Lori Kirchman, #781

When you are six, grown-ups can be scary.

Sister Samuella was not a scary grown-up. That’s what Springfield Dominican Sister Lori Kirchman remembers now more than 50 years after encountering her first real-live Catholic sister at St. Joseph School in Bradley, Ill.

“I remember that she was a wonderful, kind person. Full of energy. She was young and she had a wonderful smile,” Sister Lori says.

How did she do it?

The mystery that still stymies Sister Lori is how Sister Samuella took care of 65 kids at once. “How she did it I don’t know,” she says with a chuckle and a shake of her head.

It was 1964. By this time, Sister Samuella was a seasoned teaching professional at the age of 33. Sister Lori, who is number 781 in The Book, recalls what a wonderful reading teacher she was, too.


Sister Lori at 3, with brother John.

This eager-to-please six-year-old could hardly wait to raise her hand and answer the teacher’s question: “Who knows what this word is?” Sister Samuella asked, pointing to the blackboard.

Lori’s hand shot up. Her teacher called on her: “Yes, Lori?”

“Cigar!” she shouted, confident and proud. But she was wrong.

How the teacher would respond to the student in this moment was critical. Would she face criticism, ridicule? Would she be shamed or embarrassed?

Of course not. This was Sister Samuella, remember?

“Well, no,” came the response. “The word is sugar. But that was a good try.”

Twenty years later, that eager six-year-old from St. Joseph School walked in the door at Sacred Heart Convent to begin her new life as a member of the same Dominican Sisters who taught her in grade school and high school.

Full Circle

“I’m not sure I wanted to be a sister when I was in first grade, but by the time I was in third grade I did,” Sister Lori recalls. “I suppose having such a positive experience with Sister Samuella was a kind of beginning for my vocation.”

Though her life took a few other turns before she found her way to the Springfield Dominicans for good, Sister Lori realizes that without the kindness, joy, and laughter of her teacher-mentors, she may never have found her way to the vocation that has given her such joy and fulfillment for 34 years.

Her experience in her first-grade classroom was just the beginning of Sister Lori’s own impact on the world. Like Sister Samuella, she started out in the classroom. In 1999 her life came full circle when she found herself back at St. Joseph, this time on the other side of the desk or—in her case—the piano. During her years at St. Joe’s, she spent her summers studying a specialized method of teaching music, and later moved on to liturgical minister positions at parishes in Illinois and Missouri.

“Helping people pray has been my passion for a long time,” Sister Lori muses. “There is nothing as satisfying.”

If you’ve ever been moved, comforted or challenged by the music you hear in church, then you understand the potential of Sister Lori’s ministry to heal, calm, inspire, or change a life.

Are you ready?

Will you help us continue to spark that mission with a Christmas gift to support Sister Samuella, Sister Lori, and all our sisters in their ministry of comfort, healing, challenge, and inspiration?

Thank you!

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