Sister Monica loves the interaction of teaching, and it’s a place she believes she is making a difference.
“My mom made a difference in my life. Sister Margaret Ann made a difference in my life,” Sister Monica said. “Their faith in Jesus was passed on to me.”
While Sister Monica was a student at Brescia University, Sister Sharon Sullivan took her on a tour of places where people with special needs are helped. Sister Monica fell in love, graduating with a degree in special education in December 2006.
“My brother has special needs, I struggled with that,” she said. “I’d like to help someone else, to let them know they do matter.”
Her students have attention or behavioral disorders that make succeeding in a larger classroom difficult. She teaches sophomores in biology and world civilization.
On the first day of class, she asks her students if they have questions about her being a sister.
“They all say, ‘Do you have a ruler?’ All those stereotypes,” Sister Monica said. “I hope they sense that I’m here to be a guide.”
Parents are at first surprised she’s not wearing a habit, but mostly they’re appreciative she’s helping their children, she said.
“I know I belong in high school,” she said. “The kids can talk to you more, talk about issues in life.”
Matthew Constant hired Sister Monica as a teacher in January 2007 when he was principal at Daviess County High School.
“We had a committee of three people, and she was our unanimous choice,” he said. “She has a caring attitude for every single child. When we heard her speak, it was apparent she had a concern for every child’s academic and personal success,” Constant said.
Sister Monica volunteered to do whatever she could after school as well, said Constant, now director of instructional technology for the Daviess County Public Schools. “Anything anybody asks for, she’s willing to step up and participate. She’s a tremendous asset to Daviess County High School.”
Constant said there were some discussions early about having an Ursuline Sister in a public school, but it’s turned out beneficial for everyone.
“There’s never been one time that any parent or student has had any concern about religion being pushed,” he said.
‘This is forever’
Sister Monica has done a lot of soul searching in the past year as she approached her final vows. “This is forever, but I’m at peace with that,” she said. “I’m finishing my initial formation, but I’ll always be learning. I just have to walk in faith and cling to hope.”
Some of her travels have had a profound influence on her, especially a trip to Italy last year where she prayed before the body of Ursuline founder Saint Angela Merici, and a trip to Jamaica, where Ursuline Sisters were ministering to the poor.
“(Jamaica) was a very powerful experience. I came back changed,” Sister Monica said. “There were people who have nothing, but who are so full of joy. Such beautiful people who have so little.”
There have been some trying times along her faith journey, but Sister Monica’s heart has always told her to stay the course. When she first began studying Saint Angela’s writings, it was a simple phrase that has become her mantra, she said.
“It’s not enough to begin, but to persevere.”
By Dan Heckel