Area Vocation Ministers 2024

We all know what an ATM is. But an AVM?

In summer 2023, the SSND North American Vocation Team (NAVT) invited sisters to consider becoming Area Vocation Ministers (AVM), creating a personalized commitment, a “build your own burger” version of local vocation ministry. We are grateful to the initial group of sisters who responded to this invitation: Sisters Patricia Hammond, Kathleen Jancuk, Phyllis Marie McNally, and Eileen Reilly from the Atlantic-Midwest province and Sisters Vicky Jean Chambers, Marie Francine Koehler, Lucy Nigh, Carol Ann Prenger and Raquel Ortez from the Central Pacific Province.

These sisters attended an initial orientation session with the NAVT in December 2023 and have since been engaging in this expanded approach to vocation ministry in various ways. It’s not too late to serve as an AVM in your local area!

Who are these AVMs? We thought you’d like to know more about them, so we asked!


Photo of Sister Francine Koehler

Sister Francine Koehler
When I saw that our Vocation Team was looking for Area Vocation Ministers (AVMs), I volunteered because the list of responsibilities looked like something I could handle. I realized I had already been promoting SSND in small ways in my 58 years of previous ministry: formal education for 18 years, 9 years of service in Honduras, then in various parishes in Missouri, mainly in ministry with Latinos.

If I had to say what the highlight of my SSND life is, I think I would have to say my service in Honduras. I was immersed in another culture and language, which was both challenging, broadening, and even funny! To this day I have a collection of language “bloopers” which I sometimes share with the sisters I lived with in community. Since returning from Honduras, I felt more comfortable and prepared to work with the growing number of Hispanics in many parts of the U.S. This year I am volunteering with various parish ministries in St. Charles, Missouri. My most recent endeavor is to organize English language classes for anyone desiring to improve their language skills.

I am happy to promote a culture of vocation as an AVM. I am delighted to accept opportunities to share our rich history and charism as SSND and ease the responsibility of our energetic vocation team. I am filled with gratitude for their dedication, for our community leadership, and to God who continues to call men and women to their particular life vocation.


Photo of Sister Vicki Jean Chambers

Sister Vicki Jean Chambers
I made my First Profession as an SSND in 1990 and my Perpetual Profession in 1996. I am anticipating celebrating my 40th Ruby Anniversary in 2030.

My ministries took me to the cities of Baltimore, Memphis, and my hometown of Milwaukee.  My educational backgrounds in religious studies and information science fit well in my experiences as archivist, campus minister, director of religious education, librarian and religion teacher.  In each situation I received many graces of personal growth as a Christian and as a religious sister.

Presently, I am engaging in volunteer service at Trinity Woods and spiritual direction in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

What excites me about being an Area Vocation Minister is having the opportunity to share the story and the charism of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and our fidelity to the commitment to continue Christ’s mission in the world today.

Finally, I am excited about having the ability to promote the culture of vocation. I am touched that I am in the position to companion others on their self-discovery and to deepen their relationships with the Divine and creation.


Sister Patricia Hammond
I currently live in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and serve in volunteer ministry at Caroline House, a center that educates immigrant women in English and life skills.

An SSND since 1970, my experiences in ministry have been as a teacher, school administrator, formator, and local leader of a retirement community. In each context, community building was at the heart of the matter. My ministries occurred in many cities on the East Coast, St. Louis, and Chicago. Each was a new environment and culture. I have been blessed and grateful for each of my ministries!

When asked to establish an interprovincial formation house, building community was a top priority. Sisters from most of the North American provinces came together to welcome postulants of varied backgrounds. This ministry was a special gift for me as I accompanied new members and is my inspiration for saying “yes” to being an AVM.


Sister Kathleen Jancuk
I’ve been an SSND for 52 years. Throughout my religious life, I ministered in the area of elementary education, as a classroom teacher for 42 years and then as a school administrator for 10 years. I am currently teaching in a Pre-K through 12 school in Cumberland, Maryland. I teach religion in middle school and the world languages in grades 1 through 8.

One of the highlights of my life as an SSND was the summer before my profession of final vows. I participated in an educational conference which included School Sisters of Notre Dame from around the world. It was my first experience of the internationality of our congregation. It was then that I realized the extent to which our charism of unity could make a difference in the world. It clinched my commitment to SSND.

We are living in a chaotic world where we face many obstacles that distract us from our relationship with God. What excites me most about being an AVM is having the opportunity of accompanying someone on her journey to seek God’s plan for her life, to enable her to hear God’s Call, and to help her withstand the storms that can result in uncertainty. Communion with God and each other provides a tremendous witness that leads others to see God’s hand in all we do. To have a small part in helping another hear the call of the Lord for her, I consider to be an honor and a privilege.


Sister Phyllis McNally
I have been an SSND for 64 years, 34 of which have been in ministry in my hometown of Cumberland, Maryland. My introduction to the School Sisters of Notre Dame was at St. Patrick’s School and Catholic Girls Central High School in Cumberland.

One experience which stands out for me as an SSND is my Jubilee trip to Rome in 1985, where I met so many sisters from other provinces. Our pilgrim journey that summer was filled with a spirit of excitement and togetherness as we shared stories, prayed together, and traveled through the streets of Rome and Germany. More recently I have had the opportunity to meet sisters from other countries through Zoom conversations. I find this to be affirming and plan to continue such experiences.

I am retired from teaching and administration in schools. Being able to mentor and minister to so many high school students through the years has been a gift, allowing me to form friendships which I cherish today and continue to be a part of their lives. Currently I participate in helping my family and neighborhood friends in need.

I am happy to help in spreading our mission to others by assisting in vocation ministry. I see this important work as a way for me to continue growing and expanding in my own personal development.


Photo of Sister Lucy Nigh, SSND

Sister Lucy Nigh
I’ve been an SSND for 55 years and this is the third time I’ve ministered in an official vocation ministry role (because we say that EVERY sister is in vocation ministry, witnessing naturally).

I’ve enjoyed a variety of ways to serve along the way. One thing just seemed to flow into another. I started out as a grade school teacher, and moved into doing high school retreats. I served as a hospital chaplain, and in SSND leadership. One of my favorite ministries was directing an international program for younger sisters and living at our Generalate in Rome for three years. This gave me wonderful sense of our internationality and the importance for younger members to be open to the possibility of a call to mission in another part of the world.

This past summer I returned to Wisconsin after 13 years of ministry at the Arizona/Mexico border. It was a very special privilege to meet so many migrants and to work with both Mexican and U.S. folks who service outreach to migrants.

My first stint in vocation ministry was in the 1980s. More recently, I was part of the first North American vocation team, working part-time as I also volunteered at the border. This time around I look forward to being available as a local contact for vocation education or to accompany a discerner.


Photo of Sister Carol Ann Prenger, SSND

Sister Carol Prenger
I was raised with five brothers on a small farm in Central Missouri. Upon graduating eighth grade from Annunciation School in California, Missouri, I entered the aspiranture of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. I made my first profession of vows in January 1971, and celebrated 50 years as SSND in 2021.

After teaching three years in Hannibal, Missouri, various circumstances “invited” me into pastoral ministry in southeast Missouri. I served several rural parishes for 20 years when I felt the call to study Spanish and serve missions in Honduras and Guatemala for four years. Called once again to southeast Missouri, I served in rural Hispanic ministry. In 2011, I received a “call” to service in leadership to SSND Central Pacific Province for a four-year term. From there I served in Hispanic ministry in the panhandle of Texas and am now in my fifth year of ministry in Ripley, Mississippi, serving as Lay Ecclesial Minister (“pastor” and administrator) of a mostly Spanish-speaking community.

Being an SSND brings me in touch with a global and multicultural world in community and service, which I find inspiring and enlivening. I find diversity both challenging and invigorating. As an AVM, I want women to know God’s love and presence in religious community as one’s horizons are broadened and one’s ministry and service can be stimulating and rewarding.


Sister Eileen Reilly
An SSND for over 50 years, I have served as a teacher, campus minister, justice and peace coordinator and as the congregational representative to the United Nations. I am currently living in the Boston area and serving with the Catholic Mobilizing Network – the national Catholic group working to end the death penalty.

My life as an SSND as an ever-unfolding adventure. I am eager to share that with those who are discerning a call to religious life.




Photo of Sister Raquel Ortez, SSND

Sister Raquel Ortez

I will be assisting the NAVT mainly with Spanish translations.