Sister Nancy Gnau
She promised. Help us keep our promise to her…
She was one of the first principals for so many of our Sisters just starting out in the classroom. She was firm, kind, mentoring—always having the time for others—especially the tens of thousands of students parents entrusted to her. It was a long time ago. She was young then.
But of course, she was, and remains, human just like the rest of us, always with some internal struggle, always trying to do right when it might not be the easiest thing, always trying to discern what God is wanting her to do.
At fifteen years old, she first heard the call. She prayed about it, discussed it with her concerned but loving parents, remained patient. And then, one month after she turned 18, she entered the Convent. She solemnly promised to give up her own ambitions, her own wishes and desires, to serve God and to serve others. In return, the Sisters of Notre Dame promised her the following:
In return for a life of devotion, service and sacrifice, you will, when the time comes, be taken care of. You will not have children to support and care for you, so we will. You will not have a house of your own to live in, so you will have our house. You will not have savings, but don’t worry, because your needs will be met.
Sister Nancy, who many of you may know as Sister Ann Christopher, went on to teach thousands of students in Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Chicago. She served as principal at Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, at Julienne High School in Dayton and at Notre Dame High School for Girls in Chicago. She was also the first executive director of Chaminade-Julienne High School. In all of these posts, she kept her promise of service to others.
Sister Nancy, today, lives in our Mount Notre Dame Health Center. She lives with 79 other Sisters, some who require skilled nursing care, as she does, and some who only require assistance with daily living. She also shares meals and attends Mass and prays in our adjacent St. Julie Chapel with Sisters who are retired but still independent.
When she was 18, Sister Nancy made a promise to us—and for all her life kept it. Now, we are keeping our promise to her. Will you help us?
There is a challenge facing our Community. And that is the cost to maintain the Health Center for the more infirm among us, and to maintain our Convents that are home to retired Sisters. For each Sister on our skilled nursing floor, for instance, the cost for her daily care exceeds payments from Medicaid and Medicare. This daily gap, when multiplied out over the course of year, amounts to $32,850. And this is for every Sister.
In 1948, when Sr. Nancy first walked into the Convent, there was an understanding, a contract, a promise, that in return for a life of poverty, obedience, chastity and service, the Sisters of Notre Dame would provide physical and spiritual sustenance, provide community, provide love to its members—even unto old age. That was our solemn promise. We are doing our very best to keep it—but could use a helping hand.