In which a 17-year-old makes a radical response to God’s call.
“I didn’t really decide to be a sister,” Sister Mary Paul McCaughey says. “I was just called to be a sister.”
Like many teens who struggled with identity and purpose, as a high school senior, Mina McCaughey always went to Mass and “did the little ‘good girl’ thing” while she wrestled with the question of evil in the world.
Finally, “When I was 17, I said ‘You know, there really is a God and God is love.’ It called for a response, and a total response. It was scary and it was crazy, but I did it.”
"It was scary and it was crazy, but I did it."
After more than 50 years, Sister M. Paul is still responding to God, making her decision for her vocation every day.
Her first mission after profession of vows at the Old Sacred Heart Convent in 1969, was teaching in a 5th grade classroom at St. Dominic’s in Quincy, Ill.
She remembers the time as “formative and fun” and says her 20-year-old self was “raised” by the community of St. Dominic School: the students, the parents, and her Dominican Sisters. She fell under the influence of another great Springfield Dominican educator, Sister Philip Neri Crawford, who was the principal then.
Sister Sara Koch, who was at St. Dominic with Sister Mary Paul—has stories to prove it. “Students appreciated her willingness to take on messy projects and allow them to use their creativity,” Sister Sara recalls. She remembers one lesson that involved the students creating their own religion lesson filmstrip and using a loud mouse-like “eek eek” to indicate it was time to advance to the next slide.
Sister Mary Paul’s two years at St. Dominic’s were foundational for her ability to throw herself completely into the mission as she matured in her religious life.
In 2020 she is a full-time faculty member at DePaul University, where she teaches masters and doctoral students and coordinates the graduate studies program for Catholic Educational Leadership in the College of Education.
Between St. Dominic’s and DePaul, there was a long and fulfilling journey toward personal, professional and spiritual growth as Sister Mary Paul made a difference—and continues to make a difference—in the lives of people and in the educational structures that support students’ growth and maturity.
Don’t forget to come back for the next episode, in which the ever-confident Sister Mary Paul experiences her first challenge in the classroom!
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