Sister Jeanne’s Legacy

Sister Jeanne Marie Vanderlinde was a cherished and vital member of the BSM community, and she has left an indelible mark on the school. Vanderlinde taught at BSM for 38 years, appearing in both theology and history classrooms alike. Years later, students, parents, and teachers alike have fond memories of her classes. “I would team teach with her in her seventh grade religion class…she would always have me do the things that she didn’t want to do. And I remember each year in December she would have all the seventh graders in her class make Christmas cards…I always remember taking them home and my house being filled with sprinkles, because [of] the glitter that some kids would use on their Christmas cards,” Mike Jeremiah said.

One of the qualities the BSM community most admired about Vanderlinde was her sense of humor. She was known to not take herself too seriously, and often joked with colleagues and students. “I just remember Sister Jeanne as just a happy, effervescent, joyful, funny person. I mean, she had a sense of humor, you would not believe. She was able to laugh at herself and able to laugh at life,” Jeremiah said.

I just remember Sister Jeanne as just a happy, effervescent, joyful, funny person. I mean, she had a sense of humor, you would not believe. She was able to laugh at herself and able to laugh at life

— Mike Jeremiah

Her colleagues felt that her sense of humor and openness was part of what made Vanderlinde so approachable. “She was equally well-known for her quick wit [as she was for her high standards] and she loved injecting humor into almost any situation. As a result, over the years, her students affectionately nicknamed her “Atilla the Nun,” “Mean Jeanne,” or the “Un-Nun” because she certainly didn’t [fit] the stereotype of a typical nun,” former BSM English teacher Tom Backen said in an email interview.

Vanderlinde’s friendliness was something that stuck with people. “She was really welcoming to anyone who was new here…I remember as a new teacher here that she very much took me under her wing…And she did that with anyone who was new, new to our department, and she really put forth a lot of small kindnesses that really aren’t very small,” history teacher and hockey coach Ken Pauly said.

Her approach to life also carried over into how she taught. “[In her religion classes] She drew kids into the faith, but not in a pushy way…[She gave kids] a lot of space to ask questions [about the Church] and I think her approach, to say it’s okay to question, and to say that she was a nun and she struggled with some of [those] things too- I just think that that leveled the playing field for [her students],” Junior High principal Rikki Mortl said.

Sister Jeanne celebrated her Jubilee in 2021.

Throughout the years, Vanderlinde wore many hats at BSM. She was an APUSH teacher, a theology teacher, and, of course, BSM’s resident nun. When she started in the mid 80s, the BSM community had a number of priests and religious brothers and sisters, including several Benedictine nuns. Vanderlinde was one of them. “We can never forget the foundation that we have because they gave [us] such a beautiful foundation. They modeled what it meant to be a servant of God. You know that they gave their lives to God. That’s what [Vanderlinde] did every single day,” Jeremiah said.

The Benedictine community was a source of joy for Vanderlinde, who loved spending time at the Benedictine monastery. “Equal to her passion for teaching was her faithful devotion to her vocation as a Benedictine nun. In October, 2021, she was happy to celebrate her Golden Jubilee, marking her 50 years as a professed sister. Sister Jeanne had a very deep faith and loved living in community with her fellow sisters. She also, over the years, led many, many prayer services at BSM for both faculty/staff and the entire student body, so gracefully and willingly sharing her deep faith,” Backen said.

Vanderlinde was an example of faith, and her impact has been immense. The BSM community remembers her as a passionate, strong-willed person who dedicated her life to God. “Through her life, right up until the end, she taught us all how to live with grace while facing a terminal illness. She truly was and is an inspiration to all who knew her, who had the privilege of being one of her students, or had the joy of having her as a colleague or friend,” Backen said.