Sister Carol McKean: A Profile

Posted by Kelly McDaniels

October 19, 2022

I, Carol Ann McKean, was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio on February 26, 1942, to Leo and Dorothy Logue McKean. I was the third of four children, all born within a six-year period. This allowed for plenty of playmates, siblings and mutual friends. Our kitchen was frequently turned into a recreation room for us to entertain those friends. Since my dad was a steel mill worker and worked three different shifts, our main meal was set around his work turn when possible. Everybody stood at their place at the table until all gathered to say grace. On days we could not get to the meal with the family, my mother fixed our meal and sat and talked with us until we were finished. Since all four of us participated in extra- curricular activities, this happened frequently.

Both of my parents were high school graduates, and my dad started law school but had to stop to support his family. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who provided a loving and welcoming atmosphere for all who entered our home. Education was a value shared with all of us. In addition to our regular schooling, we were exposed to daily reading from many other sources and the example of my parents. Each one of us was expected to do her/his best in school, which varied since we all had different abilities for learning.

In addition to having education as a value, we also acquired a work ethic, which has served us well in life. We learned how to earn and save money and spend it prudently. Above all, we learned how to be happy with what we had and not yearn for what others possessed. My mother converted to Catholicism from being a Pentecostal when I was in the eighth grade. Ecumenism was always practiced in our home, so when ecumenism was accepted in the Catholic Church, we were already practicing it.

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth educated me from first grade through college. After I graduated from St. John High School, I felt a calling to enter the convent. Since I was only acquainted with the SCN Community, I contacted them. My family was not in favor of this decision but still did everything to support me. I was eighteen when I entered on September 8, 1960. Although I always felt that I belonged in religious life, I missed my family, friends and my home. I did, however, enjoy the many opportunities that my new life offered: learning about the life of a religious, some of the studies; the beauties of Nazareth; opportunities for plays and concerts etc.

Sister Carol McKean with the members of her vow class and Sister Mora Rose Marks

After five years in the novitiate and Juniorate, I was assigned to my first mission where I taught first grade at St. Ann School in Wollaston, Massachusetts. I enjoyed working with my students, their parents and the faculty members on different activities. We were twelve sisters who took part in every aspect of the SCN Community including the activities of the Province. Sister Phyllis Dullea was my first superior and principal, and showed by her example that teaching was a ministry. Our teaching gave students a foundation for their educational life, which proved to be very important for their future. Students always came first.

Our local community life was very scheduled, especially during the school week. On the weekends, we had some free time to select activities of our choice. We had numerous opportunities to attend religious and professional conferences in and around Boston. The area was filled with opportunities to enjoy many cultural and historic activities, which many of us took advantage of and enjoyed.

During my six years at St. Ann’s in Wollaston, there were many SCN Community changes that resulted from the decisions of Vatican II. Community life was much different before those changes. Just to name a few differences: our entire schedule was set for us, even recreation. It wasn’t always recreation for me. For example, many homemade plays were presented to us which I didn’t enjoy nor could I see their value. I did see the value in many parts of the schedule and profited from it. After the changes, I could make choices, which helped me to be a more responsible adult both personally and community-wise. As I look back, I am grateful for both the training and the changes, which allowed me to make adult choices and helped me to grow in all aspects of my life.

After Wollaston my next teaching assignments were in Ohio; St. Joseph in Bridgeport, and St. Agatha in Columbus, where I taught the primary grades and trained student teachers. In both places, the education and the extra-curricular activities were excellent. In both places, the number of us in Community was much smaller. I had earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree in Education at Nazareth College. Later I attended Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee during the summers and received my Masters in teaching and supervising reading.

Sister Carol McKean with her family

In 1976, I went to Mother Catherine Spalding School in Helen, Maryland, where I stayed for fifteen years as principal. This was a country school where three neighboring parishes sent students. The parents were extremely involved in many aspects of the school. They wanted the best for their students and were willing to work hard to support the staff. Many school community activities drew people close together, and we grew to know not only the parents but also grandparents and relatives. Even after the Sisters departed from the school, I stayed in close contact with the people, and many of them volunteered to help at Camp Maria Retreat Center. I taught adults to read and write and assisted them with their class work at Harry Lundenberg School for Merchant Marines from January 1992 until July of 1993. When they learned how to read, I felt that this opened up new avenues in their lives. This was rewarding both for the students and for me.

After this, I went to Little Flower School in Great Mills, Maryland as principal from 1993 until 1997. Next, I went to Camp Maria Retreat Center in Leonardtown, MD as administrator from 1997 until 2008. While there, many different types of groups were served. The Mercy and Charity Sisters, plus lay volunteers, worked together and offered programs. One, for example, was to the women from a drug rehab program. This offered them many new experiences. Some of them had never seen a body of water, such as Breton Bay, nor gone swimming, nor many other ordinary things which we take for granted. It was a joy to see their gratitude for the meals that we served them. This was my last mission in Maryland. I had been there from 1976 until 2008. I enjoyed my years in Southern Maryland, especially the many friends I had made. Departing was difficult, but it was time to move on.

As of the spring of 2020, I am at Nazareth Retreat Center. I have been at the Center since it opened on September 1, 2009. It has been rewarding and interesting to receive the many different groups, which have attended our Retreat Center. I have also been inspired by the sincerity of retreatants who have come to our Center, whether they come in a group or for a private retreat. The retreatants have enjoyed the SCN hospitality, our beautiful and clean space and our beautiful and peaceful grounds. Throughout the years, retreat attendance has grown. We were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. As vaccines were developed and safety guidelines have changed, we have gradually worked to reopen in a safe and healthy way for all involved.

Sister Carol McKean celebrating her Golden Jubilee with family and friends

Whether I stayed a short time or a long time, I have enjoyed all of my missions. I have found it a privilege to work with many different people and their needs throughout the years. When we celebrated our Bicentennial in 2012, I was living at Nazareth and had the opportunity to celebrate and participate in all the planned activities. It was so inspiring to visit the different places where we ministered in the very beginning of our Community. When we arrived, we were welcomed with open arms. The people remembered what we had done for them and were most grateful for our ministry to and with them. Not only did they invite us but they also dined us, showed pictures, gave us a tour and told stories. For me this was reviewing history in person and enjoying every minute of it.

During the year, we had many celebrations and invited many of the people who were connected to us. One of the most memorable was inviting the relatives of the enslaved who worked for us and were buried in our cemetery. These people had special seats and were recognized and thanked at the cemetery. Afterwards they were all invited to the drawing room where we had a luncheon and were able to talk with them. They appreciated the ceremony, and we enjoyed being with them. This event and many others showed me that the ministries where we have ministered throughout the years had God’s blessings upon them, as well as upon our SCN Community. These celebrations also showed how we responded to the needs of the times throughout our history. It was great celebrating our history that is so inspiring and a great contribution to society.

As far as significant events, I think Vatican II changed not only the Catholic Church but also the lifestyle and ministries of religious sisters. It also opened up many new doors to communities and individuals within the communities.

My explanation to young women who want to know what religious life has meant to me would be that I am happy that I answered the call. I have been able to live a simple and enriching life, which I have enjoyed, and valued. I have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of professions and ministries; have had many opportunities for spiritual growth. While realizing all of this, I know I had to strive to do my best and to share my time and talents with others. I enjoyed all of this plus being part of the SCN Community.

Prayer has always played an important part in my life. At home, we stood at the table and waited for everyone to arrive then we said grace together. My mother also reminded us to get on our knees before going to bed and say our prayers, especially thanking God for our blessings of the day, and we attended Mass on Sundays together. Throughout the years, my prayer schedule has changed, going from praying with a group and being present at assigned times for prayer. As the years went by, I made time for private prayer a priority. I also find our faith group very inspiring.

I find nourishment for the journey from several sources: the SCN Community members when prayer services offered at different times are shared, and we pray together; reading books and articles; attending workshops and retreats; the example of others; working with others on committees etc. In the myriad ways that I have worked with others, I have found their example sustaining and enriching.

October, 2022

 

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11 Comments

  1. lsoltis@scnky.org

    Carol, I am a little late in reading your story, but I am so glad I did. It is so well written and clearly tells of a life well lived. You are a true blessing to the SCN Community.

    Reply
  2. Trudy Foster

    Enjoyed your article. It brought many happy memories of Martin’s Ferry

    Reply
  3. Sr. M. Margaret Reid

    I really enjoyed reading about your life. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Sarah Ferriell

    I enjoyed remembering with you, Carol. Thanks for sharing you great memories. Sarah

    Reply
  5. Martha Walsh SCN

    While our paths seldom crossed, I found your reflections left me smiling throughout your beautiful life story. Thankyou

    Reply
  6. Charlotte Hazas, SCNA

    Sister Carol,

    Reading your story was very uplifting. You are a gentle, positive, faith-filled community builder, and there is “nourishment for the journey” in your writing. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. camille panich

    Carol, thanks for sharing this inspiring and interesting profile of your life. You are such an inspiration – so positive and open to whatever and whomever God brings your way.

    Reply
  8. Andy Meyer

    Sister Carol,
    Thank you for sharing your personal profile with us. Your life has been a blessing to many and continues to be so through the Retreat Center, our Faith Group and your kind presence.
    Peace

    Reply
  9. Hilda Lobo

    Dear Carol
    your simple life story inspired me as I read it. You have lived your life beautifully. Thank you for sharing it.

    Reply
  10. Luke

    Carol,
    From one St. John’s graduate to another, I am very proud of you and I thoroughly
    enjoyed reading your bio. You certainly have given so much in community and in serving others.

    Reply
  11. Maria Brocato

    A
    Carol, this is a lovely account of your generous, dedicated life.

    Reply

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