One of my favorite times of the year is when our school works together to serve others. This past April we had our third annual Poverty Action Week. One of the special learning opportunities every grade level experiences that week is to hear different ministry leaders share their stories with our students. I had the privilege of talking with two of this year’s speakers.
In my short conversation with Sr. Margaret I listened with awe as she shared some of her experiences. Her humility inspired me. It was apparent that Sr. Margaret loved sharing the Gospel through her role as a Daughter of Charity. Our conversation reminded me of that quote from Mother Teresa, “I am like a pencil in God’s hand... He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.” Sr. Margaret’s joy stemmed from the story God was writing in the lives of the people she serves.
Sr. Margaret was first inspired by the work of the Daughters of Charity when she was going to law school in Saginaw, Michigan. She shared how watching the Daughters of Charity’s work with the poor inspired her to become a sister. Since becoming a nun, Sr. Margaret has used her legal background to help people in need. She has been an advocate for patients, helped Haitian refugees, and educated prison inmates. Sr. Margaret enlisted the help of her friends to build a proper education building for the inmates she was teaching while she was serving in the South Pacific. She helped create and maintain a library and an after school program. Sr. Margaret worked with special needs high school students, and she was her community’s lead representative to the United Nations.
I am truly grateful that Sr. Margaret shared her experiences with our students. Listening to her story reminded me of how important it is to follow our call, and that our callings are unique and given to us by God.
While Sr. Margaret was speaking with our fourth and fifth graders, Joanna was speaking with my first graders. Joanna’s children have all graduated from our school now, and she is currently working on her masters degree in social work. Joanna shared with my students about her experiences working with women through a program called Changed Choices. The mission of Changed Choices as stated on their website is “As followers of Christ, we empower currently and recently incarcerated women to achieve lasting, positive change through programming and personalized mental, emotional, physical and spiritual support.” (8/12/19)
Joanna described how she felt the first time she went to visit the women at Changed Choices. She told my students that she left that first morning thinking that bad people were in prison. “But after meeting these women for the first time I realized that they were good people who had made a really bad choice. These women were funny, smart, pretty, kind, young and old. Making mistakes is part of being human. We all need a little help sometimes, and we all need support to get through tough times.”
Joanna explained that it’s a privilege for the women she works with to meet with her. “We meet with them for one hour. We’re the only people from the outside they get to see. They have to see family members through a glass window.” My students were greatly impacted when Joanna shared how grateful these women are to touch grass, and that they get up at 4:30am.
Joanna reminded my students “It doesn’t matter what mistakes you’ve made. We’re better than the worse thing we’ve ever done in our life.” What a powerful reminder of our communal need for Grace.
I can think of no better way to show our students how they can be pencils in God’s hands than to continue to share the stories of ministry leaders like Joanna and Sr. Margaret.
What’s your story? How are you helping others? How are your students helping others? Let’s keep this conversation going.
As always, thanks for reading.