I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.
– Philippians 1:3-4
By the time Jean Stoner was a junior at Notre Dame High School, Alameda, she knew she wanted to be a Sister—specifically a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. This decision was, “clear as a bell, as I was impressed with their joyful relationship with one another and with the good education I was receiving from them.”
Her first assignment after college was teaching a lively second grade class. A few years later, she was moved to Notre Dame High School, San Jose, to teach math and discovered that teaching trigonometry, geometry and math analysis to teenagers was, in a word, fun. Barbara Filice-Deuel remembers her 1966 freshman class: “We were scared 13- and 14-year-old girls, and she was a fantastic math teacher—always trying to keep the classes from becoming boring.”
Sister Jean also taught at Notre Dame High School, Belmont, later serving as vice principal–a good fit for this logical, organized Sister. Her time as principal at Notre Dame High School, Salinas, stands out in her mind as one of her favorites: “Salinas is a farming community of 100,000 and yet has a small-town feel. Everybody knows everybody. I had a good four years there.”
She says that doing a financial needs assessment for the SNDdeN provinces in Africa and Latin America made a deep impression on her. What sounded like a dry assignment opened her eyes and heart. She saw schools without books, paper or pencils, and clinics without medicine. She saw people with nothing. But she also saw incredible joy and still remembers all the smiles. “Visiting those countries and seeing our Sisters and the people there changed me and my view of what I need … I have learned to live more simply.”
From 2010-2016, Sister Jean represented the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the United Nations, advocating with others on education and gender equality. Women and girls are most affected by the global issues of poverty, lack of education, migration, and climate change. Being at the UN meant learning how to navigate two new worlds—that of the bustling metropolis of New York City and that of the diplomatic arena of the UN, both a far cry from her childhood days on her grandparents’ cattle ranch in central Montana.
Sister Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, SNDdeN, succeeded Sister Jean at the UN, and she, too, found challenges to adjusting to life in New York City. “Nevertheless,” she says, “Jean made my ‘landing’ on the job very smooth. Her handover notes were so meticulously done that I did not need to call to ask for anything after I took on the job. Jean thought about, and included, every single detail one can imagine in her handover notes to me. Thank you, Jean, for being such a wonderful mentor!"
Sister Jean now serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees for Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Calif. She also helps guide the Sisters in the U.S. to work together effectively and collaboratively, especially in the development area.
Sister Irene Cullen, RSCJ, recalls, “as a longtime friend of Jean’s, I have watched in admiration as she has responded without fanfare or flourish, out in front as well as behind the scenes, to SNDdeN Congregational requests for her services in diverse situations and ministries. She has the spirit of St. Julie.”
Sister Jean shares, “I am so grateful for my family and friends who have been and are a loving support for me."
St. Charles Elementary School, San Carlos, Calif.
Sacred Heart Elementary School, Salinas, Calif.
Madonna del Sasso Elementary School, Salinas, Calif.
Notre Dame High School, Belmont, Calif.
Notre Dame High School, San Jose, Calif.
Notre Dame High School, Salinas, Calif.
Academy of Our Lady of Peace, San Diego, Calif.
Service to the Sisters
California Province Leadership Team, Saratoga, Calif.
SNDdeN Development Team, Saratoga and Belmont, Calif.
Provincial Technology Coordinator, Saratoga, Calif.
SNDdeN Congregational Mission Office, Ipswich, Mass.
SNDdeN Representative to the United Nations, New York, N.Y.
Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, Calif. (Chair, Board of Trustees)