As the website is being constructed, here is a list of the schools that shaped my life. More will be added for each as time allows. Why start so early? Who remembers grade school? I do and so I start there. Behold: an annotated biodata!
BLESSED SACRAMENT SCHOOL in Elizabeth, New Jersey for grades 1-8.
Run by the Benedictine Sisters my grade school experience was/is still a strong memory. When I drove past the school in May, 2010, all sorts of memories resurfaced. As I have grown to appreciate the Benedictine educational philosophy, dating back to the early 500s with Benedict and his sister Scholastica, I remember learning the importance of the COMMA. My passion to ‘finish everything’ (assignments etc) was a predominant part of my childhood. I had to learn that the finality of the PERIOD could prevent me from learning more, making necessary changes flowing from suggestions that others made, and caring always to maintain a level of flexibility. It wasn’t clear at the time, but that ‘learning experience’ has influenced me to this day. So I thank Sr. Hilary, who was the principal, and all her companion nuns, all of whom have joined her in Heaven. BY THE WAY, when was the last time you thanked a teacher?
MOUNT SAINT DOMINIC ACADEMY in Caldwell, New Jersey for grades 9-12.
The Dominican Sisters at their Motherhouse ran a wonderful academy. Because of its diverse student population we had many opportunities to expand our knowledge of other cultures. Many of the students during my time there belonged to families whose fathers and uncles worked in New York City (only a short bus ride away) and who hailed from South America or Europe. That probably was the beginning of my education concerning “the other” whose difference has many similarities. We had a project to discuss how we celebrated holidays and what a variety of customs were described. The last of my teachers, Sr. Lucille Marie, O.P., died in 2002 when I was back in New York giving service at the Maryknoll Sisters Center. The opportunity to visit her was a gift and now my connections with MSD are with those I knew while there, but all the teachers are gone. Amazing what a lasting impression we can conjure in conversations about them. Have you seen the bumper sticker “If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher.” It’s a good idea.
MARY ROGERS COLLEGE at Maryknoll,New York for freshman year.
At the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Westchester, NY, MRC was a small college to prepare teachers for work in mission areas served senior novices as well as professed Sisters. Although it was closed in the early 1970s those of us who had some time there each have a special memory. This was my first formal introduction to Philosophy as a discipline. Sr. Dolores Marie,M.M. was a superb teacher and a master of analogies. To her I trace my love of comparisons as a basic for my ecumenical and inter-religious career.
MANHATTANVILLE COLLEGE OF THE SACRED HEART in Purchase, New York for sophomore through senior year.
Beginning as a Sophomore, my Manhattanville experience was all gift. In the Maryknoll tradition of those days, names were posted on the board with “school assignments”. We had been very involved in summer school music and when my name was posted for Manhattanville, the music director, Sr. Richard Marie,M.M. congratulated me for being assigned to Pius Tenth School of Liturgical Music, a place dear to her heart. A few weeks later I went to the Purchase campus, near White Plains, NY and discovered I had been registered for pre-med course of studies. A surprise but not a problem. Three years later, just before graduation, I was accepted at Georgetown Medical School but two things intervened. First, Sr. Gregory, M.M. then a teacher at St. Ann High School in Kaneohe, Hawaii, was diagnosed with cancer and needed to return to the Mainland for treatment and second, a new Sister in our novitiate program needed another year to finish her medical training. Put those two together and on my graduation from Manhattanville I heard my assignment to Hawaii to teach, for a year, at St. Ann’s then return to Georgetown. That never happened. Teaching, first at the secondary level, later in college, was to become my life’s career. Although I would have loved the medical field, I have been so blessed in the plan God set out for me.
UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO, California, for a masters’ program.
Following the changes begun during the Vatican Council in Rome, 1962-65, those of us who were teaching religion at any level experienced the need for more education. Also it was a time of restlessness in religious life. I applied to USF for several reasons, but the primary one was that it was a long way from New York. So many of my friends were leaving religious life and I wanted to focus on my studies, consciously away from the New York angst. So after four semesters, beginning in the summer of 1968, thanks to the M.A, program director, Fr. Zabala, S.J., there was an eminently fine faculty assembled around a thoroughly contemporary curriculum, in December, 1968 I received a degree in New Testament Theology and Early Christian Community Studies.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, Berkeley campus and the GRADUATE THEOLOGICAL UNION in Berkeley, California for a doctoral program.
With encouragement from Sr. Katherine Sullivan, RSCJ, one of my teachers from Manhattanville, and with the blessing of Sr. Barbara Hendricks, M.M., then President of Maryknoll Sisters, I registered for doctoral studies beginning in the fall of 1972. My first thought had been to continue in scriptural studies but at tender age forty, the hurdle of two years of language study before even beginning course wok was a primary deterrent. So I thought better of that and focused on Sociology of Religion, a program to learn the workings and non-workings of various religious groups: churches, para-churches and cults. The joint degree from the GTU and UCB gave me credentials to teach in a secular college and fed into my return to Hawaii at the end of my studies. All that led to my self-description as “A Practitioner of Questions” a category which has animated my studies ever since. In fact, I often say that as a practising Catholic I move within a tradition that had many answers . . . so being one who questions is grist for the mill of understanding why things are the way they are and how things can be brought to the attention of the powers that be. Such a discipline has enhanced my career as an ecumenist and inter-religionist.