Sister Paula Marie Becker is a believer in Notre Dame education through and through, and after 61 years in a classroom or principal’s chair, she’s walked the walk more than just about anyone.
But she will also be the first to tell you education isn’t just about the school building.
“You know,” she says, “how often did St. Julie teach in a classroom? I don’t think she ever did. She taught in the fields.”
And so now, at 89, Sister Paula Marie and 25 other retired Sisters of Notre Dame are teaching in the fields, also.
They do it through the Adopt-A-Sister Program that Sister Paula Marie started over 20 years ago. The program is a partnership between Sisters at their Mount Notre Dame convent and students at the adjacent Mount Notre Dame High School, and is representative of how the Sisters still are teaching – only in a different kind of classroom. It’s a kind of teaching I hope you can support with a contribution.
Sister Paula Marie repeats this oft-quoted directive of Julie: ‘Teach them what they need for life.’ “And we know now this education is much broader than we ever thought before,” she says.
With Adopt-A-Sister, sometimes this education is direct, but more often, subtle. And about more subtle things, such as how to empathize, how to care, and above all, how to love.
“I tell the Sisters, in the classroom we were conscious of the rules, of the dress code, of all that. But now that goes away. You just go with the flow. There are no real restrictions because each group of girls operates the way it's best for them to operate.”
One hundred high-schoolers participate in the program, grades 10 through 12, and there is a waiting list.
“They say it’s just so relaxing to come over here at the end of the day,” says Sister Paula Marie. “When they can just be themselves. And that’s a purpose of the program, just to enjoy one another.
“But when we’re meeting with these girls, we’re teaching them, too. We’re not teaching religion per say, but we do teach acceptance, how to live a morals-based life, how to be aware of God in our life. They take in more than we realize. They get answers to questions they haven’t even asked.
“That may be the deeper reach of the program. That we’re teaching them with our lives.”
Please support our Sisters as they dedicate themselves to this wonderful ministry of passing to the next generation both temporal knowledge and Christian morality, and doing it even as they leave the workforce and are deep into retirement. Around the world Notre Dame education continues in the classroom. But it continues in the fields, too.