Vocation Stories


Sr. Miriam Joseph Reinhardt, IHM

An Unlikely Sister

I don’t think there ever was a person whose chances of becoming a religious were slimmer than mine. I was born into a very poor immigrant non-practicing Catholic family. Although there was a Catholic School attached to the parish with which we were affiliated, we could not afford the cost of transportation to get us there nor the minimal tuition. So I attended public school with mostly non-Catholic children. For the most part, my friends came from this group. 

As to Sunday Mass, we did not go if it was too hot, too cold, too windy, raining, snowing or icy, because it was a 2+ mile walk on a main highway. My parents did send us to Sunday school, but my older brother and I played hooky until we got caught.  So we did get some Catholic education until we were confirmed.  

When I was graduating from High School, I won a Pennsylvania State Scholarship which could be used at any college in the state.  I wanted to be a music teacher, like my grandfather and two uncles. Marywood was the closest school with my major. The college offered to augment my scholarship so that tuition would be taken care of. But there remained room, board, and fees.With 8 mouths to feed, as the only breadwinner, my father could not afford these. But he did agree to borrow money for me using our farm as collateral. At that time I remember our guidance counselor remarking that it was a Catholic College. My answer was, “perhaps I will learn something about my religion. After all I am supposed to be Catholic.”Miriam Joseph Reinhardt _ ESL

I remember, during my high school years, one time discussing our plans for the future with my friends. At that time I made the remark, “from what I know about being a nun, I think I would be suited for that, but I don’t know enough about it to think seriously about it.” At Marywood I met many dedicated Sisters. Their natural way of dealing with one another and with us, their concern for our well-being, and their joy impressed me. By my junior year, I realized that I was indeed suited for religious life. But by now my father, the sole breadwinner, was at retirement age. My debt and responsibility to my family were my primary concern. Any thought of religious life would have to be postponed. My constant prayer during these days was “If what I am planning is not what YOU want for me, throw a monkey-wrench into the plans.”

So I finished college, and got a job as a teacher in Maryland. I paid off the debt as quickly as I could. I thought that this was my chance. I applied and was accepted – against strong opposition from my parents. But my mother nearly had a nervous breakdown that summer, so I withdrew my application. Was this my monkey-wrench? It turned out that Mom’s mental problems were partly due to worry over a physical problem. Soon after that, my father began showing signs of the illness which would eventually end his life. Now, part of my salary each month went to support mother, father, grandmother, and one brother still at home. My youngest brother was in the army. When he was discharged, I got an apartment, and made a home for him until he graduated from college.

During these years I seriously dated a wonderful Lutheran man and thought perhaps the Lord did not want me in a convent. One Sunday I was to go to his sister’s house for the afternoon. When I called to back out, he answered the phone.  I gave my excuse. The next morning, when I went to teach, I heard that, after I had called, he had gone ice skating, had a heart attack, skated for a pole in the middle of the pond, fell through the ice, and died. I realized at the time, this was indeed my “monkey-wrench.”

About a year later my brother graduated from college, my grandmother had died and my parents and brother now were able to survive financially on their own. If they needed financial help, my brother was now able to provide that. So I again applied – still against parental objections – and survived to tell the story of an unlikely Sister. 

She was a member of the Marywood University Music Department faculty for forty years.

Sister Miriam Joseph currently teaches English as a Second Language at St. John Neumann Parish, in Scranton, PA; and tutors a music student from Marywood University in Scranton, PA.

50th Jubilarians
Pictured above are our 50 year Jubilarians (2013): L-R back: Sisters Maria Rose Kelly, Felicia Parise, Marianne Knight, Miriam Joseph Reinhardt, Dolores Dunn, Eileen Mary Coleman, Mary Ann Adams. L-R front: Sisters  Jane Mary Duke, Jo Ann Trama, Therese O’Rourke (IHM President), Kathleen Steck, Jane Frances Dunnigan.