“Sisters, do you dance?” asked a student during “Tea with the Sisters,” an intimate storytelling gathering with the Sisters on campus. Held on February 5 and 6, the two gatherings gave students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to learn more about the Sisters and their order, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM).
The participating Sisters, Sister Marcia Frideger ’69, Sister Carol Sellman ’69, MM ’78, EdD, Sister Carol Nicklas ’64, and Sister Maureen Hester ’57, PhD, spoke about their personal life experiences, education, and how they made the decision to join the order.
The Sisters told stories from their early days on campus when their life was more monastic—heading back to the convent right after class, spending their time studying, rather than interacting with the other students. Sr. Marcia explained how the theology changed at the time of the Second Vatican Council as it became understood that apostolic teaching communities such as the Sisters of the Holy Names were different from monastic communities and needed to be more engaged in understanding the larger society and world. Also, many of the Sisters went to distant universities for graduate school and this exposure influenced the community when they came back to teach.
When asked about the challenges of being a Sister, Sr. Marcia spoke of the need to stay faithful to religious life, just as one would stay faithful in a marriage. Sr. Carol Sellman spoke of the challenges of existing within the Roman Catholic hierarchical space and how her experiences on campus, with Father Salvatore Ragusa and the other Sisters in her community, help her feel reconciled.
When asked why they chose to join the SNJM community over other religious orders, the Sisters response was unanimous: because the SNJMs are joyful and fun, they enjoy life and each other. The Sisters spoke about how grateful they are to be an SNJM. As a Sister, they have had the opportunity to pursue graduate degrees, travel the world, take on a variety of interesting professions, care for sick family members, and educate students. And, “Yes,” on occasion, dance.