As we mourn the death of Sister Nancy Bonshock, SNDdeN, we also celebrate and remember with great joy her lasting impact on the many lives she touched during her more than four decades of teaching and serving others at Notre Dame.
Teaching was Sister Nancy’s greatest passion and she was an integral member of the Academy’s Social Studies Department. Her commitment to excellence in Catholic education for women, along with her keen understanding of current events and human rights issues, introduced her students to the deeper complexities of our lives and responsibilities as global citizens.
Joan Sammartino Turner ’77, now head of the Academy’s Social Studies Department, once sat in Sister Nancy’s classroom. “During my senior year, my class was the first to take Supreme Court Decisions with Sister Nancy. I had always found political science interesting, but it was that class that inspired me to go to law school.” Turner returned to Notre Dame in 1999 to join the Social Studies Department, working alongside her mentor, Sister Nancy. “She inspired me to become a lawyer and a teacher. She is the gold standard by which I measure myself as an educator and member of this community.”
Sister Nancy’s vocation with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur began at the age of 18, when she entered the congregation’s novitiate program in 1965. In 1970, she received a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in Washington, D.C., and began her teaching career at Little Flower High School in Philadelphia. Sister Nancy then spent two years working and teaching with the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament at Saint Michael High School, a Catholic boarding school which serves students from the local Native American communities in Arizona.
Sister Nancy returned to the East Coast in 1975, continuing her ministry of education at Notre Dame. She pursued her graduate degree in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, examining the issues of Navajo Catholicism and cultural continuity for her graduate studies.
In 2010, Sister Nancy was awarded the St. Francis Medallion by the Saint Francis Country House Women’s Auxiliary Philadelphia. According to the Auxiliary, “the St. Francis Medallion signifies and confirms the value of a woman’s contribution to her community, Church, and family.”
The award recognized Sister Nancy for exemplifying the highest spiritual, moral, and ethical standards. “She leads others by example and inspires them by her commitment. Sister Nancy has been a voice for the voiceless, has a passion for justice, a love for the poor, and a heart as wide as the world.”
Sister Nancy remained undaunted in her commitment to teaching, despite cancer treatments and the tragic death of her niece Aimee Willard ’92 in 1996. She often attributed her resilience to her deep faith and the energy and love of her students during these difficult times.
In the fall of 2015, Sister Nancy began a new chapter at Notre Dame and in her life, transitioning from the classroom to a new position as Senior Alumnae Advisor in the Academy’s Advancement Office. In this position, she assisted the Academy’s alumnae outreach efforts, offering popular “Monday Evenings with Sister Nancy” sharing and networking events in the Mansion.
It was during this time that Sister Nancy also started her studies in the Pastoral Care Program at Thomas Jefferson Hospital. In 2017, she began her full-time commitment as a Chaplain, offering spiritual and emotional comfort to patients and their families. In recent months, however, Sister’s health deteriorated and she moved to the health care facility, Villa Julie, run by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Sister Nancy died on August 8, surrounded by the Sisters, family, and close friends.
Sister Nancy’s life was one of complete dedication to her good God and to the students she loved and mentored at Notre Dame. Our community is richer for having been touched by this extraordinary Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, a woman of great faith and love.
“Teaching is my passion and greatest gift because of what I’ve received over the years. Thank you for the gift you’ve been in my life. You have made me a better teacher by your questions and comments. Thank you for laughing at my attempts at humor. Thank you for your concern for other people. Please remember ours is a small world. We are world citizens. We have a responsibility for each other.”
Sister Nancy Bonshock, SNDdeN, VISIONS Magazine interview, 2015
Please see this statement provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur regarding A Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Nancy:
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, August 15, 2019. Visitation 5-7:30pm, followed by Mass at 7:30pm, for family, friends, alums and students of Sister Nancy at St. John Chrysostom Church, 617 S. Providence Rd. Wallingford, PA. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to "Boulangerie Notre Dame" (Haiti) care of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Development Office, P.O. Box 157, Stevenson MD 21153, or to the Aimee Willard Scholarship Fund, Academy of Notre Dame, 560 Sproul Rd, Villanova, PA 19085.