Catholic Sisters Week – hilarious stories

Catholic Sisters Week shines a light on the spirituality, mission, and community building of women religious. So many people have great memories of the Notre Dame Sisters, be they spiritual, educational, ministerial, or hysterical.  

But for one week, March 8-14, we will shine the spotlight on stories of the Notre Dame Sisters work as educators. Today’s blog focuses on stories where Sisters made their students laugh. 

Marsha Polak remembers Sr. Carolyn (Mary Frances) Michalec as a second grade teacher at Assumption School before the days of air conditioning 

“It was so hot that she took her veil off! We were in shock and said, ‘Sister, you have hair!’ We had so much fun in her class, but we learned a great deal.  Thank  you Sr. Caroline!  

Students were often fascinated by the Sisters’ habits, and were mystified that there were regular women underneath all of that fabric! Paulette Smith was a 6th grader at St. Adalbert’s in 1964 when she  met Sr. Anita Rolenc, and was intrigued by such a young woman in a habit. 

She actually played baseball with the kids at recess,” Paulette remembers. “She could hit that ball and lift up the layers of her habit enough so she could run the bases.  Her veil was streamed out behind her and kids were always trying to see what color hair she had! 

Kathy Bermel attended Assumption while Sr. Dorothy Rolf was the principal. They continued a strong spiritual relationship in adulthood. 

Our lives have intertwined now and then and I’m so grateful for knowing you,” Kathy said. As a principal, you were always very organized and I truly appreciated that. 

However, Principal Rolf wasn’t only there to be serious. “After one Mass you came to me and said you liked my new jacket. I was a bit confused how a principal, with thousands of things to think about, knew that I had a new jacket,” Kathy remembers. You then told me that I had left the tag hanging on the jacket. (Ugggghhhh) I’m grateful you told me!” 

Of course, there were moments that could be considered a bit more embarrassing than just a tag hanging out of a new jacket, like when the principal hears you talking about boys. 

I remember when a few of us girls were under the stairwell of the “new” cafeteria talking about “the birds and the bees” (of which we knew little about),” remembers  Nancy (Wenninghoff) Rider, a 1965 graduate of Notre Dame Academy. All of a sudden we heard the clattering of heels down the steps.  It was our principal, Sr. Immaculata (Polak)!  What we didn’t know, was that there was a vent a few feet away from us leading upstairs to her office.  She heard every word we had said! 

Another 1960s story, Ellen Hargass, a 1966 graduate of Newman High remembers rehearsing the musical Oliver! Ellen’s character, Nancy, was supposed to be a bit of a “floozy”. “Sr. John (Barbara Markey) was our producer/director and she wasn’t happy with the way I walked on the stage.,” Ellen remembers.  “Then to show me how, Sister flounced across the stage(in full habit)  in her best “floozy” imitation!  It’s a moment I’ve never forgotten.” 

While we have come across many stories of how the Sisters assisted individuals in difficult times, we must never forget how much the Sisters spread joy! 

We will be sharing more stories to celebrate Catholic Sisters Week. Feel free to send your memories to for us to preserve and share.