During a eucharistic celebration attended by 200 friends, family and members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Johanna “Hanna” Marie Mignogno, made her final profession of religious vows on Saturday, June 16, at the chapel of Villa Assumpta in Baltimore. With this public profession of vows the Abington, Pa., native who teaches first grade at Cardinal Shehan School in Baltimore, made a life commitment to God, to the church and to the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
The Rev. Patrick Besel, of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Govans, Baltimore, presided at the eucharistic liturgy, and Sister Kathleen Cornell, provincial leader of the Atlantic-Midwest Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, officiated at the Rite of Religious Profession during the liturgy.
“I, Sister Johanna Marie Mignogno offer myself to you, God, and vow to live forever consecrated celibacy, gospel poverty and apostolic obedience, in community, according to the Constitution of the School Sisters of Notre Dame,” she said in publicly stating her vows to Sister Kathleen, the official witness and representative of the congregation of women religious.
“Today as a community of sisters, family and friends we rejoice in your commitment, Hanna. Because God first loved you, you have now responded in love, freely choosing to follow Christ. … May you be open to the unfolding mystery of God’s unconditional love for you,” Sister Kathleen responded.
Johanna Mignogno was born in Abington, Pa., and was raised in a family of eight children in suburban Philadelphia and later north-central Pennsylvania. After attending community college, she worked for a preschool in Fort Washington, Pa., where she ran an infant center, initiated a toddler program and taught classes of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. During summers she conducted camp for children ages 6 through 14.
Hanna has been involved in some form of church ministry since she was 22, but it was during a retreat, she says, that she felt an unusual attraction to religious life. “I always had a certain relationship with God. God was very important to me. But one day while I was on retreat I really felt drawn to think about [religious life] as a vocation. I felt a really strong sense of God. What really stood out was the peace I felt and a certainty that God was calling.”
She began investigating religious life, using the Internet to pursue information on several women’s congregations and to make connections with sisters. “Something I saw on the SSND website stood out for me,” she recalls, “the line that said that we ‘strive to enable persons to reach the fullness of their potential as individuals created in God’s image.’ That really struck me. I knew I had to consider SSND.”
Hanna spent more than a year getting to know SSNDs better, and in January 2002, at age 38, she entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore. She worked for Catholic Charities as a kindergarten teacher for a while and then was received into the Interprovincial Novitiate of SSND in St. Louis. During the next two years she studied the SSND constitution and met with communities of SSNDs to get first-hand experience of the challenges of religious life.
In November 2004, she made her first profession of religious vows and became Sister Hanna. Thus began a long, deliberate journey of striving to integrate prayer, community and ministry into her life as a whole and healthy person. She returned to college, majoring in Religious Studies at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and minoring in Peace & Justice. In 2008, Sister Hanna graduated from what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University, earning a B.A. in Religious Studies. She spent two years as a teacher at Our Lady of Fatima School in Baltimore before joining the faculty of Cardinal Shehan School in Baltimore, where she serves today as a first-grade teacher.
The time between professing temporary vows and making final vows is a very significant journey, Sister Hanna concedes, noting that her 7½ years under temporary vows have been a time of learning by experience, of immersing herself in the many different challenges of religious life. At the end of the journey Saturday she offered herself unconditionally to God, prepared to consecrate her life to God forever.
“I think the challenge now that I’ve made final vows is to continue my personal development. I know it is up to me. I really want to keep myself involved and to grow spiritually and in the community,” she says.
Sister Hanna is the daughter of the late Salvatore and Marie Mignogno of Wellsboro, Pa.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame is an international congregation of women religious with 3,400 sisters serving in nearly 30 countries. For more information about the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Atlantic-Midwest Province, visit www.amssnd.org.