Meet Sister Katherine (Katherine Mary) Nelson

Educated by Sisters from an early age, Katherine dreamt of becoming a Sister herself one day. By high school, the dream faded and she got caught up in studies, clothes and boys! But a still, small voice pierced her conscience. "Becoming a Sister was something I felt I HAD to do," she remembers. She entered the novitiate in 1950.

In the early years, Sister Katherine taught English, French, religion, speech and drama classes in middle grades and high schools throughout California–from Sacred Heart Elementary in Salinas, to St. Joseph's Elementary in San Jose, to Bishop Conaty High School in Los Angeles. Alvira Chargin, a former student of Sister Katherine's, shares, "I became a secure, self-confident woman thanks to Sr. Katherine and the Sisters of Notre Dame!"

From 1966-1971, Sister served as the principal at St. Charles School in San Carlos, California, and particularly enjoyed working with a dedicated faculty and with parents in the sacramental preparation of their children.

After completing a master's degree in applied theology, her focus shifted for the next two decades to religious education. For six years during this time she served as a religious education consultant, then Director of Religious Education for the Diocese of Sacramento working in catechist and lay ministry formation. Though it's been decades since that work, Sister's recollections of it remain keen. "I loved that job. We had a great staff and wonderful, supportive Bishop, providing opportunities to visit parishioners all over northern California."

Sr. Katherine with some of her ESL students.

In 1992 she became a certified E.S.L. teacher and began teaching some of the most hard-working students of her career. "They came from all over the globe and were so motivated to learn English." One day she ran into a former student in a grocery store. The woman, originally from Bosnia, came to Sister Katherine's class with no English skills. Today the woman has her own accounting business and credits Sister with laying the foundation of her success.

Recently retired, Sister Katherine serves as a substitute E.S.L. teacher and is mentoring a woman who is exploring the possibility of becoming a Sister. Sister Katherine is also enjoying more time for prayer, reading, walking, and visiting with friends and family.

Sister Katherine's Ministries

1953-54 Sacred Heart School, Salinas, Calif.
1954-57 St. Charles School, San Carlos, Calif.
1957 St. Dunstan School, Millbrae, Calif.
1958 Notre Dame High School, Marysville, Calif.
1958-59 Palma School, Salinas, Calif.
1959-61 St. Joseph Elementary School, San Jose, Calif.
1961-62 Notre Dame High School, Alameda, Calif.
1962-66 Bishop Conaty High School, Los Angeles, Calif.
1966-71 St. Charles School, San Carlos, Calif. (Superior, Principal and Teacher)
1972-73 College of Notre Dame, Belmont, Calif.
1974-75 St. Albert Parish, Palo Alto, Calif. (Religious Education)
1975-76 St. Stephen Parish, Wyoming (Religious Education)
1976-77 St. Joseph Parish, Marysville, Calif. (Religious Education)
1977-78 Provincial Renewal Team, Saratoga, Calif.
1978-84 Diocese of Sacramento, Calif. (Director of Religious Education)
1985-87 Institute of Lay Theology, Oakland, Calif. (Director, Lay Ministry Program)
1987-89 St. Thomas of Canterbury Parish, San Jose, Calif. (Pastoral Associate)
1989-92 College of Notre Dame, Belmont, Calif. (Director of Education in Parish Service)
1995-Present E.S.L. Teacher at Santa Clara Adult School and other sites, Bay Area, California.

Sister Katherine Nelson, SNDdeN with family at her Jubilee celebration in 2010.


  1. Sister Katherine is fondly remembered by everyone in our 8th grade class. We have enjoyed getting reacquainted with her at our monthly lunches and our reunions.

  2. Hello Sr. Katherine Nelson,

    I am Mary Alice, a former SNDdeNamur sister for a short while in the early 50's. I am wondering if you are my friend from St.Mary's Academy. If you are, my email is below. I would love to hear from you. I am so very proud of the work you have accomplished with God's help. Congratulations on your Jubilee. Please remember me and my family in your prayers. God bless you always, Mary Alice

  3. Would love to visit with Sister Katherine Mary. I was at Notre Dame Alameda when she was. It was wonderful reading about her 70th anniversary. Where is Sister Katherine Mary located now?

    Happy Anniversary Sister Katherine Mary!
    Megan Croft
    ND Class of 64.

  4. Dear Sr. Katherine Mary-
    I saw your photo / blurb in Catholic Voice where jubilarians are displayed.
    You were my 7th grade teacher at St. Charles, San Carlos, 1955-54 (graduated '56 – then to ND Belmont)
    YOU were the inspiration God used to spark vocation in me.!!! I'd love to connect with you if you wish-
    my email is below- Peace and much gratitude!!! Mary Fahey then / Sr. Marietta Fahey, SHF now!

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