Grandparents' Day

Posted on: September 7, 2017 3:00 pm
Tags: Blog, Vocation,

Sister Nicole Varnerin with her Papa and Nana Varnerin on her First Communion day.

September 10 is Grandparents' Day. In honor of this day, we were curious to look at the impact and influence grandparents and parents have on the decision to enter religious life.

Sister Nicole Varnerin (Novice)

Sister Nicole Varnerin is a novice with the Sisters of Notre Dame. Her grandmother, Victoria Sandin, and her parents, Bruce and Debbie Varnerin, shared their take on Nicole's decision to become a Sister of Notre Dame.

Victoria Sandin (Sister Nicole's grandmother):

  • What was your first thought when you heard Nicole was considering religious life?

    • I was not surprised.  Nicole always loved assisting her Parish in any way she could. I am sure that God had a hand in that from when she was old enough to attend Mass.  

  • How did you show your support?

    • By telling her that I was with her all the way and I gave her my blessings, that God was directing her to him.

  • What kind of research did you do on religious life and/or the Sisters of Notre Dame?

    • None. I grew up with Charity Sisters and as a teenager I considered entering also, but God directed me in a different path.

  • How has Nicole's vocation to religious life impacted or affected your family?

    • Everyone that I spoke to in the family was very happy for her and that she made the right decision to pursue the religious life.

  • What words of wisdom would you offer parents, grandparents, or families whose child is called to religious life?

    • Support them, encourage them, and love them on their journey

Bruce and Debbie Varnerin (Sister Nicole's parents):

  • What was your first thought when you heard Nicole was considering religious life?

    • We’ve always been very supportive of our daughters doing what they love – because when you are doing what you love, you are going to give it your best. We were happy that she felt so passionate about her call, but there was also a little bit of concern about the abrupt change from her schooling and early career.

  • How did you show your support?

    • Deb went to daily Mass and prayed for Nicole’s discernment. Nicole’s happiness is the first and foremost and if this was the right path for her, we were behind her 100%. Bruce made sure Nicole understood it was okay to change gears and not pursue engineering as a career. We thought Nicole maybe thought Bruce would be disappointed being an engineer himself, but he never felt that or tried to project that. We tried to find ways to learn more about the SND community and tried to befriend and embrace each member of the community that we met.

  • What kind of research did you do on religious life and/or the Sisters of Notre Dame?

    • In the beginning we tried to help Nicole find potential religious communities that would be closer to our home. When it became clear that her heart was set on the Sisters of Notre Dame, we tried to get to know the community more buy visiting, doing research and speaking with the Provincial Superior.

  • How has Nicole's vocation to religious life impacted or affected your family?

    • Nicole’s vocation has had a very positive effect on our family. We have all strengthened our faith with her as our model. With all of our children being dispersed across the US, we have had to get creative with making family time – family Skype sessions, road trips, etc.

  • What words of wisdom would you offer parents/grandparents/families whose child is called to religious life?

    • A vocation is perhaps the most precious gift God can give us. Saying “yes” to that call is even more precious. Do whatever you can to support God’s call.



Sister Mary Pat Kenney

My dad was Catholic and very proud when I told him Jesus wanted me to be a Sister on the day of my First Communion. He permitted me to try it out, attending a come-and-see event at the age of 12. My grandma, his mother, was a great influence. Her room was our prayer room with the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in it. A picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a St. Anthony statue, prayer books, and rosaries in her dresser drawer were always available. She told me she prayed for my vocation. God heard her.

Words of wisdom concerning my vocation-

Dad: “Here’s a dime. If you’re not happy, call me and I’ll pick you up.”

Grandma: “I prayed for you every hour on your profession day. I know you’ll be happy. Pray for me.”



Sister Mary Helen Joseph Riehle

My grandparents, except for one, died before I was born. My grandfather I did get to know died when I was in high school. My parents were deeply religious and supported my decision to become a sister, though it was hard for my mother. She would have liked for a daughter to be close by. My parents knew I was supportive of Grailville. In order to make sure I was making the right decision by joining the Sisters of Notre Dame, they made arrangements for me to spend a week at Grailville. It was a hard decision to walk away from that opportunity, but it was the right one for me. 



Sister Mary Delrita Glaser

It is through my parents and grandparents that I received and learned to live my faith. God was a real part of our family. When I first wanted to come to the convent after eight grade, they thought I was too young. They tried to provide various experiences to broaden my knowledge, but when after a year I still wanted to come, they supported and helped me in every way. They told me, “Go and do God’s will. You have our blessing.” 

Sister Mary Catheryne Geoppinger

My family was always very supportive of their children in whatever vocation they chose. They prayed for vocations and thought the world of priests and sisters. Their own lives were a good example for all of us. My grandmother prayed that there would be a priest and a sister from this family. She got two sisters! [Sister Catheryne and Sister Mary Rita Geoppinger]. They didn’t hide the fact of their feelings from us regarding the issue and my mother even gave a talk in the parish on vocations. It didn’t hurt that my aunt’s sister-in-law was a Sister of Notre Dame. My mother always felt that I would be a sister, but my sister was a surprise. Needless to say, she was very happy about the two of us. She lived to see my sister be professed, but died the year I was to enter religious life. The family struggled in their grief, especially my father. I wasn’t told this story until much later after my father had passed away, but he was going to ask me not to go as I was the oldest girl at home. Before he could execute his plan, my oldest sister and her family learned of it and told him they would move in for awhile if he would let me go and enter religious life. They did and I was able to go and enter the convent. To this day my entire family is very close and would do anything to help any of us in need. Quite an example.



Sister Mary Claire Engbersen

My grandparents on my father’s side died before I was born, and those on my mother’s side died when I was between two and three years told (although I do remember them). My father had three cousins who were sisters: two Benedictines and one Charity. My mother had two nieces, cousins to me, who were Sisters of Notre Dame: Sister Mary Casimira (Rita Marie) and Sister Mary Pacella. We visited them often here at St. Joseph Heights. My mother also frequently took us to visit Franciscan Sisters, who had been her teachers or classmates at St. Bonaventure in Fairmount, Ohio. We also often visited with Sister Thais, my father’s cousin, the Sister of Charity. At St. Cecilia School in Oakley, we were taught by Sisters of Mercy. So, I grew up knowing that there were different communities of Sisters. I wanted to be a Sister, but what community???

One day when visiting Sister Rita Marie (Sister Casimira, as she was called then), she took us into the Heights Chapel. I remember walking down the side aisle with an “at home” feeling and knew God was calling me to be a Sister of Notre Dame!!! From then on I talked about it and everyone in my family knew I wanted to be an SND. My father, Clarence, died suddenly in November 1953. I entered the convent in February 1954, became a novice in the summer of 1954, and received a name in honor of my father: Sister Mary Claire. 



Sister Mary Ruth Riehle

In the second grade I admired my teacher, Sr. Alonsa, and I thought I wanted to be just like her. All through grade school I continued to desire to be a religious. In the eighth grade I expressed my desire to be an aspirant. My mother was upset because my older sister (Sister Helen Joseph Riehle) had already entered the novitiate and she felt that we were all leaving home too early. My dad supported me and said he knew how to fill the home. After I entered the convent in my senior year in high school, they adopted an orphaned child.

Sister Mary Evelynn Reinke

Both my grandmothers were deeply pious women, so they influenced my vocation indirectly by their genuinely Christian lives.  I liked to go to Mass with Grandma Decker when I was young, and I noticed how often she helped people and worked for the parish and the sisters.  Consequently, I was surprised when Mom told me that Grandma didn’t think my entering was a good idea.  (She never told me this herself.)  However, once she saw that I was happy in the convent, everything was fine.

Sister Ann Marie Pflum

I started to seriously think about being a sister when I was in the seventh grade. When I was in the eighth grade, I spent a weekend with the aspirants and became one myself as a freshman.

My mother thought I was too young to leave home. My father said that since they let my two siblings choose what they wanted to do, they should let me go, too. Both of my parents were happy for me when they realized that I was happy. When I was getting ready to actually enter the convent, my grandmother said I would never stay because I was too much of a tomboy, but there is a place for every type. 



Sister Mary Janet Stamm

I was blessed to have loving and happy parents and grandparents. Family and faith were treasured values that nurtured me and helped me in the discernment of my call to religious life. I knew my parents and grandparents supported my decision to enter Notre Dame. I felt their support and love through communications, their prayers, and visiting days that turned out to be big family celebrations that started at the Heights at 2:00 p.m. and continued at my parents' house after 5:00 p.m. when visiting ended at the convent. My nieces and nephews still talk about those happy times. I learned from my parents and grandparents that a loving family is a fertile seedbed to nurture God's gift of a call to religious life. 

Sister Antoinette Marie Moon, SND
Date: on September 11, 2017

I loved reading every precious thought from Nicole and my other Sisters. Wonderful tributes to some of the greatest persons and memories in our lives. Great idea to share. Thank you!

Mary Karlynn Werth
Date: on September 11, 2017

I was very impressed with the stories of the sisters and the support of their family members.

Mary Ellen Millar
Date: on September 10, 2017

It is wonderful to read how each person's family supported them in actions and in prayer.

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