How Franciscan Sister was Called to Be a Radiological Monitor Instructor

Paul Keggington

March 18, 2011

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Martina Van Ryzin shares one chapter of her book ‘Where Memories are Made’  regarding being a Manitowoc County Civil Defense radiological monitor instructor. The 100 page memoir recalls the past 86 years beginning with her years of formation in our Wisconsin Franciscan Community, study, teaching, administration and participation in local, state and national organizations.


What does radiological monitoring have to do with a mathematics teacher?  Actually, little or nothing! Then why am I writing about this experience in my teaching career?

Franciscan Sister Martina

Franciscan Sister Martina Van Ryzin shares one chapter in her book 'Where Memories are Made' regarding being a radiological monitor instructor.

It was the time of the Cuban Crisis in 1962.  The entire country was concerned about the possibility that we would become involved in another war. This time it could be a nuclear war.  Governments at every level had to prepare themselves in the event of such a possibility.  In addition to massive bomb damage, the additional wide-spread and long-term hazard from radioactive fallout became a major concern.


The Manitowoc County Civil Defense Office planned to take pro-active steps to safeguard its citizens against exposure to nuclear radiation.  The Civil Defense Director contacted Sister Theonella, the chemistry professor at Holy Family College, and asked her whether she would be willing to receive some training in measuring and evaluating radiation hazards.  State Officials of Civil Defense established courses in various geographical areas in order to educate and train such instructors, who would then be available to provide this training to key personnel at the local level in the event of a nuclear disaster.

Sister Theonella agreed to do this.  When the time came to attend one of these training sessions, she was reluctant to do this… Click here to read more of the story and see photos of Sister Martina.

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