What's the formal form in addressing a principal of a school who is a Catholic sister?

I want to write a formal letter to the principal of a school, and she is a Catholic sister. It’s a Catholic school.
Do we say Dear rev. sister, or Rev. Sister, or dear sister, or rev sister principal, or any other phrase? I prefer British English as that’s what we are using in the country at least in formal writing.
Any help is greatly appreciated.
Thanks everyone.

Like you, I’ve no expertise in this.

I presume you’re writing to her, primarily in her role as principal of the school, rather than anything of a more religious nature. In which case, I think “Dear Principal” would be fine.

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I think that this is something nobody is talking about because it’s very seldom such correspondence takes place. Here it will need a bit more, as people are concerned about such etiquette especially the Christian priests.
Trinity College and St Thomas’ College go with “warden” and St. Peter’s College uses “rector.” The former two are Anglican while the third is Catholic. All are boys’ schools. Dear Fr Rector. Trinity accepts Dear Father or Dear Principal, as you rightly suggested.
I have no idea what to use for the girls’schools. Maybe Dear principal or something…

Could you ring the school and simply ask how the principal prefers to be addressed in letters?


I can’t speak to the British aspect of this question. But as an American who attended Catholic high school, nuns were always addressed as “sister,” whether the students\their families were Catholic or not. I don’t recall any additional title for the principal, dean, etc. That said, I’m sure any of the options you suggest would be fine and not likely to cause offense. As @Harters suggests, you could call the school to clarify, but I suspect any term of respect you choose would be read in the spirit intended.


Thanks @Harters and @gaffk the best is to call them.
Just a few minutes ago someone said that they use Rev Sr Principal. I’ll call them tomorrow.


When I first started working at a Catholic college, I got an email from Sr. Patricia and thought Senor was kind of a weird honorific for someone named Patricia.



Heh. I went to public school until high school. The first month of freshman year was like basic training trying to remember to add “sister” to every response. (Fortunately I never slipped and used “sir.”)


Ordained clergy: Mother Superior, Sister, Father, Reverend, Brother, Your Holiness? Ask the office manager!

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I remember a long time ago a priest joined the staff where I was working. He was wearing a robe but not the black belt, it was a brown cord. Staff members called him “father” at which he was furious “brother. I’m not a father” because no matter how many times he explained people repeatedly called him father, at least 5 out of 10 times. :rofl:
“Brother” is not a common word here, but father is. Hence the mistake. But a few of us would wait in the staff room just to see someone gets blasted for the wrong word. Lol.

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There’s actually a real distinction between “father” (a priest) and “brother” (usually a member of a teaching institution not trained to administer sacraments, etc).

After high school, I went to a university associated with the Christian Brothers. Among the “big five” universities in Philadelphia, there is Christian Brothers, Jesuits (priests) and Augustinians (also priests) not to mention various smaller schools run by an assortment of other Catholic Religious Orders.

As you can tell, Philadelphia education has many deep roots in the Catholic church. (Since initially they were not welcomed with open arms at the existing educational institutions.)