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How the SSND spirit has resonated throughout my life

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by Christina Perez Topasna, SSND associate – Santa Rita, Guam
Associate Christine Perez Topasna's photos of herself as Sister Maria Del Rey Perez during postulancy. Photo provided by SSND Archives.

It seems to me that all the paths that I have taken, every crossroad I encountered in my journey through life, both professionally as well as personally and spiritually, all began with my religious life as a School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), over 50 years ago. From the time I said my final goodbyes and stepped on that Pan American flight, taking me halfway around the world to the former motherhouse of SSND in Mequon, Wisconsin, straight through the postulancy, the novitiate and the years as a junior sister, I sensed God’s gracious hand. It was under the tutelage of so many sisters at Mount Mary College (now University) and at the various Milwaukee missions, that I recognized within me a deep love of teaching. I quickly learned and utilized skills necessary to build a rapport not only with children under my care, but also colleagues at the various schools where I taught.

Like a religious community, a spouse and children are mirror images of God’s love and faithfulness to his people. My husband of 47 years is a Vietnam Veteran who knew about selflessness and sacrifice even before we met. Our faith in God’s love is an endearing testament to the hope we pass on to our four children and 13 grandchildren.

What started out as social gatherings with former SSND became my introduction to the SSND associates. When we gathered, we would share humorous anecdotes, sing songs that brought back memories of past convent days and enjoyed prayerful contemplation reflections. After many of these gatherings, I was made aware of the organization of SSND associates who, through word and example, proclaim the good news of the Gospel. By God’s grace, I was eventually covenanted in the summer of 2017.

Associate Christine Perez Topasna. Photo by Hawley Iseke.

I find that being an SSND associate is a welcomed extension and meaningful link to those years I was with the SSND religious community. Our actions, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant we think they are, do have an impact on those around us. The Constitution of the SSND, You Are Sent, further admonishes us to witness to God’s love. Just as Christ was sent to show the Father’s love to the world, Blessed Theresa, foundress of the SSND, says, so we are sent to make Christ’s love visible by our very being, by the sharing of our powerful love, our unwavering faith and our undying, abiding hope.

Related stories:
  • Food for the soul in Magnolia, Mississippi Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Glenn Ingrassia learned Cajun cooking from his mother, Eleanor. Recently retired and with the support of their parish, Glenn, with the help of his wife Associate Christine, started cooking a free meal once a month for anyone that passed by the parish hall in Magnolia, Mississippi. Read more…
  • Teaching those in need As a member of St. Michael parish in Milwaukee, I have had the fortune to volunteer in the English as a second language (ESL) program, teaching English to Karen people from Burma. My SSND companion, Sister Lillia Langreck, previously ran an ESL program at St. Michael helping Hmong, Laotian and Cambodian people when they arrived from refugee camps in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's. Read more...
  • Associates build extended communities SSND associates are located across the United States and around the world. United in a desire to live out the spirit and mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the associates are lay women and men who better their communities in their own ways. Read more...

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