Notre Dame Sisters, associates share bond

Sharing spirituality, camaraderie and service.

Cathy Leak, a member with her husband, Gary, of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha, makes the most of those opportunities as a member of the Notre Dame Associates, a group that supports the Notre Dame Sisters of Omaha.

A member for 18 years, Leak, mother of two children and a teacher at Roncalli Catholic High School, also in Omaha, now is a co-director of the group, with Notre Dame Sister Dorothy Rolf.

"By focusing on the three pillars of Notre Dame spirituality – prayer, service and relationship with God and others – my spiritual life has definitely developed," Leak said.

"I also find a lot of peace when I’m with the sisters. They show unconditional love and are very accepting. I’m very privileged to be a part of that."

Through meetings with the sisters – generally held monthly – associates share in faith formation and prayer, learn about and study the Notre Dame Sisters and their spirituality.

"I have realized that the Notre Dame Sisters, too, are women who are also struggling and on a journey to deepen their relationship with God. There’s so much camaraderie and we learn from each other," Leak said.

Sister Rolf said the associates help the sisters stay attentive to the needs of families and today’s society.

"We are grateful for their commitment to carrying our charism forward," she said. "We empower them and they empower us to keep going in our spiritual journey."

Members hail from Omaha, Fremont and the Wahoo area, Sister Rolf said. They serve the order in numerous ways, including the Notre Dame Housing board, Social Justice Committee, writing Scripture reflections for the order’s website, and assisting with the order’s monthly newsletter.

Associates help the order with activities, such as the annual Czech Style Pork Dinner benefit for the sisters’ retirement fund, their Celebration of Spirit Dinner benefit to help the poor, and a bake sale as part of an area-wide community event.

Leak also gives presentations during spiritual formation meetings for candidates seeking membership, many of whom are drawn to the group because they already have connections to the Notre Dame Sisters, either as friends, relatives or former students, or through community service.

Associates also take the Notre Dame mission and charism into their own lives, Leak said. Service to her parish includes adoration of the Eucharist and serving as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and at Roncalli Catholic, running Red Cross blood drives, tending the school’s garden and managing its involvement in Operation Others, a joint project of Omaha-area Catholic high schools to feed the poor.

Notre Dame spirituality also affects how she teaches, Leak said.

"The sisters are all about non-violence, so I try to help students be more conscious of how language affects our relationships and how to resolve conflicts constructively."


Related story: Laity shares in spirituality, service of religious orders

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