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Sisters in Service: Teaching Nuns in the United States in the Post War Period


Sister Theresa Kelly, RSM with her class at St. Patrick's School Kent Avenue Brooklyn, NY, 1962. Courtesy of Sister Theresa Kelly, RSM

In the 1950s Catholic nuns in the United States staffed parochial and secondary schools that enrolled 10 percent of the country's school children. In the wake of Vatican II and the turbulent social upheaval of the 1960s, the population of nuns dropped precipitously in the US as opportunities for women improved and fewer families chose Catholic school education for their sons and daughters. Despite the drop in numbers the legacy of these women, the lives they touched, and the impact they made on education and the life of parish communities for decades is significant. Drawing on interviews collected as part of our Oral History Project and housed in our Archives of Irish America at New York University, Glucksman Ireland House presents the recollections of some of the nuns we have interviewed as well as lay people who recall the sisters who taught them or crossed their path. These stories just scratch the surface of the service performed by religious sisters.

Click to play the podcast.

NYU GIH OH St. Patrick’s Day

Voices (in order):

  • Mary Murphy, journalist
  • Alice McDermott, author
  • Tom Kelly, author
  • Mary Carroll French, attorney
  • Father John Grange, parish priest
  • John Patrick Shanley, author
  • Father Gerry Ryan, parish priest
  • Sr. Theresa Kelly, Sister of Mercy, Our Lady of Mercy Academy development director
  • Sr. Regina Murphy, Sister of Charity, property manager for the order
  • Sr. Virgilius Reidy, retired Franciscan Sister
  • Sr. Noreen Casey, retired Franciscan Sister
  • Sr. Rita McCarthy, retired Franciscan Sister
  • Sr. Bernice Murphy, retired Franciscan Sister

Production Staff:

Linda Dowling Almeida, Producer/Writer/Narrator

Michael Stallmeyer, Engineer/Assistant Producer


From the collection of David Greenberg:
"Jesus of Galilee," The Daughters of St. Paul/Philadelphia
“The Sun is Now Shining,” Julianna Garza


Sister Theresa Kelly, RSM with her class at St. Patrick's School Kent Avenue Brooklyn, NY, 1962.
Courtesy Sister Theresa Kelly, RSM

© 2012 Glucksman Ireland House, New York University

This podcast is made possible in part with funding from the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.