“Thanks to my grandparents who immigrated from Ireland,” says Sister Sharon Skain, “I was born in The City by the Bay, San Francisco, a town of diverse cultures. That diversity shaped my life.” She remembers that during World War II her parents kept a place at the table for military men her Dad would bring home for dinner, men who would tell stories of their home states. She grew up listening and learning.
During a school retreat in her senior year at Notre Dame High School, San Francisco, she felt a call to religious life. Sister Francis Loretto and Sister Paula Butier took her to visit the novitiate in Saratoga where Sharon remembers seeing an NDSF graduate she knew who was then a postulant. “ I thought, if she can do it, I can do it too.”
Her mother was thrilled because for any Irish family, a religious vocation was a sign of being blessed, a sign of God’s approval of the family.
Sister Sharon taught in Notre Dame elementary schools in Los Angeles, Millbrae, Seattle, San Carlos and Hawaii. Most significant was her return to her alma mater, Notre Dame High School in San Francisco. “That,” she says, “was the best experience of my life. The internationality, the mix of cultures. I learned so much from it all. Although I’ve only worked in the United States, I feel I have come to know many cultures.”
One of the greatest joys of Sister Sharon’s life has been her 22 years as Director of RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation of Adults) at St. Christopher Parish, San José, Calif. She explains, “I encourage parishioners to share their experience of growing up as post-Vatican II Catholics.”
Notre Dame Associate Linda Walsh says that, “Sister Sharon is the reason I am a Catholic. When my husband was unable to answer some of our son’s questions about faith and the church, I called the parish and was connected to Sister Sharon, who suggested I come to the RCIA sessions. She thought I might gain some answers there. Sister Sharon brought my husband and me back into the church and introduced us to people who share our interests and hopes.”
Arlene Fukawa shares, “I first met Sister Sharon at St. Christopher Parish when I was part of a team of RCIA leaders. As the RCIA spiritual director, she was dedicated to the ‘newbies’ of the Roman Catholic religion. She taught this cradle Catholic a lot about my own religion with her stories about her own faith journey and times of discernment and questioning.”
When celebrating her 60th Jubilee in 2015, Sister Sharon said, “Thank you, thank you, Holy Spirit, for the gift of joy to celebrate 60 years as an SNDdeN among the people. Thank you for faith in Jesus Christ, for prayer, for surprises, for hope even if the world is always in a mess, for hope about religious life whatever it is God has in mind. Most of all, I’m happy to be a SNDdeN for 60 years!”