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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Sister, sister

I spent the summer before my senior year of college living in a convent. In Kansas City, Mo., 1,500 miles away from home. And it was one of the best summers of my life.

No, I am not on my way to becoming a sister or entering religious life. Faith is an important part of my life, but I want to live and share my faith in different ways. The experiences I had this past summer, the stories I brought back with me and the women I met, however, will forever be a part of my life and brought a new perspective to it.

Over the summer, I participated in the Summer Service Learning Program through the Center for Social Concerns. My site was Cristo Rey Kansas City High School, where I worked all over the school, helping out in classrooms and with different administrators, but mostly in their Corporate Work Study Program office.

I won't lie — I was a little nervous about my decision to head to Kansas City for eight weeks of my summer and my apprehension only grew when I learned I would not be living with an alumni family there, but instead in a convent with a group of sisters. Succumbing to stereotypes, I pictured myself living in a tiny room with a bunch of stern women who were always in their habits and never smiled. I was terrified.

I could not have been more wrong about my time in Kansas City.

When I arrived at Xavier House, a convent of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, I was greeted with open arms and wide smiles. I wasn't entering a stone dungeon, but rather a converted preschool. Sure, my room was small, but I've lived in smaller and it was all I really needed.

Over the course of the summer, Sister V, Sister Mary Rachel, Sister Mary Geraldine, Kate and Denise treated me as a part of their family. I worked with them. I learned to cook and grill with them. I prayed with them. I painted with them. I roadtripped with them. I celebrated birthdays and jubilees with them. I laughed with them — harder sometimes than I ever have in my life.

If you had told me in May that I would have left Xavier House with such a heavy heart, I would have laughed at you. But leaving that house, knowing that I would not be able to watch "Glee" with V on Tuesdays, knit with Kate or do countless other daily activities with all the other sisters I lived and worked with was one of the saddest goodbyes I have ever experienced. Pulling away from that house for the last time on July 15 brought tears to my eyes.

I was terrified to spend my summer in Kansas City. But working at Cristo Rey was one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever had, and I will never forget the summer I lived in a convent.

Contact Mary Claire O'Donnell at modonne5@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.