World Traveler is a film by Briana Berner about her experience with Sister Paulette Pass, SSND during the Spring of 2014 oral history project at St. Catherine University. Part of an ongoing project to support and promote the development of National Catholic Sisters Week.
Sister Paulette Pass, SSND:
Ok, are you ready?
Alright. Now when I first entered the community my father said to me, ‘Well, young woman. I hope you know that you are probably going to see the world.’ At that time we could go home twice in our life, and we went from the convent, to the church, to the school, and back to the convent again. So my father was being very facetious.
When my Dad said ‘join the convent and see the world,’ he had no idea what he was saying [laughs] absolutely none. And I’m sure he’s laughing about it right now.
I said to myself, ‘I really would like to work and be with people of other cultures.’ When I was a kid, we had a Native American group that lived right across the river from us, with their tepees set up, and so forth. They came into town and purchased their things. My mother was a clerk in the store, and so she thought this was really quite the thing. So [two doo-dad forty-eights (?)] and I said ‘Well, this is it.’
The stories that those people told...oh, me oh my, oh my. They were heart-[rending] stories really. But then they’re fun-loving people, and so that was nothing that really got them down. In fact, when you go to a powwow...This is one of my favorite guys; this is Joe Walker. On this picture, I think he was in his eighties, and he still danced. He went to every powwow, and danced. So reservation days were wonderful. We had lots of good times, we had lots of hard times...When I left the reservation I thought ‘Oh, now what?’ I didn’t know what in the world I was going to do after that.
It happened that one of the sisters came to visit in the Twin Cities, and she said, ‘If you’ve ever thought of going to Africa, think about it now.’
And I said ‘I’ve never thought about Africa and I don’t really intend to go to Africa.’
She said, ‘Think about it.’
And I said, “Okay, I will. Alright, I will.’
I visited Kenya maybe about fifteen, twenty years before that. We had gone through Egypt on our way [shows picture] so this [picture] is with a sphinx.
One of the things that I said I would never do--I did not want to teach in a boarding school. [Laughs] Where did I go? To a boarding school. So here we are [shows picture] in Kenya. At [K----] which is way up high in the highlands.
This school was a boarding school of about 300 boarders who come in the beginning of the school year, which starts in January and goes through until April, about the end of April. Those girls are on their compound the whole time. But they do have some fun in-between, okay. They do get outside and they do let off a little bit of steam.
One of the fun things though, was...One day I had to go all the way down this road to go down and get some water because we were out of water. Because we have one big main pump. So I went down there with this big jerry can, about this big...So when it was full of water, I filled it up, I couldn’t get it off the ground!
One of the girls saw me and they said, ‘Sister! You need some help?’ I said I sure do. So she came down, I said okay you get on that side, I’ll get on this side. Oh nevermind--She picks it up, puts it on her head, and off she goes.
So would you say that all of those things are things that you were able to do because you were a professed sister, and you wouldn’t have been able to do them as a laywoman?
I don’t believe I would ever have met the people that I have met. I would have never lived with the people that I’ve lived with--and I have lived with some marvelous women religious. I think the places I have lived, where I have ministered, they’ve all been gift, really. I don’t think I would have...I don’t know what I would have done if I had gotten married and had ten kids, I don’t know [laughs].