Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Earning Their Wings: Notre Dame Travel Takes Off

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Earning Their Wings: Notre Dame Travel Takes Off

Article excerpt

"Because you won't get your wings in this lifetime. Thank God for Notre Dame Travel."

- from a company brochure More than a few Roman Catholic high schools, hospitals, convents, parishes, religious organizations - even a car dealership, construction firm and brewery - are flocking to Notre Dame Travel Agency.

The agency is in the massive brick motherhouse of the St. Louis province for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, at 336 East Ripa in South St. Louis.

Its rates are competitive, and high-volume users receive 20 to 35 percent rebates on agency commissions, which benefit the ministries of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), an international women's religious community.

With 200 sisters in its St. Louis province and 715 sisters operating in the United States, SSND claims 5,600 sisters serving in 30 countries worldwide.

Locally, SSND also runs Notre Dame High School on Ripa.

Notre Dame Travel has grown exponentially in less than 18 months - recently reaching the $1 million revenue mark - with 75 percent of its travel bookings going to Catholic organizations.

With Sister Elizabeth Lakin at the helm as president, the agency employs three full-time travel agents.

"They're not sisters," said Sister Elizabeth, referring to the professional travel agents she hand-selected. "I needed people with experience in the travel industry - although people do call in, thinking that it must be all sisters who work here. Sometimes they call and ask for Sister Brian."

Agent Brian Hensley overhears the comment while talking on the phone, and smiles. Except for the austere surroundings of the motherhouse complex , a customer visiting the agency might never suspect it is operated by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. On a typical business day, Sister Elizabeth eschews a traditional habit, opting instead for a comfortable blue pantsuit and dangle earrings.

"This work requires a lot of attention to detail, and we take care of our customers," Sister Elizabeth said.

For customers who purchased a bargain cruise to the Caribbean, she obtained bigger rooms with an ocean view. …

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