I feel blessed by all that has come into my life because I joined the School Sisters of St. Francis. I always knew that I was called to be a teacher, and attending Ryan High School with such wonderful School Sister teachers helped me to see that I could also be part of something larger than myself. The sisters helped me, and my classmates, to see a larger vision. They pushed us to do more than we thought we could, and modeled a very happy religious life.
As a young sister, I found the joy in saying “yes” to what I was asked to do. Going on mission in the last semester of senior year, I taught three of the four years of English at St. Joseph High School in Earling, Iowa, and said “yes” to teaching Latin II, when I had had only Latin III at Ryan. When that school closed, I was sent to Creighton St. Ludger’s to teach English, reading, and art in grades 5-8. I said “yes” even though I had had only three credits of art at Alverno. Pope John XXIII High School was a joy, but again I was called to stretch as “acting principal” for two years while we searched for a “real” principal.
After these years of teaching in the Western Province, I was called to teach at Alverno College. Again, many opportunities to say “yes” ensued, along with a great deal of mutual support from the sisters at the college. I started in the English department and worked with Sister Georgine to develop a communication major that did not begin with Aristotle, but with the needs of the students preparing for jobs in business or nursing who needed to develop strong skills and good judgment. The new major developed into a program in Alverno’ s Weekend College.
In time, I went to get a doctorate in communication. While studying, I realized that saying “yes” meant learning a new paradigm in the behavioral sciences. Imagine my surprise when the professor and my fellow students defined learning as a conditioned response. I had always thought of learning as constructing meaning. And that became a “yes” to develop nondual thinking.
The year after I returned to Alverno, it was apparent that the need for teachers was increasing. I said “yes” to developing a new teacher education program, following the ability-based design of learning and assessment at Alverno. Having always identified myself as a teacher helped me make the adjustment to this third professional field.
Very soon, I was becoming active in teacher education, sharing what we were learning at the college with colleagues. I was invited to work with teacher educators and with K-12 schools and elected or appointed to several national boards. That work continued for 30 years and many opportunities to say “yes.” I was able to help people see education in a fresh way that put learners first.
I knew that what I was doing was connected to the greater good when students thanked me for calling forth more than they had expected for themselves. So many were afraid of public speaking or leading groups of adults. I would accept their saying “I cannot do that” by asking them to put a “yet” at the end of the sentence. Then we would talk about how to get to the “yet.”
Another “yes” came in my 38th year at Alverno when I agreed to be nominated for international leadership in the congregation. I treasure the sisters on two teams for our working together to serve the needs of the congregation. Especially meaningful to me were our praying together, learning each other’s cultural perspectives, and connecting with the sisters across our provinces.
And now, in retirement, my “yes” is taking me to the congregation’s Archives, where I enjoy creating a database of the sisters’ writings, which again are expanding my understanding of the gifts given to our congregation over the years.
For all that has been, thanks! For all that will be, yes! (Dag Hammarskjöld)
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