Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Nun Story

Here's a story I submitted to Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul 2 some years ago. I never heard back from them, so I assume I've been rejected.

A Nun Story
Maureen Wittmann

As a child I had a terrible speech impediment and had to have speech therapy. Yet, a lisp still lingered for years following. When I entered the fourth grade, my teacher decided it was time to do something about that lisp. She stayed after school for weeks working with me, one on one. After making much progress, one of the nuns who taught in my Catholic school suggested I join the speech club and give a presentation in a city-wide competition. Being very shy, I wasn't too excited about speaking in front of a large group, but Sister talked me into it. I worked hard on my speech, “The Gettysburg Address,” and as the competition grew closer, I grew more confident.

When the big day came, my mom dropped me off at the convent to drive to the competition in the sisters’ station wagon. It was a Saturday and all the sisters came to show their support for me and the three or four other school children who would be competing.

After giving my speech, I was feeling a bit cocky. I had done my best and was sure I would soon possess a ribbon. At the end of the day they announced the winners. I sat on the edge of my seat as they called the honorable mentions, but they did not call my name. Was I that good? I must have placed 3rd in my category. Yet, my name was not called with the third place winners. I was not the least bit nervous, after all I must have won second place. But they did not call my name with the second place winners. Wow, I placed 1st! But . . . they did not call my name. I was devastated. I cried all the way back to the convent.

There was one nun in my little urban grade school all the kids feared, Sister Patricia Ann. She was small, but she was tough. When she was a child she had been stricken with polio and as a result she wore leg braces. She could not take communion on the tongue because she was wobbly with the leg braces. She was the only person we knew who took communion in the hand and this added to her mystique. She had that look I'm sure they teach nuns in “nun school.” If she gave you “the look” you would confess every thing you had ever done wrong in your entire life.

The Monday following the competition, Sister Patricia Ann approached me in the lunch room. “Uh oh,” I thought, “what did I do wrong?” Then I saw something I think few kids at Holy Ghost Grade School had seen before, Sister was grinning from ear to ear! She handed a mesh bag to me and it was filled with chocolate coins covered in gold foil. She said to me, “Maureen, you may not have won a ribbon Saturday, but you're a gold medal winner in my book.”

I cannot begin to express the profound affect this had on me. I suddenly realized the nuns were tough on us, not because they were mean, but because they loved us. They really cared about us and our education. Their whole lives were dedicated to teaching us little ones.

I'll never forget Sister Patricia Ann or the impact she and the other good sisters had on my life. They not only taught us children the 3 Rs, they taught us about virtues and work ethic. They taught us to love Jesus Christ and His Church. They taught us to respect our fellow man and to respect ourselves.

I am forever grateful to the Franciscan Sisters who taught at Holy Ghost Grade School.

9 comments:

Margaret Mary Myers said...

God works in wondrous ways! Because you had a lisp, they wanted you to join a speech club. And today, part of what you do is speak! Wow!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story!!

Linda B. said...

You should get this story published.

Esther said...

Maureen:
You should submit that to Sr. Patricia Proctor for Her 101 Inspirational stories book series. I am not sure where it would fit but since she is a Franciscan, she may find a spot for it.

Dani said...

That's a beautiful story. love, Dani

Karen E. said...

That is truly beautiful!

Laura said...

What a beautiful story!

Cay said...

Wonderful story, Maureen.
You'll probably hear from Chicken Soup next week. ; ) LOL

mary_machado@comcast.net said...

Lovely story, Maureen. And you certainly are a terrific speaker now!