Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Mary Ann Zwijack has been at Corryville Catholic Elementary for fifty years. The milestone did not go unnoticed. By proclamation of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, February 2, 2021 was Sister Mary Ann Zwijack Day throughout the city.
Sister Mary Ann, arriving yet for another day in those fifty years, had no idea of a pending celebration—until she opened the school's door and was greeted by colleagues, flowers, decorations, letters from former students and even a letter from her sixth-grade teacher!
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur arrived at Corryville in 1877, twelve years after the Civil War. They've never left. History has happened—wars, moon landings, and yes, pandemics—but the Sisters' presence has never been interrupted.
Sister Mary Ann has been key to this presence. She's taught math, science, health and religion. Over the last five years she's helped with the school's Choices for Children program, which works with seventh- and eighth-graders to set goals and action plans, and that involved professionals in the community who serve as mentors.
But it's all based, says Sister Mary Ann, on priorities that haven't changed in the 50 years she's been at the school: providing the children with a sense of belonging, making them understand that each and every person has value, and involving families.
And there's another priority now, always there but increasingly relevant—helping children to discern the truth.
"If I were in the classroom," Sister Mary Ann says "the most challenging part would be in helping the children navigate where truth lies, because there are many strange interpretations of what is real. We have to help them really search truth out. It has to be an important part of their learning."
That's true in social media, true in politics, and now—true in the face of COVID-19.
"But St. Julie would certainly expect us to carry on." she says. "We have to put the future within these children's reach. We have to make it happen, no matter what."
Published in Summer 2021 Cross Currents Magazine.