Theresa Brugger in discussion with Sr. Mary Delrita Glaser.
Hello, my name is Theresa Brugger. I made my covenant as a Notre Dame Associate on April 12, 2015. To say this is when my relationship with the sisters began would simply not be true.
Some time ago I was asked to write this piece. At first glance I thought, “No problem.” When I put the pen to paper, I was not impressed with the result. So I started over. Then after evaluating the next draft, I realized how daunting this task actually was.
To my recollection, I have known the Sisters of Notre Dame since 1965. My first grade experience was with Sr. Mary Reinette Kroeger at St. Joseph School in Cold Spring, KY. I was 6 years old. So, we’re talking about a 50 plus year affiliation. A daunting task is right!
I was blessed to have several sisters as teachers and mentors at St. Joseph School. Sr. Reinette, Sr. Eloise Umberg, Sr. Beth Terese Sickman, Sr. M. Joan Terese Niklas, Sr. Eugenio Chappie, and Sr. DeDeo (Barb) Rauf were some of the good sisters who influenced me in my elementary years. Each one offered their gifts, talents, and love of God to all the youth they were challenged to instruct. Little did I know then that they were offering so much more to the whole educational process simply by how they lived their lives and how they gave witness to God’s love and mercy each and every day. Whether they were teaching in a classroom, supervising on the playground, attending church or school functions, the Sisters of Notre Dame were positively having an impact on the school and church community. They gave their lives in service to God. Fortunately for us, many of them were asked to do so at St. Joseph School. I was blessed to be one of the recipients.
I was also very fortunate to live so close to St. Joe’s. I had a full view of my backyard from my 4th grade classroom. I could even watch my mom work in the garden. There were occasions when I did not like the lunches offered, so I would run home through the backyard. I guess I figured no one would miss me for a few minutes. There was always a lot of commotion and activity going on during lunch recess and a good number of Sisters right in the midst of this activity supervising.
I had a special fondness for Sr. Eloise in the 4th grade. I stayed after school almost every day helping her cover books or clean the blackboard. My mom knew where to find me each day after school. Sister had a knack for sharing her enthusiasm for living, learning and spreading God’s goodness wherever she went and whomever she was with. Even as a young girl, I could not help but want to be around her to absorb that enthusiasm.
One day I glanced to the back of the room and there stood a young woman observing Sr. Eloise during class. It was several years later, around the time I graduated from the 8th grade, that I was formally introduced to this young woman, who had in the meantime entered the Sisters of Notre Dame community. Her name was Sr. Elizebeth, but she is now known as Sr. Marla Monahan. Little did I know at the time she would become a lifelong and dear friend. Sr. Marla may have not taught me formally, but she has indeed been my teacher, mentor, and friend. We have watched each other grow and rise to meet life’s challenges and rejoice in God’s goodness in our lives along the way. Our lives may have taken different paths, but I think we both knew there was a lot of common ground from which to build a friendship. I think it is fair to say we are both in awe at how God continues to work in our lives.
In 1973, I started high school at Notre Dame Academy. My two older sisters attended school there and they liked it, so it was a natural path to follow. Thus, my affiliation with the SNDs continued. Sr. Rita (formerly Edwinita) Geoppinger, Sr. Janet Marie (formerly Vincente) Hoffman, Sr. Tereze Deye, Sr. Merita Kuelenborg, Sr. Kevan Seibert, Sr. Lea (formerly Berndette) Paolucci, Sr. Caroline Hemmerle and Sr. Eugenio, to mention a few, taught me while I attended the academy. I was kind of maturing, so even then I knew I was a recipient of something good. There were many sisters who worked and lived at the academy. They had an overwhelming desire to teach and spread God’s love in and out of the classroom. Any girl who walked into the school office was given the opportunity to learn something about God’s goodness and gentleness through the compassion of sisters like Sr. Virginia Ann Cleves or dear Sr. Vincentia Klein.
In my sophomore year, what I was not blessed with was the ability to comprehend geometry. So, remember the young woman in the back of Sr. Eloise’s class? Little did I know that Sr. Marla would be the sister from whom I would seek help conquering this subject. Sr. Marla lived at the St. Joseph convent in Cold Spring and we lived on the other side of the school premises by the cafeteria. Many nights after dinner I would walk to the convent asking for help from Sr. Marla. She gave of her time and knowledge multiple times over the course of my sophomore year as I battled geometry.
Since 1976, which was my junior year at NDA, I have attended the annual retreat held at St. Joseph Heights. In those days, there were predominately sisters who made up the retreat team. Today, there are more lay people comprising the team and I happen to be on the retreat team. I have watched how the whole retreat experience has evolved and blossomed over the years as different leaders and teams conducted the retreats. I am happy and honored to be a part of this team.
One small way I have chosen to bring the presence of the sisters’ influence into my parish community at St. Philip in Melbourne, KY, is to commit to leading the rosary before the 11:00 a.m. Mass each Sunday. This is the first time I have officially acknowledged that this is indeed what I am doing, but as an associate I want to learn to lead and teach by example. We have been praying the rosary each Sunday since May 2015. A simple devotion to the Blessed Mother through the recitation of the rosary week after week! It will continue.
Over the years I have seen much growth and transformation within this community of sisters. There is a wide range of personalities in this community. Their level of commitment and devotion to service and prayer in God’s name is simply a gift that defies any description. All these years being served by the sisters and now I am honored to be affiliated with them as an associate. The whole concept of the associates is reflective of just how open and welcoming these good sisters are. I continue to be amazed at their hospitality. I admire these sisters. I like praying with them and being able to worship with them. I also like being able to be serve with them. It continues to be an affiliation that is better left at being experienced than described.
The call continues to beckon. Service in God’s name takes on many forms today. I invite anyone who has ever been taught by any of the Notre Dame Sisters to reach out to them to thank them for their tireless service. What is it that stands out in your mind and in your heart about a particular sister whose path you have crossed? Take what has touched you and touch the life of another. Pass on that goodness. We can all learn from one another. We can all model what is good and true. We can all say “yes” to service in God’s name. These good sisters surely did not hesitate.
The sisters and the associates are rejoicing as other opportunities to share in God’s goodness come forth. I am challenged to give back, if even a small portion of the goodness that the Sisters of Notre Dame have shared with me.