A Vocation Story about Sister Debra Sciano, SSND
School Sisters of Notre Dame

Unity in Diversity

“Unity in diversity” is what drew Sister Debra Sciano to the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and “unity in diversity” is what continues to motivate her in her ministry as a lawyer whose practice focuses on family mediation.

Sister Debra’s ministry was very different from a typical School Sister of Notre Dame at the time when she entered the congregation. Most SSNDs were teachers. But over time, she has learned that education is much broader than just teaching in a classroom.

“What drew me - not only the sisters I met - was the whole idea of bringing people together, that ‘unity in diversity,’” Sister Debra said. “I really like that idea because I wanted to go into law. I believed I would fit into the community because of wanting to work toward justice and peace. I thought that was a strong value of the congregation. And I also loved the fact that it was international. I thought that someday I might like to go to another country and do work into that area.

“No matter what our ministry is, we are educators, and that’s evolved too over the years. It’s not just giving people knowledge but helping them to be their best selves and helping them to be transformed and helping to transform that world. That really has been a remarkable piece of this for me, and it’s helped me to grow in that way of living out this life.”

Embracing dialogue as a way of life

Inherent to Sister Debra’s mediation work is the importance of listening, sharing, respect and a way of being present that is grounded in reflection. Her spirituality is vital for working through difficult situations. School Sisters of Notre Dame have long demonstrated and facilitated healthy dialogue from the most basic one-to-one and family levels to the larger community, organizational and even national levels – a commitment that is rooted in the SSND mission to direct “our entire lives toward that oneness for which Jesus Christ was sent.”

It is the absence of dialogue – a breakdown in communication – that often is at the root of the reason why families seek her services, said, Sister Debra, whose practice is in Milwaukee. The focus on dialogue reflects "Love Cannot Wait," the SSND Directional Statement, and is even more relevant as it directs SSNDs around the world to "embrace dialogue as a way of life that leads to new discoveries about ourselves and others and to conversion, reconciliation and healing.”

“The whole divisiveness in our world today is in every area,” Sister Debra said. “Everything is this side versus that side. So how do you come to the middle without having a dialogue and bringing people together? That is why I got into this.”

Understanding from living in community

As an SSND, Sister Debra said, she has always appreciated the relationships that are nurtured and deepened by living in community with other sisters who support one another. Over the years, she has come to learn what living in community means. It’s not just living together in the same household. It’s really developing relationships and living in community, whether it is a work situation, within a family or in a neighborhood. It is the opportunity to look at issues and process them in a unique way. It is developing prayer life together.

“Our congregation has been around for more than 182 years,” Sister Debra said. “We have had to adapt and change to meet the needs of the times. We have a purpose here today to help bring people together, and one of the main ways is dialogue, building relationships, seeing the value and richness in each person and appreciating the diversity. It goes back to our mission. That is what it is about – how to direct our lives to the oneness for which Jesus Christ as sent.”