Sisters Share Vocation Stories of Becoming CSJs

As a part of National Catholic Sisters Week, we share with you our sisters' vocation stories of becoming Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 


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Sister Carol PatronCarol Patron, CSJ
My first remembrance of wanting to be a sister comes from third grade. I had stolen a nickel off a classmate’s desk and when the truth came out Sister Bernadette Marie, CSJ engulfed me in her arms and whispered words of forgiveness. I remember the sleeves of her habit made me feel wrapped in safety and love, like God himself was saying it’s all right. I wanted to be that close to God. From there the seed grew and waned but remained a secret only I knew.

During sophomore year I confided to a friend who was entering the convent that I, too, knew that was where I was headed. However I told no one else until one month before graduation from high school. My mom and dad wanted me to go to college first. My friends thought I was joking. But, I knew it was now or never. So off I went to St. Louis and 52 years later I can still feel Sister Bernadette’s embrace.

I know now that it was the sisters themselves who drew me and perhaps unconsciously nourished my vocation. Who would have thought a nickel and a hug would lead to this!     

Sister Pat DunphyPat Dunphy, CSJ
I believe I am a Sister of St Joseph of Carondelet today because of two reasons. The first reason is because I was raised in a family where living your faith was very important. We went to Sunday Mass as a family, we said Grace before meals, and we were expected to love one another no matter what! The second reason is because I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. The sisters were part of our lives and part of our neighborhood. They laughed with us , they cried with us and they played with us. Seeing the sisters as real and engaging had a profound impact on me.    


Sister Ruth BurkartRuth Burkart, CSJ
I grew up in rural Wisconsin and attended a small public school. My mother spoke fondly of the sisters who taught her when she was a child. I knew I wanted to be a sister even before I met one. Since almost all of the students were Catholic, local Franciscan sisters were invited to teach when I was in sixth grade. That increased my desire to be one. It was at St. Joseph’s Academy in Green Bay that I fell in love with the Sisters of St Joseph. After graduation in 1945 I came to Carondelet. I am grateful for all the years since then. It is a gift to belong to a community of women who seek God together and do that by serving others and with others.     


Sister Margie CraigMargie Craig, CSJ
As a distracted 5-year-old, about to enter the grocery store and suddenly realizing it was not my mom but a CSJ in full habit entering with me, (the likes of which I had never seen before), I screamed! No doubt the Lord laughed and said, "Surprise, you are going to be one of them someday!" Later, because of the wonderful influence of the CSJs at Holy Cross in Champaign, Ill., throughout grade school, whenever asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always to become a sister.

The movie industry in the late 1960s added to my enthusiasm when I thought, "How neat to ride a motorcycle with a guitar on my back singing "Dominique" wherever I went, as portrayed in the Singing Nun. Or, if mischievous Mary Clancy in The Trouble with Angels could enter the convent, perhaps I'd have a chance?

Participating in weekends for women interested in becoming CSJs, along with continued relationships with the sisters throughout college made me feel at home in a community that would become as much of my family as my own blood family. For this gift, I will always be grateful. Sometimes, even to this day, when playing guitar, I still throw in a verse of "Dominique" but without the motorcycle!     


Clare BassNovice Clare Bass
I was taught by some super women who were Irish Sisters of Mercy in elementary school. I had no desire nor thought to be a nun like them. Fast-forward to college, when I was finishing my Master’s degree. The thought came to me in prayer: “check into religious life and becoming a vowed religious sister” and the next immediate thought, was “there’s no way I could ever do that, I’m pretty sure it’s not for me!” And besides, I told myself: “All of the Sisters I know are much older than me, and I do not think anyone around my age is joining these days anyway,” as the other excuse I gave to not look any further. Little did I know!

I kept praying and planning out my future without looking in the Vowed life and something was missing. One day at Mass, which had a theme of discipleship, I had a breakthrough, and this is the moment when the gentle nudging of the Spirit were no longer gentle. I decided to seriously take a look at what being a Sister would entail, because looking didn't mean “Yes for life,” and because I knew I had to at least take a serious look. My priest at the time became my first spiritual director, and I am grateful for him, because he listened and recommended movement but did not push one way or the other.  I began just looking, which eased into just visiting those CSJ’s ministering in Mississippi…then just visiting the motherhouse… and eventually I turned in my application. In the meantime I learned young people are still joining and becoming vowed sisters, and I learned how the communal formation process works these days.   I did some research on the Internet to learn about different orders, including the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, and I recommend always having a great user-friendly website.

It has been a grace-filled process full of ups and downs, but I am glad I “took the leap” and looked into religious life. Now, the adventure of religious life continues for me as I transition from being a novice into being a temporary professed sister with my First Profession of Vows occurring this summer. I am in contact with those Irish Mercy Sisters who taught me, and they are indeed giving me special Irish blessings for my journey.


Sister Sandra SchmidSandra Schmid, CSJ
I had thought about being a sister since I was a very little girl. By the time I was in high school I had decided that it was because I was in a Catholic school and had been brainwashed. When asked by a sister in high school if I ever thought of being a sister I answered, “NO!”

Then, I went to college at Avila University, which is sponsored by the CSJs. It seemed like every year around Easter I would start to think about being a sister. I would tell my friends that I just wished God would send me a telegram to let me know what to do. Something simple would be fine. Something like, “Sandy, be a nun.” I never got a telegram, but by my third year my roommate had enough. She told me I either needed to quit talking about it or do something about it. I decided to go to one of my instructors who was a sister and tell her I was thinking about being a sister. Finally, doing something concrete about what I had thought about for so long was one of the scariest things I have done. It was also one of the best.

After I spoke with Sister Ellen, she invited me to her house for dinner. Again, I was scared. What if I didn’t know what fork to use or some such thing? I asked a friend of mine who gave me some advice, and then said just hope they don’t have chicken, because there is no good way to eat chicken off a bone. I got to dinner and there was a chicken breast, bone and all. During that dinner I found out that being a sister is not about impressing people with your etiquette skills. It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship that I developed with the sisters who lived at that house. I got to be a regular at that house.

All during my senior year in college I was there for dinner, spent weekends there and just hung out with them. It was during that time that I realized that I was a CSJ. I still needed to go through all the official training and education, but deep down I realized that I was a CSJ. And through good times and bad over the next 30 years, I have always been sure of the fact that I am a CSJ.




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