Mad for…Sr. Sophia

Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. It is not what we do but how much love we put into it. -Mother Theresa

Note to reader: This is day 30 of 365 in my year long project to introduce others to some fantastic person each day this year that I think really makes a positive difference in the world with their life.  The world needs more reasons to smile, so today I submit to you, Sr. Sophia, a Nashville Dominican.  If you want to know more  about her order, visit:  NashvilleDominican.org

It’s Catholic Schools Week across the nation right now, and I find myself terribly grateful for my own Catholic education as well as those of my own three sons. This feeling of gratefulness for the enormous blessings got me reminiscing interiorly about one of my favorite CSW experiences a few years back. I’d like to share a pinch of it with you.

Several weeks before CSW that year, I was over at the football fields at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel cheering on my favorite Cardinals who were facing off against the big, bad Raiders (ha!) when a conversation ensued. It was between a group of grade school chums whose siblings were out on the field playing. As they ran around in the grass tossing a small nerf football some well-prepared mom had packed, they were stopped dead in their tracks.

“Hey you guys! Look over there! Why are those crazy ladies wearing matching white dresses?”

“They look kind of funny! It’s too hot for long dresses today…plus that’s really fancy for a football game.”

Frankly, the fact that the sweet kiddos clearly HAD NO CLUE that these “crazy ladies” were religious women was a touch shocking to me. It made me sad too. As a youngster myself, many of my teachers were Franciscan sisters, and some of them really helped to form me in my faith. These two beautiful Dominicans had come to cheer on their students, and their presence there that sunny day changed the CSW plans I had in my mind on the spot.

Meet Sr. Sophia. She’s a spitfire from New Jersey, and also she is a Dominican Sister of Saint Cecelia. The Order is based in Nashville, Tennessee and they are strongly committed to Catholic education. I made a few calls that winter and with a little strong-arming from OLMC pastor, Fr. Richard Doerr, I was able to get Sr. Sophia over to talk to children at SLDM about her vocation during Catholic Schools Week. For most of the children she spoke to that day, she was the very first religious woman they had ever met. It was a very cool experience to witness.

I have only briefly spoken to Sr. Sophia– maybe twice. I’m sure she will be surprised to learn I’ve written about her today, because my name will not be familiar to her. Here’s the thing. A vocation talk by a joyful person in a religious vocation is a game changer. By the example of her consecrated life, she taught a few little ones the way to holiness and joy that day. She spoke to them enthusiastically about the trinity, her background, her prayer life, and her love of the Church. They were enamored. She also answered some pretty hilarious questions without even a hint of condescension. She was the face of Jesus to many that day and I have never forgotten her, praying for her often.

I asked a friend whose son had Sr. Sophia as a junior high religion teacher at OLMC to share with me a little about her as a teacher. She said this, “He loved her, he enjoyed her teaching, always felt like she was for the kids, wanted everyone to do well, she was interested in them as a person and encouraged them to dig deeper into their faith. She connects very well with the students.”

Why am I not surprised?

I LOVE this very funny story shared with me about her and I hope that my sweet friend won’t mind it’s retelling. Apparently, after a talk about “relationships” by Sr. Sophia, she made such an impact that all of the young students that were part of “a couple” in her class decided to just be friends instead. While there weren’t reportedly a large number of “couples” anyway, it’s a tale about her influence that made me snicker.

Sr. Sophia is full of personality. She’s small but mighty! I chose this photo of her because she’s up on a folding chair standing next to her fairly tall student, Dylan, at graduation. Her infectious smile and authentic joyfulness is on display. Its that same spirit of joyfulness and camaraderie that I notice on display by all the members of her community who I have been lucky enough to meet.

This Catholic Schools Week, at a time when Christian education is much maligned, I wanted to take a moment to give thanks to God for Sr. Sophia and ALL the religious women who have made a difference for so many of us by their enthusiasm for the truth of the Gospel, as well as the selfless way they share their lives with all of us. THANK YOU, SR. SOPHIA! What you do everyday? Oh goodness, it matters! Today, my rosary will be for you.