HNU held the spring President’s Circle Luncheon on Tuesday, April 19, in appreciation of members of the President’s Circle, an honor society that recognizes an esteemed group of HNU supporters who generously give more than $1,000 to an HNU fund in a single fiscal year. Attendees included alumni, friends, faculty, staff, students, and 11 Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM), including Sister Cynthia Canning ’68, Sister Miriam Daniel Fahey ’48, PhD, Sister Marcia Frideger ’69, PhD, Sister Maureen Hester ’57, PhD, Sister Fran Kearney ’61, ’63, Sister June Kearney, PhD, Sister Donna Maynard ’50, Sister Carol Nicklas ’64, Sister Sophia Park, PhD, Sister Chris Patrinos ’81, PhD, and Sister Carol Sellman ’69, MM ’78, EdD.
Beth Martin, PhD, provost and vice president for academic affairs, delivered the welcoming remarks for the event. “Your support allows our students to overcome barriers in achieving their academic goals, and enables them to take an active role in serving others, and promoting peace and justice in our world,” she said. “Our students are doing amazing things because you have decided that they’re worth investing in. So we gratefully welcome you, and we thank you truly for your kind hearts and your generous spirit.”
Interim HNU President Jeanie Watson, PhD, gave an update about the University and delivered her sincere thanks to the members of the President’s Circle. “April 26th, our students, faculty and staff will gather to celebrate Founders’ Day, marking the 149th anniversary of the Sisters coming into Oakland,” she said. “We would not be celebrating the 149th year without the generosity of partners like each of you. You help sustain us in both the good times and the challenging times. So thank you for believing in the potential of Holy Names University, the potential of our students to make this world a better place. Thank you for being thoughtful and engaged. Thank you for your generosity.”
For the latter part of the luncheon, Sr. Carol Sellman, vice president for mission integration, moderated a panel discussion with four Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary: Sr. June Kearney, PhD, Sr. Marcia Frideger, PhD, Sr. Sophia Park, PhD, and Sr. Carol Nicklas. Sr. Carol Sellman asked the four Sisters questions about their lives and about how they were called to join the order.
In speaking about the experience of being called, all four Sisters mentioned that part of what drew them to the order was their own early interactions with other Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Sr. Carol Nicklas, who volunteers with the HNU Office of Advancement, spent most of her childhood in New Mexico, but left home to attend Ramona Convent Secondary School in Alhambra, California—run by the SNJMs—for her last two years of high school. She said that when she first arrived at Ramona, she was “extremely homesick,” but found comfort in the environment that the SNJMs had established there. “After I had been homesick, and this was before I went home for Thanksgiving, Sister Mary Petra finally came up to me and said, ‘You must have a wonderful family that you miss them so much.’ And from then on I was fine,” she said. “The Sisters were absolutely wonderful. They were just darling. They were fun and they cared about us, and they took care of us, and played ball with us, and all those wonderful things that some of you may have experienced too. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed like maybe I knew how you were supposed to know that you were supposed to be a Sister, and I was not interested at that point. But, finally, it got to a point where the calling was so strong that I had to try.”
The four Sisters on the panel also answered questions from attendees about whether they ever had second thoughts about entering the order, if they struggle with people’s misconceptions regarding religious orders, and about how the SNJM order fosters spiritual and intellectual excellence in its members. Speaking to the last question, Sr. Carol Sellman mentioned that the tradition of intellectual excellence had deep roots. “I think that ethos came from our foundress, Mother Marie-Rose [Durocher]. I think she wanted to do the very best for the children in the area where she lived who had no education. And so that came through to all of us.”