COACHELLA - “The people love her; they really do.”
This simple phrase is found in one of the nomination letters that contributed to Coachella resident Sister Carol Nolan, a Sister of Providence (SP) of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, and 1954 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), receiving one of the College’s most prestigious alumni awards, the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Award.
Sr. Carol received the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Award for possessing similar purpose, devotion, community vitality and leadership as exhibited by the College’s foundress.
“I am honored. I can hardly believe it,” Sr. Carol said. “Words can hardly express what the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College mean to me and to my family. This relationship has just been irreplaceable in my life.”
Sr. Carol’s history with the Sisters of Providence even precedes her birth. The community of sisters came to her hometown of Galesburg, Illinois in 1878. Her grandfather was one of the first students taught by the Sisters of Providence and her great aunt became a Sister of Providence. Following in their great aunt’s footsteps, all three Nolan sisters (Carol, Nancy and Lucy) became Sisters of Providence.
In the fall of 1969, Sister Carol joined the faculty at SMWC to teach music. For 29 years, she instilled in her students a love for learning, music and the College. During her last 10 years at the College, she also taught basic German. Upon her retirement in 1998, she moved to Taiwan where she taught English for three years and studied Spanish.
When she became aware of the plight of Spanish-speaking immigrants in southeastern California, not far from the Mexican border, she recognized that this was a place where she could bring the hope of God’s love and mercy to people who were extremely poor, isolated and oppressed. In 2002, she founded Providence in the Desert to bring English as a Second Language classes to the Mexican immigrants working in the fields and produce packing centers of California’s Coachella Valley. A division of Guerin Outreach Ministries, the ministry works to teach English as a new language to adults in private homes, regional schools and community centers. Sr. Carol also shares her love of music by offering music classes to children.
Although she is past retirement age, she enthusiastically serves as Providence in the Desert’s director and provides resources to help people live better lives by meeting their basic needs. Sr. Carol advocates for better housing, finds resources for survivors of domestic abuse, mourns with the community at funerals and celebrates with them at weddings. She leads the enterprise by recruiting and supervising teachers, working to attract donors, and writing grants – all with that same vision and love along with faith, perseverance, persuasiveness and zeal.
The Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Award is named for SMWC’s foundress, a role model for today’s women. It is in her honor, and in recognition of the value-based educational legacy she established at SMWC, that the National Alumni Association offers the award. Recipients of this award use their gifts to excel at what they do and thus reflect God’s love and abundant grace in the world. In addition, recipients possess similar purpose, devotion, community vitality and leadership as exhibited by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.
Providence in the Desert exists to manifest God’s loving presence among some of the most isolated residents of the eastern Coachella Valley and to contribute to their development through addressing some of their own perceived needs. To learn more, visit us online, send an email to Sister Carol, or call (760) 347-3937.