Alumni Spotlight – Gloria Ferraro Donnelly, St. Maria Goretti Class of 1959

Sister Joseph and The Gift of the Fear of God


Gloria Ferraro Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, FCPP
Professor and Dean Emerita
College of Nursing and Health Professions
Drexel University

Graduate of the St. Maria Goretti Class of 1959


The student staff of the school newspaper, The Crown, filed into the room for the monthly meeting with Sister Joseph, moderator of the paper.  The chairs were arranged in a line and I sat in the farthest seat.  The meeting agendas were usually about issues, ideas for features or columns, deadlines, and format.  This meeting was different – Sister Joseph sternly stood and faced the line, “Today I will give each of you a review of your work to date so that we can all look for ways to improve ourselves and the newspaper.  Let us begin with Kathy.”  What followed was a barrage of negative feedback, delivered matter-of-factly, to each student staff member.  Kathy did not meet deadlines; Mary’s layouts were not compelling; Pat’s grammar and syntax did not measure up – and so on.  Everyone sitting in the line got feedback and ways they could improve.  “What could Sister Joseph possibly say to me?” I speculated to myself.  “I write the columns that Sister approves and meet my deadlines – guess I am home free.”


And then it was my turn.  Sister moved to within 3 feet of my chair and looked down at me, “And you, Ms. Ferraro, you are the biggest offender of all.”  I was stunned and could feel my eyes widen and my throat tighten as I stared up at Sister.  “God gave you gifts – imagination and writing ability – and those are God’s gifts to you, Ms. Ferraro.  Thus far, you have not applied your gifts to the fullest and when you finally meet God, he will ask for an account of how you used your gifts?  Will you be ready with a good accounting?”  And, with that Sister turned dramatically and left the room.


That meeting took place more than 50 years ago and I have never stopped “using my gift,” publishing 5 books, writing a dissertation and earning a Ph.D., serving as editor of 2 nursing journals since 1979, contributing editorials and chapters to textbooks, blogging and most recently signing a book contract with Oxford University Press and thinking of Sister Joseph as I signed my name.  Between us, I am afraid to stop – there may not be enough in my account yet.  So, I will keep at it thanks to Sister Joseph who challenged me to use “God’s gift.”


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