Sister Nancy McNamara, who became a Sister of Charity in 1954, first met the Sisters at Ascension School in Manhattan. It was the Sisters who were her 7th and 8th grade teachers that won her over with their kindness, their sense of humor and their love for their order’s founder, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. (Back then, the majority of teachers were Sisters, not just the 7th & 8th grade teachers.)

“The biggest challenge I faced as a Sister of Charity is having to wake up at 5 am,” she said. “I didn’t like waking up early!”

But her greatest joy, she said, has been teaching children. She also enjoyed learning about other people’s cultures and sharing her Irish heritage with her students.  She recalls teaching her students Irish folk and step dances. They even won first place in a competition!

She says her students and the people she worked with taught her about the presence of God.

“My ministry gave me the privilege of working with God’s very special people who lived in poverty. I was the teacher, the principal, but they allowed me to share in the mission of religious education that they created,” she said.

“I trained them, but they truly taught me about the presence of God in my own life. I experienced the human God through them. They were creative and they brought God to life for so many. After this experience, I knew that our faith was in good hands.”

Sister Nancy now volunteers as an ESL teacher, as well as at Mount Saint Vincent Convent, the Sisters of Charity’s retirement home.

Her advice: “Show how happy you are, as a Sister or as a lay person. I took being a Sister of Charity very seriously. I thought it was important for people to witness and experience the joy I felt as a Sister of Charity. I was always smiling, and I still am.”