New Windsor Sister Mary Sullivan (RIP) on Nano’s Charism

New Windsor Sister Mary Sullivan

Our dear Sister Mary Sullivan, the author of this article was called home to God on December 29, 2017. We are sharing her article in loving memory of the dedicated life she lived as a Presentation Sister for 64 years. We know that she is now resting in the loving arms of our God.


I see the charism of Nano Nagle brought to life daily at Presentation Learning Center by the students, the volunteers and the directors.

About 150 men and women, ranging in ages from early 20s to mid-80s, come to the Center for classes, free of charge, in English, math, GED preparation, computer skills, citizenship preparation and crafts. The students find a welcoming and safe environment, enthusiastic and caring teachers, and motherly babysitters for their pre-school children. Some of these immigrants, natives of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, had limited or no opportunity for education in their native countries, while others come with academic degrees. However, all are one as they struggle to master the English language. I see the spirit of Nano most alive in the senior group: “The Young at Heart.” They have classes in English, but in addition, they knit, crochet, sing, play games, share food, pray and support one another. Nano would be proud.

A special group of women and men at Presentation Learning Center, the volunteers, are an integral part of the program’s success. Some were taught by Presentation Sisters and know the story of Nano’s love of people made poor. They continue her work by sharing their time and talents with the students. Among the volunteers are retired Sisters from other Congregations. They relate to the charism of Nano because some of them ministered for years in Latin America. When volunteers are thanked for their service, they say that they receive much more than they give. Their fear of the area diminishes as they get to know the students and experience their joy and gratitude for any help they get. In 2003, when I retired from high school ministry, for health reasons, I came to volunteer at Presentation Learning Center because it gave me an opportunity to give to those in need. Fourteen years later, even though I have not learned Spanish, I continue to experience the warm hospitality, simplicity of living, and grateful love of the people.

In 2000, Sisters Jane Bonar and Catherine Burke were inspired by the spirit of our foundress, Nano Nagle to begin a ministry with people made poor. They chose San Miguel, one of the poorest parishes in Los Angeles, which was populated by immigrant families. The people expressed that their greatest need was to learn to read and write English. The mustard seed of one classroom has grown into a flourishing tree with about 150 men and women coming to classes each day. In this caring environment the students can grow in self-esteem while they learn to use their gifts and talents to better their lives and those of their children. For a few hours each day they can set aside the fear of being deported, or the worry of how to pay the rent. Thanks to the compassionate and capable leadership of Sisters Jane and Catherine, Nano’s dream of being of service in any part of the world is alive and well in Watts, Los Angeles, in 2018, and I feel privileged to be there.

In addition to teaching at the Center, I pay a weekly visit to a nearby rest home for dementia patients. These poor men and women are always grateful for a listening ear, a shared prayer, or just a smile. In my spare time, I knit comfort scarves for a battered women’s shelter. As a daughter of Nano, I thank God and my congregation for giving me the opportunity to carry on her work.