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A journey in SSND charism

By Eileen Schwalbach, Ministry Commissioner

For me saying “yes” to the invitation to join the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) Central Pacific Province (CPP) Ministry Commission was a no-brainer. I’ve often said that SSND is in my DNA. Let me explain. My parents both came from Mount Calvary, Wisconsin. I spent many happy days there as a child, visiting my grandmother and various aunts, uncles and cousins. Little did I know at the time that Mother Caroline started her first mission outside of Milwaukee. However, before the site was sold, I was able to visit the school and convent several times.

The Ministry Commission gather at Notre Dame of Dallas school in front of their welcome sign. Eileen Schwalbach is in back row, third from right next to the sign.

When my parents moved to Milwaukee, they chose St. Augustine Parish because SSND taught in the grade school. I attended St. Augustine and am blessed to still be in contact with my seventh and eighth grade teacher, Sister Jean Hasenberg. My mother became one of the first associates in Milwaukee, later in her life.

I became a teacher, due in large part to the sisters I had in elementary school. They not only inspired my love of learning, but also gave me opportunities to be a teacher’s “helper.” I helped first graders put on their coats and boots for recess, put up bulletin boards and played the piano for music class.

In 1997, God called me to a special ministry when I became an assistant professor of education at Mount Mary College (now University). It felt like coming home to be once again at an SSND school. Eventually, I became President, and some of my favorite days were the ones I visited the sisters at Notre Dame of Elm Grove, Elm Grove, Wisconsin, and reported on the progress we were making.

After I retired in 2017, I felt a hole in my heart. I missed such an intimate connection to the sisters. When I received the phone call, asking me if I’d like to apply for the Ministry Commission as a commissioner, I didn’t have to think twice. Of course, I would be honored to serve. A major responsibility of the Ministry Commission is to provide vision, leadership and support to the sponsored, co-sponsored, and affiliated ministries of the Central Pacific Province. This is aided by having one or two members serving as contacts to each ministry. Serving on the Ministry Commission has been a blessing. The other commission members are wonderful human beings, who are devoted to the charism. Thus far, we have gathered in St. Louis to begin to form this group and discuss our role as a commission. Then, we met in Dallas to visit two schools, Notre Dame School of Dallas and Cristo Rey Dallas College Preparatory School, both ministries of SSND. Our meetings have been thoughtful and prayerful. The goal for visiting these ministries and others around the province is to give an opportunity for the Ministry Commission to have a first-hand experience, along with a deeper knowledge of them, as responsibilities unfold as commissioners. When we have completed our work and tours of the ministries, we have found time to tell stories and laugh.

The Ministry Commission visit Notre Dame of Dallas school, this is a board of SSND charism at the school.

The two schools in Dallas were very inspiring. Notre Dame School of Dallas, serving children with special needs, was such a joyful place. In this SSND-sponsored school, every classroom was filled with the sounds of eager voices, engaged in learning. Our next visit was to Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep, a high school endorsed by SSND. In this school, serving predominantly Latin students, cheerful voices resounded with teachers and students, collaborating on teaching and learning.

We left these schools with the knowledge that Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger’s charism is alive and vibrant. Both schools, had leadership that cared deeply about ways to extend their mission even further. By the time you read this, we will have already visited Milwaukee with plans to go to Mankato, Minnesota, in June and St. Louis in September. We all are very grateful that we have a chance to see most of the SSND-sponsored, co-sponsored and affiliated ministries and deepen our understanding of the breadth and depth that they represent.

We continue this journey, trusting that the Spirit is leading us, and daring to create a new way of living out the SSND charism.


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