U.S. Ministry: Keeper of the Doorknobs (Sister Kim Dalgarn, SNDdeN)

If you know Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Kim Dalgarn, archivist for the Ohio Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, you know she's always moving. It's not a trait you'd necessarily associate with an archivist, and true, she's often at a desk. But even at a desk you get an impression of movement — her eyes alight with something discovered, grabbing for books, leaning into calls from strangers with Notre Dame connections, responding to emails almost before they were sent. There is just an energy there, and enthusiasm.

There is no question too small to answer, no detail she doesn’t immediately investigate. And it’s always with energy, always with glowing eyes. She loves her job, and you know it.

One of the doorknobs from the old St. Mary’s Hall, which was formerly located on the Mount Notre Dame convent grounds

And you come to know, too, some of the big things in Notre Dame history, the carefully recorded facts and figures in the annals and registers of provincial officialdom, but just as importantly, you walk away with some of the smallest details, details that hold the poignancy of lives that once were. Did you know, for instance, that many Sisters of Notre Dame took with them the doorknobs of places they were for the last time leaving — schools that were closing, ministries that were no longer needed? If you didn’t know this, come visit Sister Kim. She’ll show you a whole collection.

“Just think of all the people who touched those doorknobs!” she says.

She’ll show you, too, the braille pocket watch of Sister Bernadette Marie, who despite her disability presided for decades as principal of Julienne High School in Dayton. Or show you her braille playing cards kept for quiet moments.

She’ll show you an ancient metal model of the solar system so old it doesn’t have all the planets, but one that stirred the minds of generations of school children. And she’ll show you the wooden signals, or ‘clickers’ as children knew them, that in the hands of thousands of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur telegraphed to students what they should be doing, and when.

“As Christians,” says Sister Kim, “it’s been so important how Jesus’s life was captured and shared in continuing His mission and in our receiving the gift of faith. And telling people our story, how we’ve continued this mission, is so important too.”

When asked if in all of her research, all of her reading of letters and journals, all the history at her disposal, if there is one Sister whom she wishes most she might have known, Sister Kim goes uncharacteristically quiet. And in that is the answer. She wishes she might have known them all.

Published in 2021 Annual Report, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Ohio Province

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