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SSND receives two prestigious awards

Sister Addie Lorraine Walker holds her Legacy Award from the 33rd Annual MLK Commission Inter-faith Worship Serviceaward, next to a priest.

Addie Lorraine Walker was born in Palo Alto, California, and grew up a block from the Methodist church, where her family practiced their faith. She was also attending Catholic Mass every day as a student at Holy Cross Catholic Elementary School. She remembers “loving” Catholic Mass because they spoke a “foreign language” (Latin, pre-Vatican II), the incense smelled good, the organ serenaded her and the women and girls wore beautiful mantillas (veil). She was smitten and told a priest she wanted to be Catholic. Rightly, he told her she needed to talk to her family. At the ripe age of 5, she talked to her grandmother about being baptized Catholic; her grandmother wisely asked Addie Lorraine to wait.

By the eighth grade, Addie Lorraine was sure of her faith and was allowed to convert to Roman Catholicism. As a new Catholic her classmates and friends tagged her as, “More Catholic than Catholics.” She wanted to walk with God and be close to God. Becoming Catholic was a step in that direction, but she was still finding her way.

After Vatican II, some of the things Addie Lorraine cherished about being Catholic had changed – Latin was replaced with English, mantillas were no longer worn, the organ was replaced with the guitar and the use of incense was reserved for special occasions – in high school she had a crisis in her faith.

After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Southwest Texas State University, Addie Lorraine worked as a research chemist. She thought she would, “Marry and have 10 kids,” but that wasn’t in God’s plan. While she was still considering her options, she heard Isaiah 6:1, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me.” She felt God was talking to her; she felt a call to serve, to be like Jesus. Once again, she made a decision – she would become a woman religious.

Sister Addie Lorraine made her First Profession as a School Sister of Notre Dame (SSND) on May 2, 1980, in Dallas. As a novice, she was assigned to teach in San Antonio, here she taught at St. Gerard Regional High School from August 1978 through May 1979. She continued to serve the parish in pastoral ministries through 1985, before moving to New Orleans to accept a similar post at St. Francis de Sales through 1991. Sister Addie Lorraine earned a Master’s Degree in Theology from Xavier University in New Orleans.

During this time, Sister Addie Lorraine also served Xavier University’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies as national program co-director for its Imani Master Catechist program. She is also the co-founder of this program. In 1991, Sister Addie Lorraine moved to study at Boston College, where she earned a PhD in religion and education in 1996. Following graduation, she was invited by Brown-ROA Publishing to join a team of religious educators to create a religious education textbook series for students in grades Kindergarten through sixth, which was published in 1999 and used throughout United States.

After returning to San Antonio, she served on the faculty at Assumption Seminary until 2001, and adjunct faculty at Oblate School of Theology (OST). This would be a key step toward her future. In 2001, Sister Addie Lorraine became a full-time faculty member at OST.

In 2002, Sister Addie Lorraine temporarily shifted her focus from education to leadership when she was elected as Provincial Leader of the former Dallas province in 2002. She served in this role until 2011. As Provincial Leader, she ministered with 152 SSND in a seven-state region. Sister Addie Lorraine says, “As a Province, as Sisters sent into the world, “We are women of hope who daily give our lives to bring about the oneness for which Jesus was sent.”

In 2012, Sister Addie Lorraine returned to OST and in 2013, she founded the Sankofa Institute for African American Pastoral Leadership at OST. Sankofa Institute provides professional training for pastoral ministers who wish to minister among African Americans, regardless of denominational affiliation. The Institute provides an opportunity for men and women in south Texas to receive academic training for pastoral ministry close to home, while earning a master’s or doctoral degrees approved by the Association of Theological Schools. Before Sankofa Institute, candidates seeking the Master of Divinity degree required for ordination, had to travel and live in the Texas cities of Austin, Waco, Fort Worth or Dallas. “The Sankofa Institute provides an opportunity to keep our people here in San Antonio and to offer them a program tailored to the African American religious experience,” she said.

The name Sankofa comes from King Adinkera of the Akan people of West Africa. Sankofa means, “It is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.” In other words, one must go back to their roots to move forward; the past teaches one how to move forward. When asked how she knew the Sankofa Institute would work she responded, “I never thought it wouldn’t work. It was God’s timing.”

Sister Addie Lorraine has focused her life on education, from becoming an SSND to educating others. She has been recognized for her work throughout her ministries, but recently she received two prestigious awards recognizing her work as an educator and as a “bridge builder” – across religion, race, economics and education.

Sister Addie Lorraine Walker holds her Legacy Award from the 33rd Annual MLK Commission Inter-faith Worship Service award.

Sister Addie Lorraine received a Legacy Award on January 19, 2020, at the 33rd Annual MLK Commission Inter-faith Worship Service at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church in San Antonio. She was the keynote speaker at the event, which was in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Among her many achievements, she was recognized for her leadership providing education for people aspiring to minister to African Americans and fostering unity, and diversity with religious leaders in the African American community and building collaboration through the Sankofa Institute.

She also received the prestigious Beautiful Are Their Feet Award from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference during its annual meeting in Crystal City, Virginia, on February 19, 2020. She was recognized for her work in interreligious education and social action that, “focuses on being aware of the poor, acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly with God.”

Sister Addie Lorraine said, “The Beautiful Are Their Feet Award focuses more on how one should live the gospel, than on how to preach it, but preaching it in such a way that people will become active and do something positive to improve society.” When receiving the award, Sister Addie Lorraine said, “I love being an SSND and I appreciate everything the community has done for me.”

“It was such a blessing and a joy to be with Sister Addie Lorraine when she received her special honor last February,” said Sister Debra Marie Sciano, Provincial Leader, Central Pacific Province. “What a beautiful experience to witness firsthand how greatly she is appreciated, respected and loved by so many from near and far! For me, it was even more special to be part of that celebration, as Sister Addie Lorraine and I have known each other since we were novices together, served in congregational leadership at the same time, and continue to be friends in our SSND community. Sister Addie Lorraine has always been an inspiration to me in her ability to bring people together, proclaim the love of God to all and educate by her words and actions. I am proud to be her sister and we are proud of her accomplishments and the gift of who she is to the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the world.”


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