Written on: February 4, 2014
I was sent to teach at St. Joan of Arc School as my first mission assignment, fresh from the Novitiate, in 1963. I taught fourth and then fifth grade. When I was informed that I was being sent there, I asked Sister Ann Rita, who was the Mistress of Novices, “Is there any grass there?” Because I had grown up in a very green area near a park with lots of trees and plants and knew that Jackson Heights was much more of a “citified” setting. “Well,” she answered, “There’s some grass.” The “some” was pretty accurate. It was a big change for me.
The school seemed huge to me and church was beautiful! The buildings took up a big city block, which the kids–even the littlest ones–had to circumnavigate during May processions.
Another procession I remember always took place on Mission Sunday. The kids would dress as nuns and priests and process in Saint James Cathedral.
A memory that has stayed with me over the years: one night, as we were getting ready to go to bed, we heard a baby crying. Someone had left a baby on the convent doorstep! The baby was taken to an orphanage and was named Joan, after the parish. We heard that she was eventually adopted and we were relieved and happy about that.
As a result of my years in Jackson Heights, I became a really good driver as well as parallel parker. The New York traffic and the tight parking spaces were challenges that I eventually mastered. Those skills still serve me well even today as a volunteer driver for Gift of Life, taking transplant patients and their families to medical appointments in downtown Philadelphia. That is just one of the gifts I received from my years in Jackson Heights and I am very grateful for it.