As we near, National Catholic Sisters Week, reach out to a sister who inspired you! (CNS photo)
As we near, National Catholic Sisters Week, reach out to a sister who inspired you! (CNS photo)

Keeping our second-grade son engaged in education while learning addition and subtraction or to read and write — he just can’t seem to get his lowercase N’s from looking like H’s — when he was quarantined at home during a pandemic as we were working full-time jobs could be maddening, frustrating and inspiring all within the span of five minutes for my wife and me.

He has all the rambunctiousness and energy of an 8-year-old coupled with a general lack of interest in homework and an intense dedication to his iPad. In fact, when I asked him what he was giving up for Lent this year, he calmly said, “Homework.” (After telling him that that was not how Lent worked, he picked candy as his second option).

I think back to my early education, and although my parents never went to college and were the driving force in our learning, the Sisters of Saint Basil were the calm and steady influence for my two brothers and me. At our tiny Catholic grade school in Munhall, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh, the sisters taught us about faith and family, how to sing, read and write, and mathematics and science for eight years. All with the guiding hand of faith. Sure there were times when they got frustrated with us — like when they kept our third-grade class 45 minutes past the final bell because none of us could figure out how to tell time — but those were few and far between.

More than anything, I remember these sisters, who dedicated their lives to God, for their absolute dedication to their students; so much so the sisters became more than sisters to us. They became part of our families. Even years later, when we would see the principal — Sister Ruth Plante, OSBM, now pro¬≠vincial for the order — at a church function, she remembered my brothers and me, who she hadn’t seen in years, as well as my parents.

The sisters certainly did something right because a quick Google search of some of my former classmates shows one went to Harvard and is a financial analyst, one is a music teacher, one got a doctorate in economics and one became a journalist. Well, they can’t be blamed for that!

As we get ready to celebrate National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14), it is easy to think of women religious who make national headlines in the fight for the sanctity of life, the death penalty or immigrants’ rights. Think of Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille and long-time opponent of the death penalty who continues her crusade as one of the United States’ leading advocates against capital punishment. Or Sister Norma Pimentel, of the Missionaries of Jesus and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, who has been celebrated for her tireless efforts on behalf of immigrants and refugees and was named to Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020 list.

But this week and next, in the Diocese of Albany and beyond, remember those sisters in your life who made a difference or continue to make a difference in education and health care, at parishes and retreats (now virtual), and in various social ministries. Call them up! Send them an email, write them a letter or write to The Evangelist and we will print your stories! When I read about the lives of sisters, it always amazes me what they have accomplished and built and for how long they have done it. And I wonder how many people know their stories; how many lives they have touched while never asking for anything in return.

I recall the first time I met Sister Monica Murphy, CSJ, in 2019 when she came to The Evangelist to talk about Pyramid Life Center. I was impressed by her straight-forwardness and absolute dedication to the place, and even though we talked for only 15 minutes, I thought this is someone I would like to get to know better.

I never got that chance but so many people in the Diocese did and they were better for it. So find a sister who has inspired you and share her story with your family, friends and the Diocese.