Obedience or listening to the wisdom of elders is something that we all either learn or else suffer the consequences. Five-year old Beth Schmitz was told not to eat green apples, but everyone else was doing it without a problem. Like a proverbial little Eve, Beth bit into one anyway and became extremely ill. She did not have to be warned about such temptations again. In fact, as a diligent student she always listened to her Sinsinawa Dominican instructors.
During her college years, Sister Beth worked in the evening at a medical center in Cuba City, Wisconsin. It provided experience at a switchboard and, more importantly, it was a link to emergencies that were not infrequent and required sensitivity and skill. It might require getting a nurse or connecting to the blood center in Madison so that the police could get it for someone in need. A woman in labor would require coordinated calls for assistance.
Regardless of the time, Beth stayed at her post when such dilemmas emerged. When dealing with overworked doctors, crying babies, and suffering people, it required one to be patient and empathetic. Her responsibilities also included typing up lab or X-ray reports. When things were more subdued, she was able to work on her college assignments.
Beth was also in high demand for taking care of children and she had been doing so since seventh grade. Sometimes she received a call at 11:00 p.m. because the parents had an emergency. Sister Beth responded and sometimes had to deal with children who did not sleep, yet she also had to be up early for classes at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville. From the children she also learned how painful it is to “put the dog down” or even be a foster child.
Because of these experiences, it is understandable why Sister Beth’s Strengths Finder indicates empathy as her first characteristic. Teaching the early grades seemed to be the right fit for Sister Beth since she knew that not everyone is ready to read at the same time. She once taught a child that some teachers diagnosed as autistic. Beth could see that he was gifted musically and she tried to instill confidence in him. It was a joyful moment when this same young boy became a lector in church, a leader among his peers, and an athlete. The parents of this young boy were grateful for Sister Beth’s encouragement.
Beth’s first teaching position as a lay teacher was at Cassville, Wisconsin, where Sister Gertrude Quella was principal. It was an enjoyable place with fun times and social networking with other lay teachers. There was also the opportunity to meet School Sisters of St. Francis over the next seven years. She had an application for the Dominicans of Sinsinawa, but it remained in her bottom dresser drawer.
After a decision to enter the School Sisters of St. Francis, Beth moved to St. Mary’s in Burlington, Wisconsin, as an affiliate and had Sister Joselda Kuhle as her principal. During Bath’s early formation, Sister Mary Therese Brunner was the director. The pastoral assignment at Maryhill, despite some challenges, was an excellent way to get to know the congregation. After vows, Sister went on to minister at five different schools. She has been at Christ King School in Wauwatosa for 17 years.
Over the years, Sister Beth has seen what economically challenged children experience and has tried to help them. She also tries to make privileged children aware of their responsibilities. Instilling an appreciation of cultural diversity has been a priority. The Indian sisters, a Scottish group with bag pipes, and a Latin group have been invited to visit her classrooms. To help her second graders develop a sense of prayerfulness and global sensitivity, she had them witness the Marian consecration of the Ukraine and Russia. The children also watched Pope Francis participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (It also surprised the children to hear that St. Damien of Molokai, because of his leprosy, had to row out on the water to shout his confession to a waiting priest.)
Over the years it has been obvious that Sister Beth is a positive person who rejoices in the growth of others, especially those around her. We have been the beneficiaries of such sensitivity and kindness.
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