“By third grade I knew I wanted to become a sister,” said Sister Lorraine Wagner. “There was something about the sisters at St. Peter, Wisconsin, that attracted me. They were happy, friendly, and always interested in what we were doing. Then, too, there was a mystique about the habit and their cozy convent home, which was like a little doll house.”
Growing up during the Depression, Lorraine helped the family where needed. When she turned 16, she began looking for employment to help with family expenses. During these years, she enjoyed dating and going to dances, but by age 22, she decided to enter the convent.
Lorraine found the lifestyle of religious life was a good fit for her. The routine schedule for prayer, meals, school, and study made it relatively easy for her to manage her life. The one drawback was the need to complete her high school courses before starting college.
In 1955, though she was still working on getting her college degree, Lorraine began her first teaching assignment at St. James School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. She taught 52 second graders and prepared over 100 children for their First Holy Communion. At the end of that year, she moved on to Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Keyesville, Wisconsin, where she taught for eight years. After that, Lorraine continued teaching the primary grades in five different schools, the last being Chilton (Wisconsin) Catholic schools, where she taught for 18 years.
After graduating from Alverno College, Lorraine taught in Walls, Mississippi, during the summer months. “I enjoyed this change of pace very much because we only taught classes in the morning and had the afternoons to do fun things like swimming and shopping,” she said. “During these years, I also had the opportunity to join my two sisters for a ten-day tour of Europe visiting Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Upon her retirement from teaching in 1994, Lorraine began a new career as a nanny for two children in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The mother was a school principal who was expecting another child. Lorraine lived with the family on weekdays and found the change totally refreshing. “No playground duty, no report cards, no parent-teacher conferences!” she said. The two girls she cared for continue to keep in touch with Lorraine to this day.
“As I reflect on my life in community, I never thought a lot about aging and retirement, but the changes of the 1960s were beyond my wildest expectations,” Lorraine said. “To be free to choose our work assignments, to have the option of living with an aging parent, to visit our relatives without restrictions…those were very welcome changes.
“Religious life provides many opportunities for spiritual growth, such as daily Mass, the sacraments, conferences and retreats,” she continued. “Living with and interacting with sisters who have served as role models for me through the years has contributed significantly to my quality of life, not the least of which is the exceptional nursing care and the community support readily available whenever we need it
“If I were to advise a young woman about religious life today, I would encourage her to give it some consideration because of the opportunities for spiritual, intellectual, and cultural growth available,” Lorraine said. “But I would suggest that she look at different communities, spend time in prayer and discernment, talk with her spiritual director or confessor, and spend time in community to try it out before making a commitment.”
<< Back to Jubilarian list