Augie Students Meet

Augie Students Meet "Real Catholic Sisters"

Catholic Benedictine Sister Stefanie MacDonald with preschoolers
Sister Stefanie was interviewed by a college student about her life as a Catholic Sister. Like Sister Mary Jane who was also interviewed, Sr. Stefanie has had lots of children ... even if they're not her biological kids!

When 22-year-old Amanda Schar drove into the monastery parking lot, she thought, “Wow. This is beautiful.”

The serene beauty helped allay her anxiety a bit. She was arriving for an interview with Sister Mary Jane Wallace, to fulfill an assignment for her class on Catholicism at Augustana College. She had never done an interview with a stranger before, let alone with a "Real Catholic Sister."

Amanda needn’t have worried. Sister Mary Jane met her at the door with her trademark smile and contagious joy.

Benedictine Catholic Sister Mary Jane Wallace
Sister Mary Jane Wallace embodies and shares joy with all she meets, as her Augustana College interviewer found out!

“I’m so happy to meet you,” she beamed. Amanda relaxed and spent the next 4 hours basking in the love and welcome of the whole monastery. 

In all, 24 students visited area Catholic Sisters to learn about their life and experiences as women religious.

Their professor, Emily Kahm, says the assignment was designed to help students see how religion can be lived out.

“The Benedictines were a surprise to the students,” she says. “They had expected the Sisters to pray all day.”

Well, they do. But they do other things at the same time, from working full-time jobs to volunteering at the food pantry and serving on non-profit boards.

Kahm says they also found an incredible sense of family among the Sisters. 

Molly Bastida, a 19-year-old sophomore from St. Louis, met with Sister Stefanie MacDonald.

“She just loves the community so much,” Molly says. “It filled me with passion and joy that she found this group. I hope I can find something as wonderful for my life, and that I’ll be as supported as she is.” 

Amanda came away feeling the same way. 

“It really has stuck with me,” she says. “It was so evident how happy Sr. Mary Jane is. I think it’s a big misconception that Sisters give something up. It’s such a unique and wonderful way to live your life. 

“Sr. Mary Jane said ‘People often ask me if I wish I had my own children, and I say I have hundreds and hundreds,’” Amanda continues.

“She still goes out to dinner with her former students, still hears from them all the time. If that’s not the definition of family, I don’t know what is. She might not have biological children, but she definitely has children.”

As for the purpose of the assignment – to discover how religious life can be lived out – the Benedictines provided a unique example.

“Nuns are regular people who live a special way,” Amanda says. “They are able to really connect their faith with all aspects of their lives.” 

Molly discovered the same thing.

“This is a very real life,” she says.

“Sr. Stefanie was just like me at my age. Just another human being, just trying to figure out her life. This is where she belongs, with God and her Sisters. Beautiful.”

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