New Podcast Shares Sisters’ Stories

An ambitious project is underway with the Sisters of the Holy Cross, one that creator Theresa Hayes ’25 sees as a way to preserve the memory of the women who are foundational to Saint Mary’s mission and identity.

Stories of Our Sisters Podcast
Illustration credit: Peyton Stearns ’24

The Stories of Our Sisters: A Living History shares the oral histories of the sisters who live in the convent, the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Holy Cross global ministry. Oral histories—essentially recorded interviews with minimal editing—are an increasingly popular way to capture first-person accounts of specific moments in time. For this project, each recorded session is uploaded as an episode of Hayes’ podcast of the same name, which made its debut in March.

In developing The Stories…, Hayes drew from her own desire to spend time with the sisters. The product of a parochial education in Dallas, Hayes grew up surrounded by ‘women religious’; she and her family were close to several Ursuline nuns who belonged to the order. She had looked forward to building relationships with the Sisters of the Holy Cross when she enrolled at Saint Mary’s. But when the pandemic kept the sisters away in her first couple of years, she began to worry the sisters’ separation from students was creating an immeasurable void.

It began with a conversation with her mom, who helped Hayes see the sisters as living history. “In no longer having daily interactions with the sisters, students weren’t as connected to these significant women and the role they play in our Saint Mary’s identity,” Hayes says. “I knew at that moment that I needed to tell their stories.”

So, with a formal purpose and a less-than-formal plan, Hayes befriended a sister she’d met at Mass at Church of Our Lady of Loretto, Sister Helene Sharp, CSC. She told Sister Helene her idea, and together they recorded the first Stories interview. A single microphone between them, the two roll through pivotal moments in Sister Helene’s life together—her childhood, her moment of discernment, highlights from her career as the US vocation coordinator, and what it is like to be in the religious community today.

“What is our need to learn our own history?” Hayes reflects. “We don't have women religious in our leadership positions (at Saint Mary’s) anymore, so it is our responsibility to understand as much as we can.” A podcast, Hayes said, felt like the most accessible medium for the campus community.

Listening to each episode is like eavesdropping on a private conversation. It is clear the sisters trust the process and are eager to let Hayes guide them through their life stories. One minute, the conversation is serious and profound, the next, the two have erupted into giggles as a sister’s funny memory takes them down a different path. Their words and tone are unfiltered and uninterpreted.

For the podcast’s first season, Hayes interviewed Sisters Helene Sharp, Kathy Johnson, Maryanne O’Neill, Judith Anne Beattie, Mary Margaret Weber, Judy Hallock, Eva Hooker, even Sister Veronique Wiedower, president of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. In each, there was a special moment. 

“Sister Mary Margaret Weber’s story is so telling of who she is as a person,” Hayes said. “In her interview, she discusses her call to be a priest, which you don't typically hear about from a sister, especially a Catholic sister.” Weber describes how long it took her to come to terms with what it meant to be a priest and how it was different from a life as a sister. She concluded that to be a priest is a call to maintain the institution. 

Hayes is moved by the memory. “Sister Mary Margaret said, ‘I didn't really want to maintain it, because I wanted to work within it; I wanted to actually be able to serve.’ And it was just such a beautifully profound moment, you know? This was back in the ’80s or ’90s vs. where we are today, asking the same questions…Can women be ordained?”

Though she has no formal training as a recorder of personal stories, Hayes’ instinct was to keep herself out of the story as much as possible. “If they brought up an opinion, I didn't engage with it. To be in their presence and listen to them share their opinion and be anchored to their point was very beautiful and touching. You see how strong these women really are. 

“Being able to hear from the sisters about the moments in history where things were difficult and they were met with strife, it is hopeful to hear that you can move on,” Hayes said. “The world keeps spinning. The sun goes up.”

Besides their humor—“They are hilarious!” Hayes says—it has been the sisters’ humanity that has surprised her most. The lessons have been more profound than she could have imagined.

“In some ways, we put sisters—the religious in general—on a pedestal. In reality, they are just everyday people searching for something better and trying to make the spaces we're in better places and more lovable for other people.

“Saint Mary's says we do not educate the mind at the expense of the heart. It rings true in my ears. I feel like this project is, in some ways, educating minds and hearts. We do stand on the sisters’ shoulders. We are Saint Mary’s because of them. And I felt like that was something that really needed to be remembered.”

April 2, 2024


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