CWS member Margaret Susan Thompson shares some personal reflections on teaching.
This Blog first appeared on the IHM Sisters website in September 2017.
When I was a child, I waited for September with eagerness, excitement and anticipation. I loved school. School was where I got to wear my new clothes (always dresses) and where I could reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen in many months. More importantly, though, school was a place for learning new things; I measured growth and maturity not by birthdays, but by what grade I was in, the lessons we were learning and the challenges both met and overcome.
Not surprisingly, I became a teacher when I grew up—in my case, at the college level. My appointments in history, political science, religion and women’s studies allow me the freedom to offer a broad range of classes and to connect with lots of different students. In a sense, and happily, I never left school. And, for me, the eagerness, excitement and anticipation of every fall continue to be as real a marker in my life as cooler temperatures and changing leaves.
As I read the biographies of this year’s IHM Jubilarians, I was blown away by their diversity of experience. Most had (and have!—sisters don’t retire, do they?) a range of ministries: in classrooms, parishes, social service agencies, activist organizations and centers of prayer. But regardless of their official assignments or contexts, I reflected that all IHMs remain, fundamentally, teachers. For each person with whom they come in contact—whether a first- grader or an adult in memory care—they teach the love of God. They teach that, regardless of our age, it is possible to be open to new experiences, challenges and adventures. They teach that being a “sister” is more than a title; it’s a relational way to encounter and honor the holy in everyone they meet.
On a personal level, these many IHMs—and not just the Jubilarians—have been teachers to me. I try to take the richness of their wisdom with me into the classroom every fall, along with my eagerness, excitement and anticipation. I try to reflect their lesson of incarnational reverence for the other, of seeking the special gift that is to be found in every student. I try, like them, to be thankful for the opportunity that each new term brings—for me, and for those I encounter. It is in a sense a new advent: for me and for those I teach. As Nancy Sylvester, IHM, said, in her homily at the Jubilee liturgy:
“For all that has been, Thanks!
For all that will be, Yes!”
Margaret Susan Thompson, IHM Associate