Written on: February 9, 2015
Musing on her career as an educator, Sister Patricia Geary (Sister Anne Edward) quotes author and educator Parker Palmer: “The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning, and living, require.”
Sister Pat’s courage and open heart have sustained her and inspired her students as she has journeyed her ministry path from elementary and middle school teacher in Georgia and New York, to Professor of Education at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New Jersey.
“I often reminded my students that teaching takes great courage,” she says. Weaving her values as a religious woman together with her values as a professional educator, she also would remind them “that it is crucial that we feel accountability for those we teach, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
Pat entered the Grey Nun community in 1959, after meeting the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart at Little Flower High School. “Grey Nuns made learning interesting and exciting. This inspired me to consider teaching.”
Over the years, she received a B.A. in English from D’Youville College, an M.Ed from Temple University and a Ph.D in Communicative Arts Education from Georgia State University. In addition to her career as an educator, she also served as Curriculum Director and Assistant Superintendant of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Atlanta and as Assistant Dean of Georgian Court University’s Graduate School of Education.
Despite her impressive credentials and resume, Sister Pat is not a detached, Ivory Tower academic. She embraces her congregation’s values of advocacy for life and is a member of Pax Christi, Network, and as a member of Bucks County (PA) Committee Against the Death Penalty, has walked the protest picket line.
What has Sister Pat’s life journey as a Grey Nun and an educator revealed to her, “Through prayer over time, the essential aspects of life and spirituality have become clear. Relationship with God is most important and nurturing that relationship through service to others is key.”
She also discovered that her experience as a woman religious flowed into her life as an educator. “I found myself forming community with the students I taught…emulating the formation of community with my Grey Nun sisters.”
“I learned that sometimes, it is not the ‘mandated curriculum’ students remember the most. It’s the other things: ideas, attention, inspiration, the intellectual and emotional doors you opened to them. It’s often many years later that you learn the impact you had.”
“In teaching, many are concerned about the process rather than the product. But teaching is really about relationships,” she concludes. “It’s about excellence, it’s about tomorrow.” Even as she closed her classroom, her heart was still open to teach something new. Sister Pat used her skills as a researcher to write Paths of Compassion: a History of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart (1921-to present).
Copies of Sister Patricia’s book are available here.