Notre Dame Associates come from many walks of life, but all seek a deeper experience of Jesus Christ and the Gospel and wish to engage with the Sisters of Notre Dame in service to others. Here are some reflections and stories of the more than 70 California-based Associates.
Manifesting the Goodness of God: Introducing New Associate Shyrl McCormick
The Sisters and Associates of Notre Dame Congregational Feast Day Celebration each year on February 2 is a special and joyous occasion for all of us, not only because we get to be together and share in the charism of St. Julie, but also because we have the honor of welcoming new Associates like Shyrl McCormick into our vibrant and growing community.
Shyrl has known and loved the Sisters of Notre Dame all her life. She and many members of her family had been educated by the Sisters, and Shyrl herself entered the community of the Sisters after graduating from high school. But, much to her surprise, after twenty-one years, she felt called to listen to her own yearnings and inspirations that led her toward another way of life.
And Shyrl has never felt comfortable with the phrase “left the convent,” because she only “left” when it became clear to her that she could transition into something else and still live in the spirit and charism of St. Julie. Shyrl is blessed to have married her husband Pat, whose whole life has also been focused on raising up and supporting the goodness in others. Over the years, Shyrl has remained involved with the work and ministry of the Sisters in many ways.
For Shyrl, belief in the goodness of God manifest in all of us and in our universe is both a choice and a gift the world needs. Association is a way for her to plant firmly the roots with which she grew up—and to continue to tend them faithfully—as she has done throughout her life. Association is a way for her to honor her relationship with the Sisters and with the charism of St Julie and to say thank you. Shyrl is grateful that the community of Associates exists and grateful to be a part of it, just as we are grateful and blessed to have her join us in bringing light to the world and making known the goodness of God.
I came to know the Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Lucy Parish in Campbell, CA. I was a catechist and also involved in other ministries in the Church when Sr. Cecilia Wallace invited me to become an Associate. As I got to know the Sisters and St. Julie better, I was impressed with their example as women of deep faith and commitment. I enjoyed the Gatherings and shared prayer. I related to St. Julie because I was recovering from agoraphobia, and like St. Julie after her illness, I was traveling more and becoming more active. Being an Associate of the Sisters of Notre Dame allows me to be a part of their ministry and charism. Although I live in Florida now, I continue to be connected to the Sisters in a union of prayer and in the charism of proclaiming God's goodness to the world.
Youth minister and confirmation coordinator at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Belmont, Kathy's warmth and energy encourage teens to share ideas, learn and reach out to others. Her relationship at her parish and with Notre Dame began years ago when Sr. Alberta Karp, with no questions and with a big hug, welcomed this small, bright girl into her IHM classroom – the 36th child in a classroom prepared for 35. It was her co-workers in the parish, Marie Felix and Dede Waters-Masters, both Notre Dame Associates, who told her that she really must become an Associate. They, with her husband Ivan and their four children, are wonderfully supportive of her association with Notre Dame. A friend of St. Julie's since that day she met Sr. Alberta, Kathy admires Julie's way of working with others and seeing the good in all. "St. Julie was definitely a "walk the talk" person!"
I am honored to be making this commitment to be an Associate of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Believing in the "Goodness of God" is the very core of my being. The work that St. Julie and Francoise started: educating those less fortunate and teaching them what they need to know for life is now being carried out by the Sisters of Notre Dame, California, and their Associates. Being part of their mission is very near and dear to my heart. I have been associated with the Sisters since 1990 when my children went to Notre Dame Elementary School. I hope by my association with the Sisters of Notre Dame I will be able to help continue this mission through the actions of my daily life. I am honored by this privilege and only hope I can live up to the expectations of this relationship.
When I discovered Association, I was thrilled…this was the community I so desired to stand behind me and support me during difficult times. The Sisters' motto, "God is Good," is what I have always felt and have been so grateful to them for contributing to my journey. I also have a special affinity towards our Blessed Virgin as my name is Marie, and my journey has led me to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and most recently, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. I feel totally blessed to be part of a worldwide community and look forward to what I can do for the Sisters and their mission. Read more about Marie's journey.
I met my first Sister of Notre Dame about 12 years ago when I decided to go back to school at the then College of Notre Dame to pursue a teaching credential. My reading teacher, Sr. Nancy McCarron, encouraged me to interview at the elementary school because it would "be good practice" and I taught there for many years. The Sisters and all of the community of Notre Dame have truly been my sanctuary and my second family. They are the embodiment of joy, faith and service. I have repeatedly been amazed at their open, loving support at different difficult and joyous times throughout the last 10 years of my life that I've spent at Notre Dame. I am humbled and honored to be an Associate of Notre Dame and hope that I can be of service to the larger Notre Dame Community.
Sisters of Notre Dame and Associates are champions proclaiming the goodness of God in our time. As an Associate I have the opportunity to become a viable participant in a group of strong, spirited women who make life better for others. It is an unbelievable chance to develop deep spiritual and intellectual ties with the Sisters and Associates and learn from their wisdom of experience. I look forward to deepening my own spirituality and meaning of life.
Association has given me spiritual companions who find God in the midst of their daily joys and struggles. It has also offered me the opportunity to share in the Notre Dame mission to promote global peace, social justice and service to the community. I have grown to love our foundress, St. Julie, a woman of courage and faith whose legacy lives on in the Sisters and Associates.
I felt honored and humbled when I was asked to consider becoming an Associate of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. I have been on a long spiritual journey. I have discovered that being a member of the NDNU community has helped me along that journey. I am fortunate to work and to have become friends with a number of wonderful women who are Associates and have unknowingly helped to lead me to making this important decision. One of my roles as registrar of NDNU is to uphold the academic integrity of the institution. That supports one aspect of the educational mission of the Sisters. It has been wonderful to interact with a group of women who are all at different stages of their spiritual journey, believe in the goodness of God, and are committed to peace and the service of others.
I grew up in the Catholic Church and over the years became less and less involved. I wanted to find a way to come back to the church, but didn't know in what way. Then, upon coming to work at NDNU [Gina is Executive Assistant to the President], I met and began working with the most intelligent, energetic, engaging, dedicated, and sincere group of women I have ever met–the Sisters of Notre Dame. My sponsor Jan Lennon shared with me her experience and I knew in my heart that it was something I wanted to do as well. I was thrilled and honored when I was asked to join the Sisters in their journey and mission of service by becoming an Associate. So in my own spiritual journey, I am renewing by baptismal vows and celebrating the life and work of St. Julie and the Sisters to be of service to others.
I believe I have been called to Association with the Sisters of Notre Dame in order to deepen my spiritual life and to better serve others. I look forward to being in community with Sisters and Associates who share common values, goals and commitments.
Irene, a quiet, reflective woman, is drawn to St. Julie who was handicapped for many years and who taught children traumatized by violence and hunger. Both a nurse and a teacher, Irene spends three days a week in schools working with children who have learning disabilities or who are autistic or emotionally disturbed. Another afternoon, she cares for two girls, one who is blind and deaf and the other who is in a wheel chair. With her husband, Eilif, she is also involved in her parish and its sister-parish in Guatemala. Irene is a Notre Dame High School, Belmont, graduate and her daughters all attended Notre Dame in San Jose. Her family is very happy about her Associate commitment to Notre Dame. "They know I like serving others, especially the sick, disabled and less fortunate. They know how much Notre Dame and St. Julie mean to me. I even have a daughter and a granddaughter named for her."
"All my life," Linda told us, "I have had colleagues as an artist and as a teacher. Now in Notre Dame I have Sisters." Sculptor and ceramicist, Linda is Acting Director of the School of Art and Design at San Jose State University. Linda, whose husband Tom is a Catholic, met the Sisters when their son, Michael, started to ask her questions she couldn't answer. This led to her own search and to Sr. Sharon Skain's RCIA program in her parish, to another Sister of Notre Dame for spiritual direction, and to sharing prayer and reflection with a group of Sisters and their friends. As she made her promises as an Associate of Notre Dame, she said, "St. Julie's simplicity, joy and humor, her lack of interest in dogma and belief in the goodness of God, her work as a teacher and teacher of teachers, her loving friendships and her courage touch me deeply. All my life there have been times of joy where the earth and creation and love among people shimmer. I think this must be what St. Julie was talking about as the great goodness of God."
I grew up in Notre Dame, first as a student at Guadalupe School in Santa Barbara, then as a teacher with the Sisters in parish religious education programs. When Sr. Catherine McGrath began to gather women to share more closely the Sisters' prayer and ministries, I became an eager member of the group. In 1990, I formalized my relationship with the Sisters of Notre Dame as an Associate. Now, 20 years later, I remain a committed Notre Dame Associate! It's a wonderful group of women and a spiritual group. Over these years, I've been through hard times including the deaths of my parents. It was as if St. Julie and the Sisters kept on inviting me, loving me, and supporting me. On the hardest days, they helped me see the goodness of God and how good it is to be part of this supportive family. Wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, I want to keep St. Julie's memory and spirit alive.
I have wrestled with faith for most of my adult life yet have not been able to turn away from the God-moments that I have witnessed. I know deep down that "God is good." This congregation is a beacon of inspiration for someone like me. Read more about Lydia's journey and why she feels the Associates and Sisters are a lifeline!
St. Julie and the Sisters of Notre Dame will always have a special place in my heart. I was part of the community for 28 years, and St. Julie's spirit continues to influence my life in many ways. Her love of the poor and her faithfulness in answering the call of the Gospel is something that helps me reach out to others and see God's presence in everything, Becoming an Associate is like coming full circle.
Rebellion landed me at Notre Dame High School, Belmont, after my freshman year at Sequoia High School. While my behavior did not always exemplify my gratitude, over the next three years I gradually realized what a tremendous gift my NDB education was. Find out why God kept Libby on a "short leash!"
Why? But then, why not? Why not stand with this beautiful and resolute group of women who speak simply and with such hope? The Hallmarks of a Notre Dame Learning Community capture the spirit: Love of the poor…through a gospel way of life…continuing a strong educational tradition…the most abandoned places…proclaim by our lives even more than by our words that God is good. If not now, when?
I was raised as a mainline Protestant. Always "churched" as my family moved around the country. I was active in Sunday School and youth group activities. My first experience with anything Catholic came when a Catholic high school friend and I used to "drop in" to her church after swimming in the high school pool. I felt at home there…Read about Lynn's long road to the Sisters of Notre Dame.
The vision and spirit of St. Julie Billiart became real to me through Sr. Roseanne Murphy, who was one of my professors at College of Notre Dame. Thirty-six years later I was blessed to be on a pilgrimage led by Sr. Roseanne. Through being an Associate of Notre Dame, I feel connected to something larger than myself. Teaching teenagers of immigrants from Asia and Latin America takes on a deeper significance as I am part of an international community of women who carry Christ's love and St. Julie's mission into this millennium.
In 1980, I was invited by Sr. Catherine Minner to do "something new" with my life, to deepen my relationship with God and Notre Dame. July 21, 1981, the day of my commitment as a Notre Dame Associate, was one of the most beautiful days of my life; my silver jubilee celebration last summer was another. Associates follow in St. Julie's footsteps and journey as she journeyed through life–making known the goodness of God with our own lives.
Joanne Rossi, an educator and teacher of teachers, is surely continuing St. Julie's ministry. Dean of the School of Education and Leadership at NDNU, she has worked with Sisters of Notre Dame for almost 12 years. "Every day," she says, "I have the chance to show compassion to students, faculty and staff. I believe that being an Associate will be a constant reminder to me to keep the values and vision of Notre Dame in the forefront." What touches her most about St. Julie, she says, is St. Julie's perseverance despite overwhelming obstacles. "She never waivered. She never relied solely on herself, but always gave it to God."
"It's her compassion," neighbor Joanne Thompson, also a Notre Dame Associate, says about Esther. "In social justice groups, in direct service, in advocacy for those in need, everywhere, she shows heart-centered compassion to each person." Esther's Los Angeles junior high acquaintance with Sisters of Notre Dame was renewed when she attended workshops and lectures at NDNU. Later her friend, Joanne, invited her to retreat days at the Province Center and then to become an Associate. For many years Esther was a public health and school nurse, then a teacher aid in a bilingual program, and finally, a teacher in an art preschool. She is now active with St. Charles Parish, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and is a Eucharistic Minister. When she became an Associate, she said, "St. Julie's tremendous courage, determination and faith inspire me. I hope to become a more prayerful person and to keep my focus on serving others."
I began my "association" with the Sisters when I entered first grade at Notre Dame Elementary School in San Francisco. I spent my entire grade school and high school career under their wonderful tutelage. Then I went off to college at U.C. Berkeley and my connection with the Sisters ended. Find out how a reconnection with the Sisters of Notre Dame changed her life.
There is a sense of friendship in the community of Notre Dame that encircles one…. Sure, I'm busy, but I learn from the Sisters that I can take time to be centered, to care for others and to pray. I'm surrounded by love and prayer. I had cancer as a young woman and it was devastating. I had it again a few years ago and it was a totally different experience. I wasn't afraid. I wasn't angry. I had gathered strength and a sense of peace from the Sisters.
I have felt a great love and respect for the Sisters of Notre Dame since first grade at Sacred Heart in San Jose. When a dear friend suggested I consider becoming an Associate, I jumped in! I reconnected with Sisters I had been very close to from many years before, and became reacquainted with what was happening. What was there, and will always remain, was the deep spirituality of simplicity and integral passion for justice and peace. These are gifts of connection for me and my association with the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Becoming an Associate has strengthened my relationship with God and has also given me a sense of peace and harmony in my life. By following the mission of St. Julie, I trust I can make a difference in the difficult world we live in. Like St. Julie, the Sisters and the Associates have a devoted faith and trust in God that has given me the strength to become an educator of young children. I truly believe they offer hope for peace and justice in our world.
Being an Associate, even when I have little time to join the gatherings, has given me a means to fulfill a calling. More importantly, it has propped me up with prayerful support during difficult personal times and given me a firm foundation from which I can deepen my faith. As Associates, we have the support of the entire Notre Dame Congregation behind us as we carry out the Gospel message in word and action. How blessed are those whom God calls to become Associates of Notre Dame!
My parents were neither Catholic nor involved in any other church. At best, they were agnostic; most likely they were atheists. However, they believed in discipline and phonics, so they chose a Catholic school for me. Find out how that one decision changed Anne's life.
Given Therese's love of music and spirituality, it seems fitting that she met the Sisters at the NDNU Chapel. As Sr. Pat McGlinn showed Therese its beautiful stained glass windows and mosaics, a friendship started. Therese, herself, does considerable work in liturgical art and is currently responsible for the prayerful atmosphere at St. Mark's Church in Belmont. She is drawn to St. Julie's generosity and love of the poor. She says, "I especially love the way St. Julie placed everything at the foot of the cross, so that everything had meaning and nothing was ever lost. I hope to live the Gospel every day in her spirit."
Judith has worked with the Sisters at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont (formerly College of Notre Dame) for over 20 years and feels ready for a new level of commitment in the community. Inspired by Notre Dame's focus on the goodness of God and challenged by the Sisters' concern for the poor, Judith especially appreciates the international reach of the community. "In the short run, I hope for a solid integration of Notre Dame’s values into NDNU's campus life. In the long run, I would like to help establish a teacher education college for SNDs in Africa," she says. Dr. Greig is president of NDNU.