From Student to Friend

From Student to Friend_1x1_1

It can take years for teachers to see the fruits of their efforts, when the students they helped shape grow into caring and responsible adults. Sometimes teachers find that in the midst of educating minds and spirits, they have also sown the seeds of friendship.

Sister Mary Rose Schleeper, OP*

If I were taken to court and could pick my judge, I would choose the Honorable Milton Wharton, a Circuit Court Judge for the State of Illinois in Belleville. I would want someone compassionate, just, and merciful, like Milton. I have known him since 1957, from St. Mary’s School, in East St. Louis, Ill. He has kept me informed of his progress through college and law school, and informed about the lives of his St. Mary’s classmates. Recently he helped our congregation study racism.

Honorable Milton Wharton

Sister Mary Rose has doubly blessed my life—as an exceptional educator and as a treasured friend. Initially I believed this mysterious black-and-white clad person was compelled to teach at all-black St. Mary’s, in blighted East St. Louis, for committing some transgression. Then I realized Sister Mary Rose was engaged in a voluntary personal sacrifice, benefiting us and our not totally appreciative Church. I have the deepest respect and admiration for Sister Mary Rose’s spirituality, and for her continuing determination to make this a better world.

Sister Judith Anne Haase, OP

Who would have thought that the assignment of an energetic, young sister to Sacred Heart Academy would have such a lasting impact on my life? Sister Mary Diana Doyle came into my life 48 years ago, and she is still very much a part of it.

Because she had such an outgoing personality, I went to her when I felt called by God to religious life. She supported me, and during the summer before I entered the congregation, wrote me frequently. Through the years we have kept in touch. When we see each other, the conversation is nonstop.

Sister Diana Doyle, OP

In January 1957, Judy Haase was a freshman in my algebra class at Sacred Heart Academy. By her senior year we had developed a relationship, and Judy talked to me about becoming a Dominican sister. I was please to have a former student interested in the life I found to be a perfect fit. Over the years we tried to support each other. In 1986, I was appointed mathematics teacher and girls’ athletic director at Marian Catholic High School. Guess who was principal? Sister Judith was my “boss.”

Sister Philip Neri Crawford, OP*

In 1964 David Ryan was a student in my eighth-grade class at Our Saviour School in Jacksonville, Ill. My friendship with David followed him through high school. Later, how proud I was when he spent a summer working in the California vineyards with Cesar Chavez, and then encouraged my students to launch a boycott of California grapes.

David was ordained to the priesthood in 1979. Today Father Ryan and I serve together on the foundation board of Routt High School in Jacksonville.

Father David Ryan

Sister Philip Neri began each day of class with a Shakespeare quote, frequently, “To thine own self be true.” Her message to the class was simple: reflect on your decisions, act in the manner in which God would want you to act, and be honest with yourself as well as with others.

Sister Philip Neri was a major influence in my spiritual life and growth towards the priesthood. One of my most joyous moments was when she served as a reader at my first mass after ordination.

* indicates this sister is deceased. This first appeared in JUST Words, Vol. 5, No. 3, Fall 2005.

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