Sister Carolyn Madden

Sister Carolyn Madden

Sister Carolyn in Arts and Education Office at North Country Community College

Image courtesy of Sister Carolyn Madden

          Rita Irene Madden grew up in Saranac Lake, in a happy home with four siblings. The Madden family was Catholic, communicants at St. Bernard’s church, and Rita attended parochial school through eighth grade. She became a Sister of Mercy immediately after graduating high school at age 16. Sister Carolyn, as she was named when she entered the novitiate, found her calling in education. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Fordham University and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from SUNY Plattsburgh.

          She had several teaching positions in Catholic schools, some in or near New York City. Then, after twenty-seven years away, she moved back to Saranac Lake and taught at St. Bernard’s School. Later, she worked at St. Agnes School in Lake Placid and became principal there. 

Sister Carolyn Madden

Sister Carolyn with Clown Workshop, NCCC (1987)

Image courtesy of Sister Carolyn Madden

          When Carolyn Hopkins put to her the idea of creating a position at the Lake Placid Center for Music, Drama and Art (CMDA) which would bring arts programs to children in schools and their communities, Sister Carolyn took a leap of faith and went to work at CMDA. Her office was closet-sized and her salary even smaller. She had no secretary, no receptionist, no one to help with printing posters or press releases. Still, she enjoyed the challenge and drew satisfaction from seeing the eyes of students light up as their imaginations were ignited by the arts.

          After seven years, funding was cut and the organization eliminated Sister Carolyn’s position. David Petty, the president at North Country Community College, spoke to Sister Carolyn about working at the college as their Arts in Education director. From this base Sister Carolyn was able to contact many more schools and artists, and set up weeks of residencies and an annual artist’s showcase. She worked with musicians, storytellers, visual artists, crafters, authors, puppeteers, mimes, theatre companies and dance companies. She brought programs to schools in eleven counties and more than fifty school districts. 

Eight years after the end of her work at NCCC, Sister Carolyn still contributes to her family, church and community. She continues to focus on helping others, working with High Peaks Hospice and Uihlein Mercy Center. She lives in the same small family home in Saranac Lake where she was born and raised and is happy putting her faith into action to benefit others.

Sister Carolyn Madden