dame. Their way of living as sisters and relating to God comes from Saint Julie Billiart. One of these religious communities is the Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld, Germany, and they eventually came to the United States and became the congregation we know today.
Prayer from the Mass of Saint Julie
Almighty and eternal God, you called Saint Julie Billiart to respond joyfully to the love of your crucified Son in dedicating herself to the education of the poor. Grant that her prayer and example may inspire us to respond with love to His Cross, in serving the needs of others with true goodness of heart. Amen.
Do you recognize your brothers and sisters around the world as made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore having “equal dignity”? For the 2015 World Day of Peace, Pope Francis challenges all of us to recognize every other person as a brother or sister with God-given dignity. Such recognition, he says, will lead to peace.
When we recognize the dignity of others, we will feel compelled to work for an end to all that exploits and enslaves them, such as human trafficking, trade in migrants and prostitutes, exploitation, slave labor, and the enslavement of women and children. These things, Pope Francis says, are a fatal running sore on the flesh of Christ.
To address these assaults on the dignity of our exploited and enslaved brothers and sisters, we must assist victims and address the problems and issues that create conditions ripe for exploitation. Catholics in the United States can join the U.S. Catholic bishops and Catholic Relief Services as they work to help victims of exploitation and slavery and address root causes, such as poverty and lack of opportunity, conflict, corruption, demand in developed nations for services of the sex trade and forced labor, poor regulation of industries most susceptible to trafficking (such as the agricultural, domestic, hospitality, and service industries), and lack of anti-human trafficking laws and enforcement of such laws where they do exist.
Ever wonder what it’s like to live like a Sister of Notre Dame? Now you can find out! Join us on Saturday, January 10, 2015 for a day of prayer, reflection and sharing at Notre Dame Center. See our event flyer for more information. Email Sister Val Roxburgh at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
If you sign up for the Nun Run 5K, you will be the proud recipient of a Nun Run t-shirt, a savory pancake breakfast, great company and a goodie bag with impressive coupons; but did you know you’ll also be doing something good for the planet?
Since the sisters are very concerned with caring for the earth, all participants will get a Virtual Event Bag instead of a regular goodie bag. Instead of filling a goodie bag with paper coupons and booklets- which costs a few trees – everything can be retrieved on your preferred electronic device. Isn’t that so cool? If you use your iPhone or iPad to retrieve your coupons, just take your device to the store to get your items. No printing of the coupons – it’s all paperless! This is awesome!!!
Many sisters are making gigantic steps in reducing their carbon footprints on this wondrous earth of ours. They do this by using fewer plastic water bottles, bringing reusable shopping bags to the store, taking shorter showers, washing full loads, recycling and reusing as much as possible. What are you doing to make a small difference? Do you have a household plan and appropriate containers for sorting your trash? Do you know where to take old batteries, electronics, medicine, light bulbs and other hazardous waste?
As committed folks who want the best future for our children and grandchildren, we need to continually educate ourselves about better ways to use the resources and energies of the earth. Go to your city’s website to be informed about their environmental programs and events. You will learn much to share with your family, friends and neighbors. And don’t forget to sign up for the Nun Run!
Sister Betty Mae Bienlein
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Coordinator for the California Province