Three religious sisters surprised by reunion at annual conference

MYRTLE BEACH — Three women religious who attended a recent seminar in the Grand Strand had no idea the event would reunite them with friends they hadn’t seen in 50 years.

The sisters were at a breakfast during the fourth annual Collaboration for Ministry Initiative state seminar at the Crown Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach on Nov. 7.

Through casual conversation, two of them discovered they all had attended Lebanon Catholic High School in Lebanon, Pa., at the same time during the 1950s. Lebanon is a city of about 30,000 people in eastern Pennsylvania.

Sts. Cyril and Methodius Sister Mary Anne Nemec graduated in 1955 and is now a guidance counselor at Bishop England High School in Charleston. Sister Agnes Marie Winter, SSCM, graduated in 1956 and is working at St. Gregory the Great School in Bluffton. Daughter of Charity Sister Dorothy Folmer graduated in 1957. She serves at the St. Cyprian Outreach Center in Georgetown.

The women knew each other in school, but did not keep in touch after graduation nor did they realize they had all decided to join religious orders.

“I was in shock,” said Sister Agnes Marie, who discovered the coincidence after she sat with Sister Dorothy at breakfast. “I discovered Sister Dorothy was from Lebanon, Pa., and then I told her that was where I was from, and where Sister Mary Anne was from. And it all came together.”

The three spent part of their weekend reminiscing about their high school years. They remembered the same teachers, priests and other students.

Sister Agnes Marie recalled the time Lebanon Catholic students participated in a mock city election, and then served as city officials for a day. Sister Agnes Marie ran for mayor and Sister Dorothy helped her with the campaign. She didn’t win mayor but was appointed city clerk and made Sister Dorothy the water commissioner.

The bond between Sister Agnes Marie and Sister Mary Anne dates back to the same Catholic grade school in Lebanon.

The three took different paths to their religious vocation, however. Sister Mary Anne joined her order right after graduating high school, while Sister Dorothy worked for United Air Lines before professing vows. Sister Agnes Marie spent 11 years working, including a clerical position at the Lebanon Steel foundry and the San Giorgio Macaroni factory.

Sister Dorothy’s vocation led to many years abroad, including time in the Congo and Taiwan.

All three said they plan to stay in close touch now and will continue to reminisce about their years in Lebanon.

“It’s so remarkable that three girls from little Lebanon, Pennsylvania, all ended up sisters, all working in the same diocese in South Carolina, and meet up at the same seminar,” Sister Dorothy said. “This proves that God works in strange ways.”