Feature Story

Sister Mary Johnson, Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Trinity Washington University speaks with great enthusiasm when discussing teaching and learning and her belief in religious life.

Sister Mary grew up in Springfield; Massachusetts where she and her sister were born and raised after their patents immigrated to the United States from Ireland. "My sister and I were raised in Springfield and were members of Sacred Heart Parish, where I met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. We had the rich experience of growing up on a block where families came from many different ethnic backgrounds and religions. I can trace my connection with to social justice, appreciation of diversity and the importance of relationships, community and laughter to those early years where family, parish, school and neighborhood had so much influence. "

After high school, Sister Mary attended Emmanuel College in Boston, graduating with a degree in sociology and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1981. She taught high school at Saint Gregory's in Dorchester before pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts.

" My interest in sociology and Catholic Social Teaching was rooted in the beliefs and example of my parents, my parish and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who from my earliest years at Sacred Heart right through Emmanuel, taught these principles by their words and actions."

Sister Mary served on the faculty at Emmanuel College for nineteen years before moving to her current ministry as a faculty member at Trinity Washington University and lives in a formation community in Northwest Washington with three other Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

She was the Co-Author of New Generations of Catholic Sisters with Sister Patricia Wittberg, SC and Mary Gautier, which was originally published in 2012. More recently, Mary was the lead researcher on the International Sisters Study funded by GHR Foundation and conducted under the auspices of Trinity Washington University and CARA

"This study has responses from 4000 international religious sisters living in the US. Their feedback was extremely valuable and will have significant implications for religious communities as we move into the future. I was delighted that Sisters Josita Colbert, Vivien Echkwubulu and Cristina Garces could be part of the audience of sisters and leaders of Catholic organizations when we presented these findings in March."

When asked about her personal experiences as a religious sister, Sister Mary said " There are many meaningful paths in life. I am grateful that my path or vocation is to religious life as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. This way of life has given me the opportunity to teach and to learn – a place where I encounter the presence of God. Living in community with my sisters in Boston and now in Washington has been an enriching experience. When I was about to enter, my parish priest told me that religious life would be an adventure where I would meet interesting people. He was right. I am blessed to live in a way that deepens my relationship with God and others, offers the chance for a meaningful ministry and brings such peace and joy into my life."