Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation.

Sisters in Ministry February 2012
Sister Dee Long answers the call to serve the poor

Sister Dee Long works one-on-one with a sixth-grade student in the computer lab at Our Lady of the Angels School in Kansas City, Mo.

Update: Sister Dee Long completed her tenure at Our Lady of the Angels School in 2012, and with Catholic Charities in 2013. She moved to Maple Mount in 2014 and serves as assistant to the archivist.

During her 20s, Ursuline Sister Delores “Dee” Long was busy playing semi-pro tennis on a six-state circuit and working for the phone company in Kansas City, Mo. Despite her busy life, she felt something was lacking.

“I always had a calling of some sort to serve the Lord,” she said.

At the time, she was a member of the Disciples of Christ. By the time she reached 31, she had converted to Catholicism, and four years later, she entered the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kan. In 2008, that community merged with the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.

Sister Dee remains in Kansas, living in a Kansas City suburb and ministering across the Missouri line as a part-time teacher at Our Lady of the Angels School. Six parishes make up the multicultural school of about 165 students, with most of the students Hispanic, although there is a student from Ethiopia, Sister Dee said.

Like most of the schools she has served in during her 37 years as a sister, Our Lady of the Angels serves students from low-income families whose home life is not ideal. It’s where Sister Dee has long felt called.

“I’ve always worked in low-income schools, I think that’s where God wanted me,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed it. So many are latch-key kids, either they are from single-parent homes or their mom was never married. Some have parents with drug or alcohol problems. These kids need love, I try to give them everything they need,” Sister Dee said. “It makes you a better person too.”

She teaches K-8th grade computers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. “This is my eighth year here, I was teaching math to sixth, seventh and eighth grade, and had eighth-grade home room,” she said. “My knees got so bad, I took an opening for a computer teacher. I’m the first Ursuline at the school.”

She uses SuccessMaker educational software to help her computer students with their reading and math. “Working on computers helps raise the students’ academic scores,” Sister Dee said. “Our fourth-graders are doing fifth-grade work. We have a kindergartener doing fourth-grade work. You can’t do without a computer anymore.”

Sister Dee looks on as computer students at Our Lady of the Angels School in Kansas City, Mo., work on the SuccessMaker software.

Mary Delac, the principal at Our Lady of the Angels for five years, said Sister Dee serves a special role at the school. “She’s an awesome role model for the kids,” Delac said. “A lot of kids, even in Catholic schools, don’t have exposure to a religious.”

The best part about Sister Dee is her open-mindedness, Delac said. “Nothing surprises her. She knows God sends every one of our kids to us for a reason. We are very blessed to have Sister Dee, I hope we have her for many years to come.”

Sister Dee came to Our Lady of Angels when a friend was the principal. She also knew Delac before she came to the school.

“Sister Dee was my mentor when I was a young principal, that’s how God works,” Delac said. “When I came in, she was sitting on the interview board, and I thought, ‘This could be either really good or really bad.’”

Sister Dee also volunteers on Monday afternoons at Catholic Charities in Kansas City, Kan., where her housemate, Sister Jane Falke, ministers full time. Sister Dee works in the emergency assistance department to help people with utilities, rent and food. “I set appointments for case workers,” she said. In the summer, she volunteers three afternoons.

“Nothing much riles Dee or shakes her up,” said Sister Helen Smith, who lived with Sister Dee back in the early 1980s. “She can get along with anybody. She really cares about the poor and those who struggle. She’s really happy serving in those areas. She’s part of the kids’ lives.”

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