The Fun NunPeter DeWald | Editor for "The Mount"
We see her everyday in the hallways, in the classrooms, and in the chapel, yet she is one of a kind in the Mount Michael community. Sister Carol Jean VanDenHemel, O.S.B. is the only Mount Michael faculty member who is also a nun. Born and raised in Woonsocket, South Dakota, a town of just 655 people, VanDenHemel brings her small town ideals and religious values to the students and staff of Mount Michael.
VanDenHemel currently lives in Omaha but holds her permanent residence at Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, South Dakota. Sacred Heart Monastery has just over 100 Benedictine nuns currently living in it. She said, “I first felt a call to the religious life when I was in college, but when I was in high school, the thought didn’t even cross my mind.” VanDenHemel entered the monastery 14 years ago and has been a full fledged nun and under vows for twelve-and-a-half years. “My favorite part of being a Benedictine nun is having the love and support of a huge extended family of sisters who are always there to help you and give you guidance on a daily basis,” she said.
In addition to being called to the religious life, VanDenHemel felt the calling to be a teacher when she was in high school. She graduated from grad school at Marquette with a Masters in Education and has been a teacher for 11 years. She has taught English, speech, debate, and religion. “When I was a little girl, I never wanted to be a teacher. I really wanted to be a storm chaser and go after the big tornados and thunderstorms. They fascinated me,” she said. She currently teaches freshman Hebrew scriptures and junior morality classes, but her students know that proper English is very important to her style of teaching. “She really stresses the importance of proper spelling and grammar in all of our papers, tests, and assignments. It’s tough to do, but I know it will pay off in the long run,” said junior Josh Rauterkus.
VanDenHemel does not directly receive pay for being a teacher, but instead her pay goes to help fund the day-to-day expenses of her community. “My favorite part of being a teacher is the students’ sophomoric humor and hearing stories they tell. I also thoroughly enjoy the presence of all the neat and interesting people I teach and spend time with,” she said.
In her free time, VanDenHemel enjoys reading all types of books and planting vegetables in her garden. Before she became a nun, she fell in love and got engaged. However, due to the long distance relationship and a strong call to the religious life, she broke off the engagement to become a nun. VanDenHemel said the most important thing in her life is family. She said, “I am so grateful for my family. I would be no where with out them.”
Sister Carol Jean VanDenHemel brings her experience as a teacher and a person of faith to every aspect of her life. She says that she strives to bring God into the lives of all that she comes into contact with on a daily basis. She finds her strength to be a role model to others and a person of strong faith in God, family, and friends. “Friends influence your life in more ways than you think. Treasure your friendships, because you don’t realize how precious friends are until times of need,” she said. As for what lays in store for VanDenHemel, she isn’t sure, but she knows God will always be there to light her way. She said, “Right now in my life, I’m not just happy, I’m joyful.”