They were my principals, teachers, librarians and mentors. Two, in particular, were the models of what I thought every sister should be: Sister Vincent and Sister Miriam.
Sister Vincent was our 2nd grade teacher. I say "our" because she got my two older siblings and at least one of my younger two. Without a doubt, she was everyone's favorite teacher. She did "Popcorn Fridays" in which we'd be allowed to watch a movie and eat popcorn if we'd been good the whole week. She was active in the school yard, teaching girls how to jump-rope or hopscotch. She was brilliantly patient and never got annoyed with the ridiculous amount of questions kids would throw at her. Finally, she was extremely generous and simply couldn't be outdone in how much she'd do to ensure her children were well-taught and loved.
It was in her class that I came to learn that prayer wasn't just for bedtime or Mass, and it was in her class that I prepared for and came to understand Reconciliation.
Anyway, we were learning about money (coins and dollar bills). Every Wednesday, she'd allow us to "purchase" items from her shop (coloring books, rosaries, small toys) with our little cardboard coins. It was to teach us the value of money (as well as to addition and subtraction). Well, on the Wednesday before Mother's Day, she replaced the toys with "gifts for Mom" type things. Flowers, a ceramic vase, oven mitts, etc. I was almost besides myself. On the chalkboard ledge (which is where she showcased her items), there was a beautiful, oblong ceramic vase. It was a grayish blue with the most delicate roses encircling it. I'd never seen anything so wonderful, and I knew without a doubt that I wanted to give it to my Mom for Mother's Day.
I didn't know if I was allowed to ask for that kinda stuff, because I felt a little selfish, but in my mind, that vase already belonged to my Mom and I just had to figure out a way to beat the other kids off with a stick. Plus, Sister Vincent had said it was "OK" to pray for specific things, so I figured, "May as well give it a go!"
So pray I did, and before I even finished my Hail Mary, Sister Vincent called my name to choose first. Can you believe that?! I knew the Blessed Mother was responsible for picking my name from the hat first, but wow. I thanked her the entire way up to the front of the classroom where I bypassed everything else to pluck that beautiful vase from its ledge. For the rest of the day, I carried that sucker around like a prize. I don't think I waited until Mother's Day to give it to my Mom, either. I'm pretty certain that as soon as I saw her after school, I shoved it into her hands with the proudest grin ever. Ha ha.
For a few years afterwards, I'd see that vase sitting near the window in the kitchen. It collected dust and was never really filled with flowers (save for the paper ones I'd make now and again). That's okay, though, because it was still beautiful in my mind, and it represented more than just a gift to my mother. It was a gift FROM my Mother. Divine Providence in the making - I prayed to the Blessed Mother for the gift of the vase so I could then pass along that blessing to my Mom.
Ha ha - the power of the Hail Mary.
God bless that woman. I honestly thought she was our version of Mother Teresa. Still do, honestly. She was gentle, quiet, and probably the most empathetic person I've ever been blessed to know.
On her wall, she had a poster that somehow etched itself into my memory. It was bright yellow with a little red gift box in the corner. The words "Children aren't clay to be molded, they're presents to be unfolded" took up the majority of the foreground. I remember reading that and thinking "Wow! All grown-ups ever try to do is tell us what we can or can't do. No one ever asks us what we think. No one ever tries to see who WE are. When I'm a grown-up, I want to unfold children."
As an educator, that lesson has always been with me. Sister Miriam exemplified it daily, and I remember as a child wanting to be just like her when I grew old. Truthfully, I always wanted to be exactly like Sister Miriam and my grandmother when I was older. Ha. They were my models of "how to be an old person." Ha ha ha.
Anyway, I adored Sisters Vincent and Miriam. They were much of the reason that I, myself, wanted so badly to become a nun as a child. I loved them so much that I wanted to be just like them.
Oh my goodness...
"I loved them so much that I wanted to be just like them."
I just realized something.
I loved those wonderful sisters and respected them with every fiber of my being. What, then, can I say of Jesus? What then, can I say of the Blessed Mother? Can I honestly say the same of them?
Do I love Jesus / Mary so much that I want to be just like them?
Shoot... didn't realize that was going to be the fruit of this reflection.