What did the Nuns Teach You?


Apart from a good education, what did the nuns teach you?

Those of a pre-1970s Catholic education often tell each other that the nuns used to teach us this or that - often relating to the proper forms, details and traditions of worship which have mostly faded into the background these days.

Like most nuns, the nuns that taught us (Good Samaritans Sisters) were pretty strict on discipline but it left us with a solid respect for others and authority.

I mostly remember little details on how they taught us to respect the eucharist, confession, worship, how to genuflect properly, do the proper forms in prayer - when to bow the head, at which words in the prayers to pause and so on.

Lately I’ve been thinking a little deeper and I recently recalled what a big emphasis the nuns made on that we were in the Last Days, that we could fully be expected to be persecuted to the death for being Catholic (ie the main thing was never to deny our faith), and that the end of the world could happen any time. I used to think a lot about whether I would be as brave as the martyrs and stand up to the tortures. It was pretty heavy stuff for us primary school kids but none of us were going to deny our faith.

There were scary and good things about being educated by the nuns. What were the good and scary things you remember the nuns teaching you?



Hi Rove. I was taught for 7 years, by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Among the good things they taught us: Respect for our parents and authority; respect for the Mass and the Sacraments; and a deep love of Our Blessed Mother.

I can’t really recall anything scary that they taught us… unless I can suggest MATH. :smiley: But that was “scary” all throughout my career as a student.

God bless
MV :slight_smile:


I remember once being chastised for not paying due reverence during Mass. I was in the ‘bubs’ about 5 or 6 years old. Before class began there was recitation of the Rosary. Pupil written work had to be annotated on each page with A.M.D.G… Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam… Latin for ‘To the Greater Glory of God’.

Scary stuff were the tales of unfortunate people who died refusing the Sacrament of Confession. I remember one story from those years of a Spanish nobleman who led a dissolute life but thought he could bank on by having a personal chaplain in his castle attend to him should he be over taken by a sudden illness. Alas he was tossed from his horse one day breaking his neck.

I made my First Communion way back in 1947. I used to be terrified of the possibility of breaking the Communion Fast. In those days the Fast was from Midnight to the actual reception of Communion and one could not eat or drink any liquid. So brushing one’s teeth in the morning with toothpaste and water was risky business. And breaking the Fast I believed to be a Grave matter.

Sorrow for sins confessed ideally had to be perfect but imperfect sorrow was OK for Confession. But as sorrow for sin was invariably tied up with consequences of sin - death of soul - I think we kids saw perfect contrition as being the domain of the saints. In any case we could say the Perfect act of Contrition just in case.

There was heavy emphasis on the need to make a good confession. Once every term the whole class would be lined up in the Church for Confession en masse. A far different cry these days.


I’m also the product of an education by the Good Sams - from 1979-1991. Were you taught to put I.O + G.D on top of each page of your school books? Stands for the order’s motto - In Omnibus Glorificeteur Deus (In all things may God be glorified).

We were taught quite well - even (in the upper years) on points such as transubstantiation v consubstantiation.

I too remember being chastised for waving to a friend on the way back from Holy Communion.

We had regular Mass and Benediction, regular confession as well. I don’t remember praying the Rosary in school, but we got to ring the Angelus bell at noon (lots of fun!) and certainly prayed that.


No I can only remember the AMDG. Later on I think it got changed to + J.M.J ( Jesus, Mary, Joseph) . My primary years were 1945 to 1952 and well remember the Dogma of the Assumption of BVM being proclaimed Dogma. We got a thorough drilling on infallibility around that time.

I remember once a school retreat conducted by a Redemptorist. He was a good preacher and tested us kids on moral issues. The one I recall is the man who steals a hen from his local parish priest, confesses the theft to the priest and is told he has to return the hen to owner. The man offers the hen to the confessor and the priest refuses to take it. The man keeps the hen. Has a good confession been made? Another variation was if the hen had laid eggs … who did the eggs belong to in justice. I dont think I learnt the answer but it served well on the importance in being open and honest in the confessional. Fancy that… the only thing I can recall about that retreat after sixty years.


I should have been clearer. I was only directing that question at roveau, no-one else. As I said, IO + GD refers specifically to the motto of the Good Samaritan sisters, it would be beyond bizarre for any school not run by that particular order to be using the same motto.


I was taught the usual good and necessary things by the Felician sisters. However, I learned one thing from a BVM sister with whom my wife taught years ago: she said that the convents were proof that there is a God. Otherwise, how could so many women of differing personalities and tastes live together without killing each other? :slight_smile:

God bless,


We stood up for all speaking. eg, Sister would ask a question. We would then raise our hands energetically. If we were called on we would stand next to our desk and recite. The nuns would punish anyone who would pronounce the “t” sound in the word “often”. They also insisted we say “May I” rather than “Can I”. Once a week Father would come into our classroom for a half hour class. We always wanted to be the first one to spot him coming so we could jump out of our seat to open the door as the rest of the class quickly jumped to attention saying, “Good morning Father”. We did not sit down until he told us to.
We learned our speaking manners…and we were not even living in the South.


I didn’t know any nuns until I got to high school, and there was only one serving at our school. She was an elderly, holy lady. She went around school brightening up people’s day. Even on days when I was swamped with homework and tests, Sister always made me smile. She worked as a guidance counsleor, helping the new students adjust to high school, and guiding us. She really set me on a good track, and I thank her. Sadly, she’s not at our school any more.

I did learn a good deal of things from one of the brothers. He was a counselor too, and he helped me when I was struggling with depression, and not knowing what to do. He kinda turned me towords God, and that caused me to kind of have a turnaround last year. Brother helped me realize that God loves me, and if I depend on Him, He’ll take care of me.



Sisters of Mercy:

  • if you had a vocation and didn’t follow it, you would never be happy. :frowning:
  • if you were pregnant and the doctor said it was you or the baby, you were to give your life up for the baby. (can you imagine worldly reaction today?)
  • that you would look back on these days (high school) as some of the happiest of your life. (We laughed at them then, but they were right.):o

You always raised your hand to be called on, then stood up to speak.
With 50 little kids in a class, if sister left the room no one said anything - because GOD knew if you talked!

I think I miss them.


I went to Catholic school in the 70s and the shortest, meanest nun in the whole school taught me the most. I had her in the first & second grade-what I remember the most about Sr Helena is her little clicker thingy she used to use. We used to walk in single lines- one click go, 2 clicks stop. As a little kid I remember her being so mean during the day…but when she saw I was having trouble learning how to read she taught me alone after school and I saw a glimpse of her true heart. I will always remember that. When I was in 8th grade I was amazed at how tiny she was physically-she just about made it my shoulders.
She also taught me to have faith in God and I wish I could express how she would explain and prepare us for the The Stations of the Cross during lent. I remember the first time I went I was waiting to see Veronica wipe the face of Jesus & see the picture of Jesus on the cloth (I didn’t know it was only going to be a picture in a book):blush::shrug: I was so disappointed.
How to keep silent during Mass and she didn’t wait until Mass was over, all she had to do was walk up to the pew and look. To this day, when I go to Mass I can pretty much tell who went to Catholic school & who didn’t.
What an impression she made on my faith, although I didn’t realize it until I became an adult and I returned to my faith.

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