My mother and her sister were Sisters of Notre Dame. My mother returned home with her father on the first visiting day – Waltham to Philadelphia. But the seed had been sown. My aunt, Sister Bernard Dougherty, lived to a ripe old age; we even lived in community together.
In 1958 I graduated from Rittenhouse Square and in a few months entered the Sisters of Notre Dame at Ilchester, Md.
After moving around in my early teaching years, I landed at St Camillus for a nice long stint. There I felt myself coming into my own. During the riots following the death of Martin Luther King, the parish responded with generous food assistance and the next year my 7th grade celebrated our first Black History week.
Next, I taught American History at Notre Dame K St. It was very easy to love the students there; their energy, enthusiasm, and love of life brought out the best in me. I squeezed a bike-a-thon, an Oxfam fast, and an invitation to Shirley Chisholm into the American History curriculum.
During those K St. years, I lived at Quincy St in NE Washington D.C., not far from Trinity College. Life in this community was an important part of my formation as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.
While living at Quincy St, I went to Gallaudet College and got a masters in deaf education. It was a bit of a hike, but I could walk to Gallaudet. I never did teach deaf children, but I did teach special children at Lt Joseph P Kennedy Institute, a school founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1959. I could walk there too. I would walk along carrying everything but the kitchen sink for that day’s lesson. I often wondered what motorists thought.
At Kennedy Institute, I taught my first student from El Salvador. She motivated me to study Spanish – which I’ve been working on ever since. While I would never call myself fluent, I did manage a sabbatical in Lima, Peru volunteering with our sisters in a Fe y Alegria School.
My last six years as a classroom teacher were in Arlington Public Schools. I value the friends made during my years at Carlin Springs Elementary, which was a very caring community.
In the mid 80’s I co-founded Evarts St Community to offer hospitality to immigrant families and Spanish Education for Women to provide Spanish language skills to women working with Latinos. With the help of God, both are going strong. How Good is the Good God.
Sister Denise now serves as the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Coordinator (JPIC) for the U.S. East-West Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.