Vocation Stories


Sister Grace Surdovel, IHM

Grace Surdovel-young
Grace Surdovel-cemetery
Sisters Grace and Donna
Grace Surdovel at Wilkes Commencement
at Wilkes Univeristy Commencement

As a child enrolled in the local public schools, I had limited exposure to priests and sisters except for my CCD classes.  I never had sisters as my CCD instructors, but rather had either lay instructors or parish priests.  My interest in the IHM Sisters stemmed from my observations of them when I attended mass with my mom and siblings or in the local grocery store or pharmacy.  I also had a family friend who was my softball coach enter the IHM congregation.  Each time she would return home for holidays or summer break, I would spend time asking her questions and learning about her experiences. Both she and the sisters I was observing were young, happy, and friendly.  I was always struck by their happiness in contrast to what I understood to be their lives of sacrifice.  This intrigued me and played a key role in my selection of Marywood College (now University) when I was choosing where I would go to college. 

I wanted to study art (graphic design) and Marywood had a wonderful program.  While I had been accepted at other colleges focused on the arts, my selection of Marywood allowed me to not only earn my degree but continue to investigate the IHM Sisters.  Because Marywood is a liberal arts institution, students are required to take such academic subjects as psychology, history, English, science, and theology.  Taking these courses allowed me additional exposure to the IHM Sisters beyond the two wonderful IHM sisters who taught in the art department-Sister Cor Immaculatum Heffernan, who was my mentor and advisor and Sister Ave Maria Foley.  Along with my academic studies, I was also involved in campus ministry while at Marywood and this was also led by IHM Sisters.  Being involved in campus ministry afforded me numerous opportunities to interact with the sisters and learn about their life together.  Happily, some of my closest friends at Marywood were also interested in the congregation, so we would attend live-ins, retreats, and celebrations together. These experiences, hosted by Sister Ancilla Maloney and the sisters at the River Street convent, were wonderful, informative opportunities to get to know the sisters and learn about the IHM congregation. 

While I was spending lots of time investigating the congregation, my family was unaware of my investigation and desire to learn more about the congregation.  Since I was studying to be a graphic artist, informing my family of my plans to enter the congregation took them by surprise.  It wasn’t until they were visited by the vocation and formation program directors that my desire to enter the congregation made a bit more sense, but they still struggled to reconcile how I could give up so much of what they perceived to be success to enter the convent. However, I remember a significant shift on the day of my first profession. My older sister came up to me after the ceremony and told me that my desire to be an IHM sister now made sense to her.  She saw how happy I was on this special day and how happy and welcoming the sisters were of my joining them. 

Over these past thirty-two years, my family has had the opportunity to attend my final profession, twenty-fifth jubilee and leadership installation.  These occasions have continued to help my family feel at home with my life as an IHM sister and their own relationship to the congregation.  So much so that they now look forward to seeing sisters they know at the gatherings.  It seems that we are now an IHM family!

Sister Grace currently serves as a member of the IHM Congregation leadership team.

Grace and Peg Surdovel
          Peg and Grace 
Sisters Grace, Terri, Joan and Kathleen