Stephany had 17 students this past year. “I teach all subjects other than physical education, art, computer lab and library,” she said. “I enjoy teaching reading. They can do anything if they can read.”
“I love the religion series we use,” Stephany said. “It talks mostly about Jesus’ love for us, God’s love for us. It tells them their parents discipline them because they love them. It’s doing a good job, they know they are loved.”
Her students clearly have great affection for her.
“She’s a good singer,” Avery Kimbler said. “My favorite class is religion. We get to learn about Jesus and sometimes we get to sing songs.”
“She teaches us about Jesus, that he was the son of God,” Blair Alexander said.
Upon retrieving her students from physical education class, one of the girls excitedly tells her, “Ms. Nelson, I fell down face first and I didn’t cry.”
Being with the Ursulines has affected Stephany as a teacher, she said.
“Saint Angela said, ‘You will achieve more with kindness and gentleness than with harshness and sharp rebukes.’ I can’t say I was the most gentle teacher when I started,” Stephany said. “I learned that from reading Saint Angela, talking to sisters and my spiritual director. It’s been very good for me.”
Relying on faith
During the school year, Stephany attempts to attend daily Mass at the Marian Shrine Adoration Chapel at St. Joseph School, a tiny but inspiring gathering space. She is the only Ursuline Sister serving in Bowling Green.
“I wish someone could be here with me,” she said. She enjoys being at Maple Mount, but the 90-minute drive from Bowling Green is unrealistic every weekend. Three sisters who live by themselves — Sister Larraine Lauter in Louisville, Sister Alicia Coomes in Morganfield, Ky., and Sister Martha in Fancy Farm, Ky. — are gathering with Stephany to do morning prayer together at 6 a.m. using Zoom video conferencing.
As the only woman in formation with the Ursuline Sisters, Stephany realizes she becomes the focus of vocation ministry for many people, but she said she doesn’t mind.
“I think people need to understand what religious life is. It’s not what it used to be,” she said. “For people to see, you need someone going through it. Most communities are in transition. It needs to be realistic. I wish that there were others (entering the community), but I understand.”
Stephany is hoping for a little less drama in the coming year. Her mother is doing better and their relationship has improved with time. As Stephany readies herself for her seventh year at St. Joseph and more instruction on the Ursuline life, she said she feels good about her decision to join.
“I have peace about that. As far as how this will all work out, only God knows.”