Nicki Thomas, SNJM
I was born to Rosemary and Jerry Thomas. Both were associated with the University of California as professor and researcher, so I spent many hours on the UC campus the first few years of my life. I am the second of nine children. All nine of us attended School of the Madeleine in Berkeley, then all of my sisters and I attended Holy Names High School in Oakland. When I graduated, I attended Cal Berkeley until I entered the convent in 1966.
My first real mission was to St. Elizabeth’s in Altadena where I taught 3rd grade. From there, I was assigned to St. Anastasia in Los Angeles where I taught 6th grade for three years. During my time there, I attended Pepperdine University where I received an MA in education with an emphasis on administration. I also worked with several couples to help build the music program and youth ministry. There I taught guitar lessons. From there I went to St. Gerard Majella in Culver City. At the end of that year, I was re-assigned to St. Mary’s in Los Gatos where I taught 8th grade. Personal computers were just starting to be used and we were able to raise enough money to buy 10 Apple computers on which we taught the students basic programming. Because we were unique in Silicon Valley, we would go to various schools and demonstrate what could be done with personal computers.
After teaching for five years at St. Mary’s, I asked to go into youth ministry. I choose Santiago de Compostela Parish in El Toro, which was a new parish in a growing area. Parish masses were held in two school auditoriums. After two years, I was asked to take on a second role as Director of Religious Education. Since we didn’t have classroom space, all classes were in homes. There were so many students that a principal was named for each grade level. High school youth ministry meetings were held in the local Jewish temple until the church was finished. Young adults were the small group leaders, from which emerged an active group. A few of them also played for the Saturday 5:00 PM Mass, where I played the piano and then bass. We had many weekend retreats. There I learned how to make clay figures from Fimo and started selling them. This business has grown and now with the help of several senior Sisters, our figures are sold throughout California and mailed throughout the world.
After six years of apartment living, I was asked to return as principal to St. Mary’s in Los Gatos. I ended up serving in that capacity for 26 years until I left in 2015. During this time, I lived at our main California property with over 50 Sisters. I was sad when we sold our property to provide funds to support care of an increasing number of senior Sisters. I moved to our Villa where I lived with several other Sisters in various buildings on the property.
During my time as principal we were one of the first schools to initiate providing a laptop for every student in 6th through 8th grades. We purchased a building to house a library, computer lab and junior high. After a campaign that raised several million dollars, this building was razed and a new junior high building took its place. A new day care building was also added. Our vibrant school liturgies with wonderful music were one of my proudest accomplishments.
Our Villa is soon to be sold. Sadly, I will be relocating to a condo in Los Gatos, which fortunately is close enough to afford frequent visits to our Sisters in skilled and assisted living. I also enjoy my time working at our Villa at Santa Cruz and helping them raise funds.