Written on: February 4, 2014
I came to Saint Joan of Arc in 1957. It was my first ministry assignment, teaching second grade. I was 21. My parents drove me and Sister Pat Kelly (Sister Marie Renee) to our new post. When I got out of the car and looked around, I couldn’t believe it: I had never seen so many apartment houses in one place in my life!
Sister Immaculata trained me. I was teaching a class of 62 kids and we also had chores and duties at the convent. The little ones needed love and care as much as learning, so I was tying shoes and wiping noses and trying to find out why somebody was crying. I was a rookie and I was exhausted.
I remember one day I was working with a reading group, listening to them read and correcting their mistakes while the other children did seat work. I was listening to the children read and I just fell asleep, sitting there! One of the kids shook me awake, saying, “Sister, you fell asleep!” It was so funny!
We had to take a walk every day, accompanied by a professed sister. We would walk up and down the streets of Jackson Heights and we would see the kids and their parents and everyone would call out, ‘Hello, Sisters.’ It was a very neighborly place. Everyone knew everyone else. At Christmas, we sisters were each given a dollar and we would go to the 5 and 10 and spend it.
In 1965, I went to Blessed Sacrament for 5 years. I taught seventh grade. I told my students that I was trying to teach myself to play the guitar. One of the kids—a boy named Anthony—said that he played the guitar and could teach me. When he saw my guitar, he said, ‘Sister, that’s a terrible guitar!’ But he gave me guitar lessons. That Christmas, the mothers of the seventh graders chipped in a bought me a better guitar. The people in Jackson Heights were like that, kind and generous.
The Superior of our house, Sister Jean Marie, knew that we younger sisters needed to let off steam because we were noisy and disturbed the peace of the other sisters in the house, who enjoyed quiet pursuits like reading or sewing or card playing. She finally allowed us to go over to the school after hours and play Kickball with a soccer ball in the big hallway on the second floor there. Of course, we were doing this in our habits. The kids would have loved to see that!
Ministry in Jackson Heights was busy, happy, fun. Very rewarding years.
Today, Sr. Connie is busy being fun and spreading happiness with her colorful shirts, twinkling eyes, and gardening skills. Don’t ask her opinion, unless you really want to hear it!