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Monday, July 18, 2011

Historical Nuns--Or Nuns Who Knew How To Do It Right!


Some people you knew growing up helped shape you into the person you are today.  Anyone who went to Catholic School probably probably had a nun or a group of nuns in that all important group.  Anyone reading this who is Catholic (and maybe a few who ended up in Catholic schools some other way) have some memories of that nun who was just... the epitome of nundome! (Yeah I know, not a word...like I care!) Mine was Sister Theophane Marie. Yes, I know, it's an unusual name, but some nuns had those in the good old days.  Not all of them had names like Sister Elizabeth Ann. 

Sister Theophane Marie was my first grade teacher-and my older sister's, and my younger brother's.  Not only that, she taught my dad in Sunday School, so her impact on our family, even if you just figure it out numerically, was significant.  Sister Theophane knew how to keep sixty-five to seventy students quiet and learning--all day long.  There was no ADD/ADHD in her classroom (or if there was it was too intimidated to come out.) 


My memories of Sister Theophane are so strong I can tell you just where her classroom was--walk in through the front door, past the Christ the King School office on the right and her classroom was the first one on the right!  Photo from the Parish Bulletin of Christ the King.

To me she seemed like she must be so so old! But actually she probably was a very young nun when she taught my dad, and not really all that old when she had us, but you know how it is when you're a kid--anyone over fifteen is old! 

Sister Theophane was a legend.  Not only did you have her while you were in school, her name and the memories of her class traveled with you for a long time.  I've run into total strangers, told them where I went to school and as soon as I mention Christ the King School they gasp and say "DID YOU HAVE SISTER THEOPHANE?"  My mom actually ran into people on a cruise who were talking about Sister Theophane (and it was the SAME one!).  What are the odds?

Full Teaching Staff at Christ The King in 1940 Top Row Left to Right: Sister Thomas Mary, Mother Vincent Marie, Sister Marie Agnes, Marie Lorraine. Botton Row, left to right: Sister Sylvato, M. Densie Boucher, Theophane Marie.  Photo from Christ The King Parish Bulletin.

Sister Theophane's one claim to fame (or claim to fame in my life anyway) was as the first adult who put me in charge of something and just left me to do the job.  Granted it wasn't a big job--but I felt like a big deal.  And she probably didn't REALLY leave me all alone, I'm sure she kept a good eye on us.  But the exciting position I held (just wait, I know you absolutely won't believe how exciting and important it was!) was as a candy girl.  I not only sold penny candy after lunch but I counted and wrapped the candy money each day. (Remember penny candy? Bit A Honey, Mini Hershey Bars, Tootsie Rolls, etc. School sold candy at lunch time and being a candy girl who sold candy and getting to count the money was a HUGE deal) OK, yes I know, not exactly head of General Motors or Citibank, but I was young! Give me time.

As an adult I've graduated from counting and wrapping coins, now I just head down to the local bank and dump it in a machine that counts it for me.  But by entrusting me with all those pennies and nickels and occasional quarters and making me one of the "Candy Girls" Sister Theophane not only gave me great math skills but she made me feel like a million bucks!  She taught me it's important to give children the opportunity to succeed on their own. 

For some reason I don't remember their ever being "Candy Boys,"  I'll have to ask my brother, he'll know.  Sexism was alive and well, and for once benefited females!

Sister Theophane had a few other impressive tricks. She convinced us all that there was a spanking machine in the janitor's closet. (We had no idea what was behind that big door but it sure looked big enough to be a big mean spanking machine!) and we were all cowed into submission.  Actually I was a goody two shoes anyway so it didn't take much convincing to stick to the straight and narrow!

She also showed me that sometimes showing that you know how to have fun and let people laugh at you is a good thing.  The school was having a music/talent show one year--and the memory of Sister Theophane teaching students to do the Charleston, her habit flapping with every move and students rolling in the aisles with laughter is seared into my memory.  Here was our religious, stern teacher, wearing a rosary around her waist and a large cross around her neck and she was kicking up her heels and showing us that people, even nuns, are multi-dimensional.  An important life lesson for every child. 

So kudos to Sister Theophane! She opened my mind to looking for the hidden facets in the people around me.  Sister Theophane was one of the first people outside my family who was highly influential in the woman I would become. 

Tell me about the first person who was influential in your life and how they shaped you into the person you are today.  Always happy to have someone guest post.

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