Memories of the Sister-Teachers
The year following their 1851 arrival in Toronto saw the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto start to respond to the need for Catholic education as well as the need for healthcare. Over the years, they established schools and taught in towns and cities in Ontario as well as in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The last Sister-teacher at the high school level left the classroom in 1999, and many of the Sisters now focus on responding to social needs in Toronto and further afield, but many Sisters still remember their teaching days...
Sister Dorothy Schweitzer
"Once I realized that I didn't have to know all the answers, I began to relax and enjoy the interaction in the classroom.... I think the best times for me were when I could draw creativity and enthusiasm from my students; there was great satisfaction in helping instill confidence as well as knowledge." She noted, "As a Sister of St. Joseph teaching in a Catholic high school, I could freely share my faith and my values."
Sister Bernadette Robinson
"As a Sister of St. Joseph I saw myself as following in the footsteps of the Sisters before me." Asked for a memory, she responded: "I loved to sing... One day when I was carried away with the joy of a song I was teaching, a boy in grade one put up his hand and said, 'Sister, you should be on TV.' Now that's affirmation!"
Sister Penny McDonald
"What I brought to my years of teaching was my earnest desire and the enthusiasm of youth. I thought I would teach forever!" She continues, "Being with students and colleagues was very rewarding, and in each of our schools I saw myself as part of a great tradition, a special place where our Sisters had gone before."
Sister Mary Macoretta
"Teaching as a Sister of St. Joseph was not a matter of earning a living but the challenge of leading children to truth and to the love of God. Throughout Ontario as well as Northern British Columbia, I was able to dedicate my life, through teaching, to the service of the dear neighbour."
Sister Monica Downey
"To your first question, 'What did you bring to your teaching?' I reply: 'I brought a state of fear and trembling.' But twenty-five years later I had taught all grades from one to eight and prepared about 250 children for First Communion." Despite this and her love for teaching mathematics, it is for her Home Economics classes that Sister is best remembered.
Sister Marie Allen
"Teaching is a wonderful, life-giving profession where I could use my gifts of organization, love of learning, ability to communicate and desire to help others. As a Sister of St. Joseph there was an added spiritual dimension and the support of a tradition and a body of experienced teachers. This ministry gave me an opportunity to serve others — students, teachers and parents... Not long ago I received a letter from a student I hadn't heard from in fifty years. He and his wife, another of my students, have recently retired and, looking back, wanted to thank me for the real influence they believed I had been. What a kind gesture on their part. It made my day!"
by Mary Buckley CSJ