As I look back on my life during this Jubilee year, I feel my happiest time has been my 50 years teaching at Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School in Elgin, Nebraska. This is a rural area, and those of you who know rural areas know a job title never tells the whole story.
While teaching math in Grades 8-12 – along with biology and computer programming in the past – I have grown to know the people. I know their children. I have accompanied these families through celebrations, trials, deaths, anniversaries, births, and weddings. Among former students are priests, a deacon, consecrated religious, and a seminarian. We look upon all as one large family.
At the end of this school year, I plan to retire from teaching, having served in this ministry for 68 years. This is an active parish and I have taken part in the RENEW program and helped with RCIA. Serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, I have had the privilege of taking Holy Communion to the homebound on a regular basis.
I have been very comfortable working at Pope John. It’s in a rural area, and I am a rural person to the core. We know how important it is to take care of the earth. As the Student Council sponsor, I have worked with the students to collect papers and aluminum cans for recycling. We all know how important water is. Before classes we often pray for favorable weather, sufficient moisture for the crops, and for responsible use of water. During Lent, we choose a charity and donate monies for poor and needy children where our School Sisters of St. Francis are ministering. This year, the students chose to help the needy in Honduras with their donations.
I like the silence and the connection with nature that a rural area provides. I appreciate silent retreats. In June, I will attend one at the Benedictine Retreat Center in Schuyler, Nebraska. It is a quiet, peaceful place in the country, conducive to prayer and reflection.
Why did I become School Sister of St. Francis? I went to a country school until it was time to prepare for my First Communion. For one semester, as a third grader, my sister and I boarded during the week with the sisters who were at St. Mary’s School in Osmond. Another young girl was also with us. I remember how kind the sisters were to us, and I knew that one day I wanted to live like they did.
I also had two aunts in our community. We always loved it when they would come for home visits. They didn’t happen very often, so they were special times for us. Along with wanting to become a religious, I loved school and often “played school” with my brothers and sisters. Becoming a religious and a teacher seemed to be a perfect fit.
Today I appreciate that we have School Sisters of St. Francis working with laity in a way we had never done before. Some people worry that I live alone, but I never feel alone. I have many contacts and I am in a continually active Area Community. Sister Bernadette Englehaupt comes to visit on a regular basis. I feel School Sisters of St. Francis really care for each other. I have been so blessed over these 70 years in community, and thank God daily.
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