52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Mentor

Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary

“You are college material,” she noted as I stood by her desk. This was the first time ever my 5th grade Catholic school girl brain had heard those exact words from anyone. At that moment, my whole world got bigger: I was going to college! Sister said so! It had to be true!

My mentor that year was Sister Mary Charles of the Sacred Heart. She was a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. We were together at Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester, Virginia. She opened many doors to me. She instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish much with the talents I had been given. I adored her!

I always loved school…loved learning…loved reading and writing…loved working and studying hard. When Sister planted that seed about going to college, I knew to choose that fork in the road. That school year, Sister helped me realize my potential in many areas: writing stories, praying, goal-planning, risk-taking. I enjoyed each day being in her presence and under her wing.

At the end of the school year, Sister was transferred to a school in Tampa, Florida. It hurt that I would not get to see her the following year. We kept in touch by letter from that time until her death in 1995. During the 1970s when religious sisters changed their habits, each one had the option of reverting back to her baptismal/family name. Her name became Sister Gertrude Roberts.

Sister Gertrude did know that I went to college. She also knew about my career choice: I was a teacher in a Catholic school for 38 years. Saint Andrew the Apostle Catholic School, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was where I taught. It was my turn to mentor and encourage my students. I loved every minute of it!

Footnote: The above picture is not one of Sister Charles, but another sister from her community. I wanted to show how her habit looked when we spent our time together. Also, Sister played with us at recess…she wanted us to enhance our jump-roping and baseball playing skills.

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