Srs. Mary Paul Ann and Mary Rachel: Living the Gospel, Empowered by Mary's Witness

Posted on: April 3, 2018 2:00 pm
Tags: Nda, Education,

Where you see one, you see the other. Sr. Mary Paul Ann Hanneken and Sr. Mary Rachel Nerone have served as work study supervisors at Notre Dame Academy for eleven years. They partner with approximately 100 families each year to pair students and parents with work study opportunities. 

While their job description includes duties such as overseeing work study sign-ups, finding job opportunities, and training students, the one they are most known for is “other duties as assigned.”

Sr. Rachel and Sr. Paul Ann seem to be at every SND and NDA event, and they are always willing and ready to help. They have been seen restocking paper towels in the restrooms at school, selling raffle tickets alongside students, and sharing the title of #1 fan.

Sr. Paul Ann explained that she and Sr. Rachel both like sports and attend games as often as possible.

“One student came up to me and said ‘Sister, we’re going to be bowling in Erlanger. Will you come to our games?’ So, we wrote it in our calendar! We are interested in our students as individuals and who they are. I hope they see that when we are at their events and present around school.” 

Sisters Mary Rachel (left) and Mary Paul Ann (middle) wear many different hats in their role...literally! Here they are with Jan Gilliam encouraging students to save Sr. Paul Ann by selling their raffle tickets.

The feeling must be mutual when considering the recent charity volleyball game between Notre Dame Academy and St. Henry District High School.

“The kids are so supportive of us,” said Sr. Rachel. “At the Playing with a Purpose game both sides of fans were going back and forth with cheers. Our girls started chanting WE HAVE NUNS!It was all in good fun.”

In building this camaraderie with and among the students, Sr. Paul Ann and Sr. Rachel get to know the students on a personal level and are able to support them in whatever way needed.

“In a school this tight, one thing we sisters can identify and address is financial need,” explained Sr. Rachel.

They learned one year that a student’s family was homeless and had been evicted from an extended stay hotel. They assisted the family in getting help at Brighton Center and ensuring that their basic needs were met until the family got back on their feet.

“Pulling up and seeing them with their belongings in just a few bags...we take a vow of poverty, but they were really living it and facing it,”said Sr. Paul Ann. “That opened our eyes and made us more aware of others who might need help even if it’s not as dire a situation. It made us more relational and ready to show our students that even in the times they’re not well-dressed or clean in society’s eyes, that God loves them as they are.”

Sr. Mary Rachel agreed, “A lot of people experience situations like this. There can be changes in the family or a parent loses their job.It made us think about how to use our resources as sisters to help our students in their times of need.”

Sr. Paul Ann shared that parents and students have come to them to say how grateful they are that someone believed in them and gave them a hand. According to Sr. Rachel, many of the students give back themselves once they have their footing and a career. They tell the sisters that they want to give back to the programs that helped them.

Sometimes, the giving takes place before the student can say she is an alumna.

“In the time leading up to graduation, we ask girls each year to turn in their uniforms, so that they can be available next year for students who could use them,” said Sr. Paul Ann.

“I think some of the new girls are surprised to see people going to the uniform rack,” said Sr. Rachel, “but nobody looks down on that or the work study program. I see girls whose friends hang around to keep her company while she does her job when appropriate. They’re like a part of the work study program, too!”

Sisters Rachel and Paul Ann acknowledge that their connections with the students differ from that of a typical work study coordinator because they live on-site with three other sisters and a postulant. 

“We will be in the convent for evening prayer or watching basketball on TV at 9:00 p.m. and a student will buzz at the front door to come in and do her work,” Sr. Rachel said. “They seem to think of the school as their home. They know someone is always there for them.”

This article was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of The Pulse, the Sisters of Notre Dame newsletter. To receive The Pulse, contact the Office of Mission Advancement at 859-392-8228 or


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