Reflecting on her sixty-plus years as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, Sister Jeanette (Marie Pierre) Braun sees a common thread that has been woven through all of her many ministries. Her loving spirit of welcome was a gift that she received from her parents while growing up with her four brothers. There was always room at the Braun’s table for a lonely neighbor or someone in need, so it’s not surprising that Jeanette’s favorite scriptural passage is: “Continue to love one another… and remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
From the beginning of her teaching ministry, Jeanette created an inviting space of learning for young children. She continued that same spirit as a co-founder of the San Francisco Mission Reading Clinic, where she nurtured immigrant students from many different cultures.
Because she had a background in special education, Jeanette was asked to lead a project at Catholic Television Network to build a community of special education teachers from both Catholic and public schools using live, interactive broadcasts. Later, she applied this experience and her creativity and communication skills as a producer at KGO-TV in San Francisco. Her Sunday morning TV program focused on issues of peace and justice.
In the 1980s, Jeanette became immersed in the Sanctuary movement. Her knowledge of Spanish was an asset as she accompanied individuals and families through the sometimes-agonizing process of gaining political asylum. The bonds made with these people whom she welcomed into her home and supported have endured. During this period, she worked at Hewlett-Packard Company, where she coordinated worldwide training broadcasts via a video network.
Jeanette welcomed the first Notre Dame AmeriCorps volunteers to California during the 1990s to work in San Francisco and Redwood City. Some of the volunteers helped staff Kids in Partnership, a non-profit cross-generational tutoring program that Jeanette directed. Corporate community relations manager and friend Rachael Bertone met her through Kids in Partnership: “Jeanette set the standard with a high-quality program that was not only very effective, but created a loving, enriching environment for all participants. Since then, I've come to know Jeanette's love of beauty in all its forms and her deep capacity for empathy."
Hospitality was at the heart of her ministry at the House of Prayer in Carmel, where she helped create a prayerful environment for the community and guests. Jeanette’s artistic gifts frequently grace the Province Center in Belmont where she had an integral part in the selection of the furnishings and decor when it became our new home.
For ten years, Sister Jeanette served as co-coordinator of the Notre Dame Associates, and assisted with their formation, retreats, and activities that put our Associates in touch with the Notre Dame mission around the world.
Jeanette is now the director of the Table of Plenty, a non-profit organization that provides a weekly supper for the elderly, struggling families and homeless members of the Half Moon Bay Community. As she and volunteer helpers welcome and nourish the many attendees, they live out Jeanette's favorite quote from St. Julie: “Our charity must not be limited by the love we have for one another. We must have hearts as wide as the world.”
“Looking back over these 60 years,” she said, “I am most grateful for my family, my Notre Dame Sisters, Associates, and friends who have loved, supported and challenged me. My many ministries have brought me in touch with diverse groups of people who taught and inspired me – some by their courage, faith and joy despite hardships and adversities, others by their compassion and dedication to create a more just community and world.”
She adds that, “While working alongside our Notre Dame AmeriCorps members, our Notre Dame Associates and the many volunteers at the Table of Plenty, I have witnessed tremendous generosity and compassion. This gives me hope and great joy.”
By Sister Yvonne Bondi