"He realized that one of the best ways to really nurture their faith in the lives of these children is through the consecrated life, through having sisters present in the schools, the value of the witness of a religious - their life totally dedicated to God, their gift of self-sacrifice, being a spiritual mother to every single student in the school," she added.
For herself, Sr. Mary Cecilia said she knew from a young age she wanted to teach.
"I have a brother who's a priest - he often talks about how I used to play school so everything he knows about teaching came from me when he was little," she joked.
In college in the early 1990s, she studied high school math education and dreamed of teaching calculus and algebra to older students. But that's also when she met the Christ the King Sisters, who only teach at the elementary level.
"I realized oh they're joyful, they're young, vibrant, I like that," Sr. Mary Cecilia said.
Even though she was drawn to religious life as a CK Sister, she was still hesitant about teaching at the younger level - "that was something that I had to take to the Lord," she said.
Ultimately, though, the spirit of the CK Sisters, their depth of prayer, their warmth, and their dedication to education were what drew Sr. Mary Cecilia to them.
"We are extending the kingdom of God in Catholic schools, and Catholic schools are so important to me primarily because of my own education in Catholic schools," she said.
Sr. Mary Agnes belongs to another religious order, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wichita, Kansas, that is also primarily dedicated to the education and formation of young people.
A veteran teacher of 10 years, Sr. Mary Agnes said she believes that religious sisters bring something unique to the classroom that other teachers cannot, even though at a basic level, they perform the same functions.
"Our vocation is to be a more radical, vivid sign of the presence of Christ in the world, and then hopefully through that witness draw people to an encounter with Christ," she told CNA.
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"We do really similar things that other people do who are not sisters," she said. "So (the value of) religious life is not about doing, it's about witness and the being of the person. Our vocation is to be a more radical, vivid sign of the presence of Christ in the world, and then hopefully through that witness draw people to an encounter with Christ."
Perhaps some of the most well-recognized teaching sisters in the Catholic Church in the U.S. today are the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia based in Nashville, Tennessee and the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Both orders, primarily dedicated to education, have sisters teaching on Catholic campuses throughout the country.
"We belong to the Dominican Order and our charism is preaching and teaching.
Women religious have been an integral part of the history of Catholic education in the United States," Sr. John Dominic with the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist told CNA.
"As Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, we seek to continue the tradition of educating generations of young people in their faith and most of all, to bring youth into a deeper relationship with Christ," she said.
Despite the general decline in religious life that has been happening over the past few decades, both Dominican orders have seen a boom in young vocations in recent years. The Dominican Sisters of Mary is du to open a new Religious House (large convent) in Austin, Texas later this year in order to accommodate all of the young women discerning religious life in their order.