An influential teacher at the Institute of Notre Dame (IND) set S. Joannene Merendio on her path to becoming a Sister and a teacher. “I was taught by nuns at IND,” she said. “I actually only took German class, because the nun who was teaching it was such a wonderful teacher.”
From that German classroom, S. Joannene embarked on a lifelong journey to teach others. She spent decades teaching young women at IND and at Notre Dame Preparatory School (NDP) in Baltimore. She strived to be an influence on her students, spending her summers showing them the world. “I took students to Europe every summer,” S. Joannene remembers about her time at NDP. “I went all over; I don’t think I missed anything.”
Her favorite place to visit was Sicily, the area her father came from. “I was so happy to go into his church to see where he was baptized and made his first communion,” she says. “He was only 16 years old when he came to the US.”
S. Joannene taught many students throughout her career, but one has remained close to her heart. While teaching at a boy’s school in Annapolis, she befriended a young student she lovingly calls “Cappy.”
His father was in the Navy and eventually led the US naval fleet in the Mediterranean. That meant moving the entire family to Italy. Everyone except Cappy, since he was in college at the time. Even though his biological family was an ocean away, S. Joannene provided the family stability that Cappy needed.
“He was always by my side because his family was in Italy. He would call the Motherhouse to find out where I was teaching and he would come and see me,” she said with a smile on her face. “Once I was teaching at a girls school in Philadelphia, and when he came to the front office everyone at the school knew he was there to see me.”
Their close relationship has lasted a lifetime, and S. Joannene is still a strong influence in Cappy’s life. “He comes to visit me to this day. Once a month he comes to Villa Assumpta to take me to lunch, and his family came to my Jubilee celebration.”