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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:
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  • What a difference a day makes! In October 2019, Laura Harvancik joined as an associate of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Laura, director of Rising Stars, an SSND ministry, shares her journey to becoming an associate. Read more...
  • SSND associates nicknamed “The Cemetery Girls” The cemetery in Chatawa, Mississippi, is a community cemetery shared by the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) and local residents. The cemetery dates back 150 years. Two SSND associates have deepened their relationship with the congregation and are giving back to the community through their cemetery project. Read more...

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