Only nun in county celebrates 25 years at St. Mary
When Sharon Steglich told her parents she wanted to be a nun, she got a lukewarm reception.
Her father, who wasn’t Catholic, said it would happen only “over his dead body.”
“Even my mother, who was Catholic, didn’t understand why,” she says. “To help decide what I wanted to be, I went to a novena and felt God calling me to become a nun. After the novena, my father said he would let me enter because he wanted me to be happy. It was the right decision for everyone.”
So Sister Sharon, now 67, entered Houston’s Dominican Order of Religious Sisters in 1959, and 25 years ago moved to the St. Mary school in Orange.
She serves as first-grade teacher and primary grade coordinator, teaches computer skills and tours the scenic Shangri La gardens with her students. “We are all God’s caretakers,” she tells them.
As a teenager, she thought of the sisters at her school and church in Port Arthur as role models.
“I’ve always been around the sisters,” she says. “Especially one in particular, and I wanted to be just like her. She was always so friendly and full of joy. St. Dominic was a joyful friar, and many of the sisters like to say Dominicanism isn’t taught, it’s caught. It’s all about joy with the Lord.”
Following the deaths in the last few years of the other Dominican Sisters at St. Mary (including Aquinas Mecina and Lauren Beck),
Steglich is the last one and has seen her share of changes in 50 years.
She notes another saying among sisters: “We’re changing our habit, but not our mission.”
“Now we dress more like the people we serve,” she says, wearing a white T-shirt and a gold cross on a chain. “In our convent when I started, the sisters did everything: they prepared the mass, prepared the altar and they put new linens out. We were the only ones who taught the children. But after Vatican II that changed because our numbers had gone down. In a way that was much better, because we could be closer to the people. When I began, some of the sisters would be so serious and walk around with their hands under their scapulars. But as things changed, we were perceived as more friendly and ready to be of service to others.”
Steglich remembers once when a woman told her, “You must be a nun.”
“And I asked, ‘How did you know?’ She replied, ‘I could just see the peace within you.’ I was amazed that it’s not the uniform or the habit. It’s the way you act that really tells about you on the inside.”
A graduate of Bishop Byrne High, Steglich has served with St. Anthony Cathedral in Beaumont and has a teaching degree from Sacred Heart in Houston.
“I just had a little boy in my class, and I taught his mother the first year I was here,” she says. “It’s like teaching my grandchildren.
The beauty of working here is that the parents were pleased enough with the education they received here to send their children back.”