Sister Pat Rhoten, OSU: “Sister Pat is a true Ursuline educator.”

At the end of the school year, Sister Carol left Glennonville and Poplar Bluff, and Sister Pat took over as principal. In her first year she initiated a junior high program at Sacred Heart.

Three years later she left Missouri and returned to Mount Saint Joseph as local coordinator for the Ursuline Motherhouse. She spent six years as local coordinator before leaving to return to the classroom. Sister Pat has fond memories of those six years.

Sister Pat and Father Peter Mangum check out one of the silent auction items at the school fundraiser. Father Mangum is pastor of Saint John Berchmans parish.

“I do miss the motherhouse sisters,” she says. “Some have kept in contact. Some of them email me. But I miss them a lot. I miss the parties. I used to plan all the parties, the receptions and all that. I miss that. I miss the Liturgical functions at the motherhouse. Nobody celebrated Christmas prettier than we did. Nobody celebrated the Resurrection of Christ any more gloriously than we did. I do miss that.”

Sister Pat’s love for children took her back into the classroom, all the way to Shreveport, Louisiana, and Saint John Berchmans Cathedral School where she now teaches sixth, seventh and eighth graders. At Shreveport she was reunited with her longtime friend Sister Carol, superintendent of schools for the diocese of Shreveport. Sister Carol says, “Sister Pat brings to her ministry a refreshing way to communicate with middle-school students. She nurtures the children and helps them to develop confidence. Sister Pat is a true Ursuline educator!”

Jo Cazes is principal of the Berchmans Cathedral School. She says, “Sister Pat and I came to Shreveport and Saint John’s at the same time. As the new principal, I needed a strong eighth grade teacher to help me with the challenges of an old building in need of major repair, wanting the school to have a true Catholic identity, and wanting to bridge the relationship with the parishioners of St. John’s parish. From the very first time we met, Sister Pat and I knew we could become great friends.”

Sister Pat, far right, poses with her fellow teachers and other school employees at the school fundraiser. The fundraiser is a annual event that involves all school personnel.

Principal Cazes is impressed with Sister Pat’s classroom skills. “She is a strong disciplinarian, but at the same time she develops a relationship with each student that is one of respect and care,” she says. “She not only teaches them religion and reading, but also how to study, manners, how to handle themselves in an interview, and how to talk to adults. Without question, Sister Pat has been a wonderful addition to the Saint John Berchmans community.”

When eighth grader Mollie VanNatta was voted Student of the Year for all private and parochial schools in Northern Louisiana, she wrote in her Student of the Year biography: My teachers at Saint John’s are very important to me. Not only do they help us improve educationally, they also are role models for how to act and function as a member of a larger society. When we first had Sister Pat last year we all thought, “Great, here we go with all the rules.” And yes, she does have the strictest classroom policies at St. John’s. However, her rules are not the kind that are “because I am the teacher” rules. Her rules are life lessons meant to teach us to respect ourselves and respect others. All my teachers instill in me that for all my individuality, I am still just one member of a larger society.

The region selection committee asked Mollie to pick her role model, and she replied, “Sister Pat. Sister Pat shows us every day that when you put God first, the rest of the day takes care of itself. She is strict, but fair, serious when she needs to be, and having fun when appropriate.”

Sister Pat says she has enjoyed her return to the classroom. “The magic of teaching is what I learn,” she said when asked about her return to teaching. “In the face of the tragedy of Katrina, in the face of the constant fear of a reccurrence of Katrina, these kids live in a different world than we do. These kids are good, they are kind, they are so wanting to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Sometimes when I could get depressed about the place of the United States in the world, I look to my kids…and there is reason for hope.”