By Madeleine LiMandri, BA '21
This month’s segments of Sisters Serving UD will feature two alumnae who said “yes” to God’s call to religious life. The February segments featured UD’s two current Nashville Dominican professors, Affiliate Assistant Professor of Theology Sister Mary Angelica Neenan, O.P., and Affiliate Assistant Professor of Philosophy Sister Elinor Gardner, O.P., neither of whom are UD alumnae. Last month featured two alumna Dominican sisters, Sister Mary Edith Humphries, BA ’95, and Sister Anne Catherine Burleigh, BA ’94.
The month of April features the discernment stories of UD alumnae Sister Mary Gabriel, BA ’96, of the Sisters of Life, and Sister Michelle Geiger, BA ’88, of the Salesian Sisters of Saint John Bosco. Thank you to all of the sisters who have bountifully blessed our UD community!
For Sister Michelle Geiger, BA ’88, her discernment process began during her undergraduate years at UD. While in high school, she went to church because her parents made her, but in college, she began wanting to. She attributes this desire to “the classes, the religion and the environment at UD, which all triggered this deep thought that we’re all called by God for something bigger than ourselves.”
This growing interest inspired Sister Michelle to find a book in the library on different religious schools, and she reached out to various ones. Her history professor at the time, John Sommerfeldt, Ph.D., encouraged her and helped her understand “the role of religious life in the modern world.” At the same time Father James Lehrberger, O.Cist., assisted herin her discernment process. Together these two professors set Sister Michelle on a path to “discern from the head and the heart simultaneously.”
Immediately following graduation, Sister Michelle worked as a teacher to pay off student loans. While doing so, she wrote to the Cistercians, the Salesians and a local order all with the intention of finding a place where she could “make the world a better place through working with the young or in prayer.”
Sister Michelle reminds those discerning that “when you enter, you do not have to be 100% sure, but you have to enter with a disposition and an intention to do the will of God.” When starting at UD in 1984, Sister Michelle thought she would go into law and politics so that she could help impact workers’ rights. But she pursued God’s will for her life, and 26 years later, she remains in the teaching ministry as a Salesian sister.
Sister Michelle is now the principal at the Academy of Our Lady in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her house is home to five Salesian sisters, including Sister Michelle, who all work at the Academy of Our Lady, teaching and impacting the lives of about 500 young women.
“UD taught me to look at the world through the eyes of philosophy, history and theology,” reflected Sister Michelle. “Going to UD, where I was educated in the classics and traveled to Rome, gave me a world perspective beyond the present moment, beyond the here and now.”