Sister Mary Winifred
This first vignette in our “Catholic Nuns and the Making of America” series highlights the influence of a sister on one of SOAR!’s founders, John Fialka, in high school.
The nuns knew us well. We all had certain gifts from God and the nuns saw them as seeds in their garden. Sister Mary Winifred, my high school teacher, decided that I had a gift for writing, which was news to me. Neither writing nor any other academic subject was on the top of my agenda, but she was forever going on about it, praising me for what I’d done, pushing me to do more. A sharp-tongued, clever woman who took delight in showing us all the puns in Shakespeare, Winnie – as we called her – was hard to ignore.
Still, I thought I’d done a pretty good job of ignoring her until almost a decade later, when I graduated from law school and came to decide that life might be more fun, more fulfilling, as a journalist. For some who knew me, it seemed like a strange career move. But it was an easy, pleasant leap to make. Winnie had given me the parachute to do it.
Almost fifty years out of school, we have awkward moments when we meet at class reunions. But we always have something in common to talk about—the nuns. No one paid them for what they gave us. No one could.
Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America—John J. Fialka.
St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY. 2003
Those who wish to read more about these incredible women and their gift of service to the church and the world can do so in John’s book, which you can order from Amazon.com or receive directly from SOAR! for a donation of $50. This donation will support retired religious sisters and brothers through the work of SOAR! To receive the book for your donation, please contact Danielle Bell directly by email or by phone at 202.529.7627.