A Calling to God

Behind the Scenes of the Sisterhood


Maria Smith

Padua is a Franciscan School and was built on Franciscan values

You join the convent, you see the world. You go where there’s a need and there are just so many needs

— Sister Sariego

Padua Academy was built on Franciscan values. Even though Padua does not have any sisters on the faculty anymore, there are many other local Catholic universities and high schools founded on Franciscan values, with sisters running the show. One of these institutions is Neumann University, located in Aston, PA. 

Sister Linda Marie Sariego is the department head of Neumann University’s Art and Humanities, as well as an Associate Professor in Spanish. Even as a young child, the Church played a pivotal role in Sariego’s life. “I grew up in an Italian neighborhood and Italian parish and as a family we always went to Church. The parish was like the center for us because we were involved in the social aspects as well as the religious, it was normal for us to be a part of the church,” she said.

Initially, Sariego didn’t think much about the sisterhood. It wasn’t until her teenage years when she really felt called to join this life. “When I went to high school, the whole idea of what I was going to do after high school kept looming in my head. I’ve always wanted to teach, and I liked our sisters [who taught at school], the Franciscans,” she said. “They were good teachers, the ones that I had, but also they were nice and friendly, there was something about them; they were strict, but that whole way of life appealed to me.”

After graduating high school, Sariego joined the Franciscan sisters. Upon joining the sisterhood, Sariego was given many opportunities to use her talents in various different places and with  different people. “You join the convent, you see the world. You go where there’s a need and there are just so many needs,” she said.

At first, she was sent to teach 1st and 2nd grade at a school in North Philadelphia. With a school population of 98% Puerto Ricans, Sariego ran bilingual classrooms. A few years later, she was sent to Puerto Rico, to work in a parish there. Sariego also translated in Mexico and El Salvador. She then went back to North Philadelphia to work at a parish, and then up to Brynn Mawr, Pennsylvania to teach.

“I really felt called back to work with the Hispanic community. That part grew in me, and it was a part that was very strong,” she said. 

After doing social work with the Hispanic people in Philadelphia, she began marriage prep and family life work with first language Spanish speakers. She attended Catholic University for graduate school and earned her doctorate in Spanish, then joined the family at Neumann University where she resides today.

For people who feel called to religious life, like the sisters, brothers, priests, or nuns, Sariego advises to follow God’s calling. “I think people shun away from it [the sisterhood], because we hear so much in the media, good and bad, and people get to be pegged into different slots You hear people say ‘Why would you do that?’ or ‘Why would you waste your life?’ And I would say you’ve got to kinda close your ears off to that and listen to what’s in your heart, because God speaks in our heart, and where we’re supposed to be, that’s where we will be,” Sariego said.

Even if people do not feel called to the sisterhood specifically, God is always calling them to something. “There is always some way you can use your talent for God’s kingdom,” Sariego said. “Sisters, priests, brothers, single people, married people- they’re all vocations. And sometimes you move in and out of them all through your life…God is never outdone in creativity or generosity.”


Maria Smith
Sariego currently resides at Neumann University, located just 20 minutes from Padua Academy.