Voices of Change

Risking All In Faith

This segment looks at the lives of School Sisters of Notre Dame and former SSNDs whose keen vision, ability to read the signs of the times, and a strong desire to follow Christ’s call, led them to trust their inner authority and become “voices of change.”

General Chapter Delegates 1968
Margaret Ellen Traxler, SSND (first row, second from left)

Margaret Ellen Traxler, SSND, spent her life promoting human rights especially in marching with the Black community in Selma. Recall some of those turbulent times by listening to Walter Cronkite’s narration of the confrontation with George Wallace and Martin Luther King's dream for civil rights.

She continued to stand in solidarity with the poor, especially women. Her desire for dialogue with the hierarchical church on important issues, especially as a signer of a New York Times ad led to a question of possible dismissal.

Dorothy Olinger, SSND, experienced a “personal transformation” that motivated her to tell the Universe Story and speak out for Mother Earth. Remembering the voices of Rachel Carson and the Apollo 8 mission will recall the context that challenged her lifelong learning.

Mary Ellen Dougherty, SSND, taught college English and later shared this profession with men and women in prison. Her journey with the poor, especially those victimized by human trafficking, continues to educate in a broader sense.

Mary Basil Roeser, SSND was a businesswoman whose background in banking enriched the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Her many talents as an educator and in financial matters enabled her to deal with bankers and architects. She was also instrumental in the creation of the Sister Formation Conference, focusing on the higher education needs of young sisters.

Miriam Jansen, SSND, works with international students at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. The School Sisters of Notre Dame established it in 1895 and it is recognized as the first Catholic college for women in the United States to offer the four-year baccalaureate degree. Her fidelity in witnessing to the SSND ministry of education has strengthened this tradition of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Three examples of women who felt the call to follow Christ as married or single are representative of hundreds who left the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Often they have continued to live out the SSND charism within their families and civic communities.

They are Benita Sohm, and her role as wife, mother, educator; Sandra Spencer as chaplain, healer, spiritual director; and Rita Schonhoff, as “sister” to the rural poor, community animator, and advocate.

There are facilitator directions to surface a group’s own “voices of change.”


Learn more about "Voices of Change, Risking All In Faith" by exploring the options below:

Mary Ellen Dougherty, SSND Miriam Jansen, SSND Dorothy Olinger, SSND Mary Basil Roeser, SSND Margaret Ellen Traxler, SSND New York Times
Rita Schonhoff Benita Sohm Sandra Spencer
Cosmic WalkFact Sheet of 1980 Return to Voices of Change


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