The Call - S. Nancy Bramlage
By Josh Zeller, Communications intern
The decision to pursue a religious vocation is itself a difficult one to make, but for S. Nancy Bramlage, there was a further complication: she had to choose between more than one congregation. Unlike many of her fellow women religious, S. Nancy’s first exposure to religious life was not with the Sisters of Charity, but with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
“I was, as many of us have been, a product of Catholic education,” Sister relates. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, her family attended the Holy Family parish church and schools; for 12 years, she was taught by the Notre Dame Sisters. Her love of learning and the kindness of her teachers instilled in her a desire to teach. “… I was never one to not want to go to school in the morning; I always wanted to go to school! We played school, too—I was the teacher of my two little brothers!” This game of school among her siblings foreshadowed the career in education that she would begin years later.
When she was a little bit older, she also considered motherhood, or working in an orphanage, because she loved children, and had had good experiences babysitting for her neighbors. By her senior year of high school, however, religious life seemed to rise above all other options, and began to call her name. At that time, S. Nancy recalls thinking, “You know, that’s a beautiful thing, to be able to give your life over to God.” She wanted to give back to God what God had given to her.
She approached the pastoral minister for Holy Family, who worked with teenagers in the parish, and told him about her new conviction. “Good,” he responded. “Don’t go to the [SNDs].” Instead, he wanted to introduce her to the Sisters of Charity. A little stunned, S. Nancy agreed, and soon met S. Rita Celine Weadick, who at that time was teaching at St. Joseph Commercial High School in Dayton.
S. Nancy was not wholly unfamiliar with the Congregation at that time, as her older sister was a student at St. Joseph Commercial, training to become a secretary. “… [S]he went to St. Joseph and loved the Sisters of Charity, and talked about them all the time—how much fun they were,” S. Nancy remembers. After she went with S. Rita Celine to visit the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse, she had to concur with her sister: “… I came and I found them very friendly.”
Yet, this was not enough to make her rule out the Notre Dame Sisters. While S. Nancy found that they were more serious and formal than fun and friendly, these were women that she knew very well, who had been constant figures in her life. Matters were further complicated when S. Nancy’s aunt asked her to visit the Benedictine Sisters in Northern Kentucky, a community her aunt knew and loved. Three choices loomed before her.
Fairly quickly, Sister ruled out the Benedictines. She saw that, while they had ministries, they spent most of their life cloistered in the monastery—this was not something that interested her. It was again down to the Notre Dames and the Charities, and neither was so easy to rule out.
But, what S. Nancy found alluring in the Sisters of Charity, besides their loving kindness, was their newness to her life, the fact that they were unexplored ground—“I guess there is part of me that’s adventuresome …,” Sister imparts. Correlating too with her sense of adventure was the variety of ministries that Sisters of Charity took on, and around the world—though she wanted to be a teacher, the Notre Dame Sisters focused almost solely on education, and the presence of multiple options was attractive to S. Nancy.
She made her decision: on September 8, 1962, she entered the Sisters of Charity. S. Nancy affirms, “… I just thought, ‘I like these Sisters, and I like their spirit,’ …. [T]hat’s what brought me here.”