A Bridge to Adulthood


Sister Francis Mary and Kara Mernaugh discovered early in life that music was the medium through which they would communicate their faith.

It was the magic of a player piano and her mother’s music-making that sealed the deal for Sister Francis Mary. She began her music lessons in first grade because “It’s what you did.” For Kara, the catalyst was Sister Francis Mary.

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“I want to sing”

At some point in third grade, listening to the choir sing under Sister Francis Mary’s direction during Mass at St. Agnes, Kara turned to her mother and said “I want to sing in that choir.”

“’Those are all adults; you are a child,” her mom said, pointing out the obvious. Kara finally persuaded her mother and an audition with Sister Francis Mary was arranged. When she discovered Kara’s innate talent, Sister Francis Mary began teaching her voice and piano, eventually allowing her to sing at school liturgies and in the Sunday assembly, and guiding her to the completion of a major milestone for music students at Sacred Heart-Griffin: a Silver Cross in piano in the fall, and one in voice in the spring.

“Sister Francis Mary has been such an integral part of my life,” Kara said. “She was my piano teacher, and my first voice teacher, and then my confirmation sponsor.”

But it didn’t end there.

Being who you are meant to be

Sister Francis Mary had yet another role to play in Kara’s life.

During the summer of 2019 Kara mentioned to Sister Francis Mary that she was discerning becoming a Dominican Associate. It was Sister Francis Mary who then became her sponsor, accompanying her through a nine-month formation program and a virtual, COVID-delayed, commitment ceremony last summer.

“This was when I realized that my relationship with Sister Francis Mary was bridging from a student-mentor relationship to one of adult peers,” she said. “Our friendship has really been a profound blessing for more than 25 years. It’s absolutely been a bridge across the decades and chapters of my life.”

When Kara learned in October that she and her husband Seth were expecting, she began to value what her relationship with the Dominicans would mean for her child.

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Kara attributes the entire trajectory of her life to her response to God’s call to her 10-year-old self and that includes her life-giving relationships within the Dominican Family.

“I think of the words of St. Catherine of Siena that I learned during my first week as an associate candidate: ‘Be who you are meant to be and you will set the world on fire.’ Those words mean a lot to me,” she said.

You can help keep the Dominican Sisters connected to young people by helping them purchase the technology they need to more effectively live-stream events from Sacred Heart Convent. Learn more.

Sister Francis Mary’s ministry as liturgist at Sacred Heart Convent has led our sisters, associates and friends to an enhanced experience of the Divine through our daily prayers and Eucharistic Liturgies.  Kara, an associate, experiences a serene and peaceful environment when singing in our chapel, “There’s an experience that everyone is welcomed here!”

This year of COVID isolation has reinforced our desire to broadcast that prayerful serenity for those who cannot be here in person,  to broaden our outreach, and  to strengthen the caring community God desires for us!

Stay with us to learn more!

blue arc with words Be The Bridge on top

Stayed tuned for more great stories about the impact of Sister Francis Mary’s life on young people as we discover what it was that made her such a great mentor for the hundreds of students and adults who’ve passed through her life. Read more here.

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