From my early years, even before beginning school at Saint Philip Neri School, I dreamed of being a teacher; the steps at home became the grades for my little friends, including some of my nine siblings. When I told the students in “my class” that they passed they proceeded to move to the next step. Although I walked home from school the first day because I was “bored” and told the little girl next to me to tell the teacher if she asked, that dream became enhanced over the years and enriched with the deep desire to become like my teachers in every way. Inspired by them to follow Christ, I began attending daily 6:30 a.m. Mass with my Dad. In the fourth grade I was introduced to our missions in Ensley, AL, learned about the needy people in China and started “saving babies” through the Propagation of the Faith. This commitment continued during my first years of teaching at St. Patrick School in Covington, KY. We adopted so many babies I was awarded a Perpetual Membership.
However they did not realize that in early February of that year during our Retreat I met with the Retreat Master and told him I thought I might have a vocation but I thought I should go to college first. He questioned me about my social life and concluded with, “You had better go now or you will not get there”. My decision was made at that moment and I have never regretted it. When I shared the news with my Mother she was thrilled but dared not show it. She made me promise I would come home if I were not happy. I then told Dad. When I told my best friend that I had some special news, she grabbed my hand and said, “You got a ring!” Those were the only three people with whom I shared my story until summer.
After the Novitiate I taught elementary grades for ten years, attending college every Saturday and in the summer to complete my bachelor’s degree. By the time I graduated I had accumulated over 160 credit hours instead of the usual 127 hours, some of the extra hours chosen because I simply enjoyed the content. My major was mathematics with minors in English and Philosophy. Later I completed studies in physics, a master’s in mathematics, a Specialist degree and a Doctorate in Education Leadership. I truly loved learning and sharing that knowledge with my students at St. Mary’s High School in Paducah, KY, St. Vincent High School in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and serving as high school principal at Dennison St. Mary’s, OH, and La Salette Academy, Covington. It was interesting to have some of the young women from St. Patrick’s families as students in high school when I returned to Covington 19 years later. Sister Barbara Von Bokern was a second grade student in my first class. My optometrist, Dr. Susan Berberich, was a freshman when I became principal at La Salette. I have great memories of my students. Over the years I have taught every grade, one through the doctoral program. When asked which I like best I can only answer, “Whatever I am teaching at the time.”
My last twenty-six wonderful years in an education center were spent at Spalding University; the first eight as director of the school administration program, the last 18 years as Dean of the School of Education. I was so pleased to be in Louisville near my family and was able to be there when my Mother, Father, two sisters and two brothers died. My Dad was a very generous but humble man. When Spalding was having financial problems in the early sixties, Dad donated a car for them to raffle. He helped many charities in his quiet way. My Mother has always been my greatest inspiration; I treasure the many gifts she shared with me and feel her presence with me still. I always knew I was special because she named me Mary.
I had the joy of living with Sister Eileen Egan, President of Spalding University, for 23 happy years. My family welcomed her into the family and loved it when she joined them. Her unexpected death resulted from an automobile accident when she died instantly. Her memory is with me and the family still and I treasure the gift she was to me and to all who knew her.
Since my retirement from Spalding University at the end of June, 2000 I have been involved in several activities: I am a Consultant for the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education, helping colleges prepare for initial national certification by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and have worked with the University of Portland, OR, St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY, Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis and I am currently a consultant for Georgetown College in KY. For several years I continued to be on the Board of Examiners for NCATE, have been trained as a Mid-Life/Long-Life Directions Workshop Consultant and have given numerous workshops. Service on Boards include NLBI (Nazareth Literary and Benevolent Institute) 1999-2003, Bethany Spring Board of Directors, and St. Leonard School Board; at St. Leonard Church I am a lector, minister of the Eucharist at church and to the homebound, minister to the Mt Holly Nursing Home, a regular visitor to Nazareth Home, a member of the SCN Committee for Corporate Responsibility, and a member of the SCN Mission Cooperative Team..
An important part of my “retirement” includes my special morning activities: I value my quiet time with candles burning while I spend 45 min. exercises, 2.4mi walking, Meditation, spiritual reading, Liturgy. Other activities include time with the LEOS, our “over 50” group at church, with cards, meals, and service activities; and movies, travel, and our special faith Group gatherings. During my Sabbatical year I was totally refreshed in the spirit and had the wonderful experience of finding creative elements emerging in my life. I look forward to my “next steps” with anticipation, gratitude, pride in the SCN Community, and trust in God’s Providence for the future.
Choosing to be a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth proved to be the most valued decision of my life. Over these nearly sixty years it has enabled me to experience the mystery, the wonder, the awe, and the unconditional love of God grow and deepen in my life. During these years I have had numerous opportunities to touch and be touched by precious people and to see God’s abiding presence in each one of them. My life has likewise been enriched with an excellent education, opportunities for spiritual growth and many mission experiences. Living in community with so many magnificent women who have been role models of charity has inspired me with an even deeper love and gratitude for the gift of total commitment to follow Christ.