Professor of History F. Edward Cranz, PhD

Connecticut College, internationally recognized scholar of Nicholas of Cusa

My main recollection of Frances Nevins is that she was the most brilliant student I encountered in a lifetime of teaching at Connecticut College. She was full of goodness, and by the time she had graduated, she had achieved a remarkable concentration of the self in things intellectual… Early in her time at Connecticut College, I recognized the nice CC girl, though of course, much smarter than most, but my memory is that it was only in her Junior year that she began to come to my office to discuss what she was studying. The turning point was her decision to do an honors study… She gave up the pleasant trivialities of her early college life, and she turned to an almost undivided concentration and allegiance to things intellectual, notably as she saw them in Augustine and Nicholas of Cusa. But this new allegiance was in no way an abandonment of the self or submission to what is beyond or other; indeed, it was in some way an assertion of the self, though now at a higher level …

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Sr. Paul, Carmelite Novice

Sr. Christine was one, who above all, had a deep love and devotion to the subject she taught. (The role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our Carmelite life). She was simple and straightforward in her approach and was always open to questions, discussions or reflections on our part. Her classes were built on a solid foundation, i.e. Holy Scripture, the teachings of the Church, the Pope, and our Rule, Constitutions and Declarations. Her classes always reflected her deeper prayer life and her earnest desire to impart to us a greater awareness of the important influence of Our Lady in our way of life. She was a teacher who strove to live what she taught.

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Charles Reardon, Jesuit Theologian

Confessor and spiritual director who knew Sr. Christine for 25 years.

Reflecting on the [funeral] services I could not help but be amazed at the number of people Sister drew together in her last hours. There were the relatives, Paul, the various nuns she had met in her wanderings, you, myself, Anna —so many who had met her during life, and had drawn some abiding relationship. She had kept them alive by her beautiful letters. They were like small masterpieces which she composed so perfectly. (in that cold atmosphere; her hands must have been chilled as she wrote). We always used to laugh at the funny little guy she would draw between the lines. With his curved mouth he was a good sign of her own spirit — always cheerful. In my visits at the grille we never covered all the planned topics; but I always left her with a cheerful note. Seeing the inside of the chilly monastery, I thought that she must have found her warmth from the Spirit. Nothing else could have given it to her. Again, I used to be amazed at the wisdom she could advance about the world’s affairs. No matter what topics I brought up (Church, priests, vocations, the Pope) she had very wise observations. The Church and its interests were very dear to her; and avidly she read what the Pope had said and did. John Paul I had a special spot for her; I think his simplicity appealed to her. After his death she often had intercessions to him; and always received an answer.

Some days, I can’t realize that she will not be at the convent, were I to visit there later. As Lorraine (Stewart) remarked, it is hard to be convinced that she is no longer in our midst. When I visit my cousins at Schenectady, I plan to visit the chapel and feel her presence there. She will always be there in body and spirit; there she found what she had always sought, time with God.

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Sr. Therese, Carmelite Novice

Since you asked for a few impressions of our classes with Sister Christine for Joan, I’ll try to do my best. It is a little hard because my love for my dear “big” sister and my impressions of her as a person are so deep in my heart. Well, simply here are my impressions.

I found Sister Christine to be a fantastic teacher. She was more guide than teacher though. Our classes with her were very simple and informal. She mainly shared with us her own personal reflections on a particular topic she wished to tell us about. Her class was not a "rap session” and her sharing didn’t take away from the fact that she had a very definite point to make and an end in view.

She was kind of like someone who takes friends on a treasure hunt, she herself knowing all the while where the treasure is. Instead of dumping the treasure in our lap, so to speak, she gave us hints and clues as to where the treasure was hidden. To her it meant more if we discovered the treasure for ourselves. So we kind of worked as a team with her as coach.

She had a great love and enthusiasm for the topics she shared with us. She would take a topic and have us look at it together from different angles and different aspects of it. She would make a reflection or a comment and ask, “What do you think?” or “How does it strike you?” or “What do you see?” and we’d share our thoughts. If one of our thoughts were kind of fuzzy or not in line with sound theology, in her great kindness and delicacy, she had a way of inviting us to look again and her own thought on the subject would make it clearer. We never felt “turned off” when she pointed out fuzzy thinking or a mistake.

To our surprise and hers too, our topic would so develop that before we knew it her point was made and we stumbled on the treasure together. It was all so simple like close friends speaking together about what they love most. One could easily see in her classes the fruit of her own prayer and deep reflection. She gave something to us that no text book could give (though she used books a lot to make a point or enhance something) she gave herself. In some of the classes, I’d say she gave of her deepest self, her very soul. I learned a great deal from Sr. Christine, perhaps more from her wonderfull example than from words. I am forever grateful to God for this soul.

frances nevins testimonials

© 2016 Joan Ward Mullaney