Facebook IconInstagram IconSpotify

One sister's legacy

By Miriam Hankins, SSND associate
Miriam Hankins, SSND associate

I will confess that as a child I found it difficult to have the name “Miriam.” I thought it a heavy burden to bear and very old fashioned. No one could pronounce it or spell it correctly, even as I spoke each letter aloud. It would always take several tries. It was such a rare name that I never knew another Miriam until I was in high school. My mother tried to make it better for me by informing me that I was named after Sister Miriam Coovert of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), and that was that.

Sister Miriam was principal of St. Mary’s school in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, from 1948-1952. My older sister Jenny was born in February 1948, and Sister Miriam thought she would be perfect as baby Jesus in the Christmas pageant that year. I never thought to ask my mom what it was about Sister Miriam that made such a good impression on her, what made her want to name me after her. I did eventually request information from the SSND motherhouse about my namesake, but I deeply regret that I did not think to seek her out before she passed away.

Sister Miriam Coovert, SSND

Sister Miriam filled many roles during the 65 years of her vowed religious life. She was a teacher, principal and a leader in the local convents. She could teach about any subject, but she took advanced classes of her own so that she could add even more subjects to her teaching credentials. She would go on to wear many hats, serving in many different areas and ministries. Anywhere she was needed, she would work wholeheartedly with enthusiasm and joy.

In 1961, Sister Miriam was appointed Mistress of Candidates, a post she held for eight years. During the summer of that first year, a student who was planning to enter the order died unexpectedly. It was a sign of Sister Miriam’s warmth, joy and courage that she could begin a new ministry and successfully guide 70 young women through their grief while learning how-to live-in community. During those eight years, over 600 students who were contemplating religious life came under Sister Miriam’s influence.

I am reminded of a local bank slogan: “Strong roots; endless possibilities.” I think Sister Miriam was a woman with deep personal roots. In the papers sent to me from the archives, sister is noted for her spirit of joy and for the ways she helped create a happy, “alive” community. She had undying affection for anyone who was ever a part of her life. She was busy planting seeds like the sower in the parables. She would not have had any idea what might happen to those seeds she planted, but having faith means trusting that some will take root and be productive.

As it turned out, I have had a lifelong connection to the sisters, having been taught by them for grades 1-12. I also had two first cousins who professed their vows to SSND. In 2019, Sister Francine Koehler invited a small group of us from my parish in Columbia, Missouri, to join in the mission of the sisters as Associates. After a year of study, we made our formal, first year commitment.

So here I am, 71 years after being named for a woman who worked tirelessly for her Lord. I eventually grow to love my name. It was unique and people remembered it. Hopefully, I have carried and passed on a part of her legacy, and hopefully there are some roots or branches that are growing because of some seeds that I have planted.


Find out more:
Become an Associate


Want to learn more?


School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100



© 2022 School Sisters of Notre Dame